Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday: He Understands and Has Mercy
Pope St. John Paul II declared that this Sunday, the octave day of Easter, should be Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a time for us to focus on our need for God’s mercy, and the abundance of mercy he showers upon us.
With the exception of the angels among us, which would be just the infants and little children, we often shock ourselves with how easily we go off the deep end, losing our tempers, our patience, engaging tongue before brain, doing that which we said we would no longer do, again and again, and not doing those acts of charity that we know we need to perform. Without rattling off a long list of negatives, suffice it to say that we are all frail human beings.
Sometimes, though, we hide behind our humanity to justify our actions. We say, “I’m only human, you know.” But that is never an acceptable excuse for our behavior. We are not only human. We
are also spiritual. Jesus died on the cross so we could share in His resurrection, so we can have a spiritual life. Through the grace of our baptism, our acceptance of the New Life of the Resurrection, God dwells within each of us. We are infinitely more than human. We are sons and daughters of God.
Our God sent His Son to become one of us. One of us. The Fourth Eucharistic Prayer says that He became a man like us in all things but sin. That means that Jesus never chose to do something wrong or refused to do something that needed to be done to reflect God’s love. It also means that Jesus knows what it is like to have our patience strained. Just think about the antics of the Twelve before they received the special Grace of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Jesus also knew how easy it is to loose hope when a crisis hits. Think about the cross. Along with the physical pain, Jesus knew what it was like to feel completely abandoned. All of us suffer from feelings that we are all alone. Even the mother in a house full of children and a caring husband often feels all alone. Jesus felt alone too. But this was more than that, He felt abandoned. With the exception of Mary, John and a small handful of people, He was all alone on Calvary. Yet when He called out the beginning of Psalm 22 from the cross, “My God, May God, why have you forsaken me,” He was praying the psalm that declares that no matter what the world is doing to Him, His Father would never abandon Him.
They have pierced my hands and my feet,
I can number all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me,
They divide my clothes among them
And for my garments they cast lots,
But you, O Lord, be not far off!
O You, my help, hasten to my aid.......
And I will tell of your name to my brethren....
You who fear the Lord, praise Him,
You sons of Jacob glorify Him and
Stand in awe of Him, you sons of Israel.
Jesus also knew how the world tempts us to hate and how easy it is to take a small step and go from disagreeing with another person to hating that person because of his or her opinions. He must look at us Americans in 2021 and say, “People, disagree in your political positions if you must, but stop being hateful to each other and start respecting each other.”
Jesus even knew what it was like to wake up in the morning and feel crabby. Moods are part of our human condition and Jesus was one of us in all things but sin. Granted, He controlled His moods, and we often don’t control our moods, but He did know that bad moods seem to come from nowhere. He also shared our other frailties. The Lord knew the temptation to tell lies to get someone off His back. He didn’t; we often do. He also knew the temptation to take what was not His when He was hungry. Jesus experienced every frailty of human nature without exception. But He did not act on them.
Back to today’s Gospel. He knew how Thomas was frustrated with the other disciples and how he was disappointed that Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was followed by His exit from the city carrying a cross less than a week later. The Lord knew what Thomas was going through and forgave him. The Lord knows what each of us is going through in our lives and forgives us. Well, He forgives us as long as we are willing to take a step outside of ourselves and our wants, and recognize our need for His Presence in our lives. On this Divine Mercy Sunday we are reminded that when we say with our lives as well as with our tongues, “You, Jesus, are my Lord and my God,” then are we only human? No, we are not only human. His grace allows us to be infinitely more than just human. Through His mercy we can be the spiritual beings that He created us to be.
“I am not good enough,” all of us are inclined to say, particularly when we know we need to serve God in the Church, in our home, our workplace, our school or our neighborhood. “I am not good enough” we say to ourselves and others not just to have an excuse for avoiding something, but far deeper, because we know our own frailty. Parents say deep within themselves, “I am not good enough to be the spiritual leader my children need.” The young say, “I am not good enough to lead my peers to Christ.” I, a priest as well as everyone in the priesthood or aspiring to be a priest say, “I am not good enough to be the priest the people need.” But we are wrong. All of us are wrong. We are all good enough. He makes us good enough.
This is the message of Divine Mercy Sunday.