B Cycle – 2nd Sunday of Easter
All we need to know about Divine Mercy begins by us looking at that figure hanging on the cross. But it is not complete until we look beyond the cross to grasp the full meaning of Divine Mercy. We have grown up with a concept of mercy that has us believing mercy is showing compassion to someone who deserves to be punished. That might be all we are capable of as humans, but Divine mercy is much more than compassion, pity, sympathy, or kindness. In fact, God has expressly sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit so all would know the depth of His mercy, the life offered to the just and the unjust.
To grasp the depth of God’s desire we need to sit with the scripture stories, his words through the prophets, through Jesus and reflect on them. We should not just listen or read the scriptures without seeking to understand what God is saying to us.
Today’s gospel is a good place to begin because we like Thomas need to experience something before, we grasp the meaning of the resurrection. That is one of the beauties of mercy, God knows our doubts, fears, and our need to have something challenge us to open our eyes to see what God wants us to see. In this gospel Jesus does to the disciples exactly what he desires to do for us – he reveals himself to them. But this time he breaths the Spirit upon them. That moment was reminiscent of the time God breathed the breath of life into Adam. Jesus breathes the breath of spiritual life into the disciples, and it prepares their hearts Just as God promised through the prophet Ezekiel.
That fact that he went to them is critical because Jesus is constantly revealing himself to us. This is the nature of the Jesus we profess to believe died for our sins. We proclaim he came to reconcile us to the Father, and it is through an encounter with him we grow in understanding of mercy and forgiveness.
The scriptures are full of stories of mercy given and those stories show us how we react to mercy. The disciples gathered in that upper room had a few days before deserted Jesus, denied knowing him and were hiding because they feared their own lives were in danger. Yet Jesus, does not even mention any of their failures when he appears to them. No, he goes to them and offers them a glimpse of the plan of God to give us eternal life.
The parable of the prodigal son is the classic parable of mercy and how we view mercy. It is a story of how someone who deserved death according to the law was restored when he expected something else. In that parable, the Father does not mention the sins or failings of his son. Neither does he mention the pain he caused the father, or the damage done to the family name. The father’s response to his son’s return was one of joy, restoration, and celebration. But we cannot ignore the response of the older son because it is a critical part of us understanding God’s mercy.
There can be no doubt the older brother reaction was one of unbelief. His younger brother had done more than violating the Mosaic law. He brought shame to the family name. That son deserves nothing but death or rejection. Beyond the damage done to the Father, the older brother believes he more than deserves what the younger brother received from the Father. In fact, he believes that as a minimum the Father should have accepted the younger brothers desire to be a slave in his father’s house.
If you think about it, that parable has the same message as the parable of the workers in the vineyard. In that parable, the undeserving receive the same pay as those who worked all day. It is not fair they protest to the owner. The scriptures are full of these stories, showing us Mercy is seen by us humans. As Jesus said to Peter, “we are thinking as man, not as God.”
God’s mercy is offered to all and our issue is not with mercy. Instead, it is with whom mercy is given.
That is because we believe we deserve more from God because we are faithful. There must be some difference between the mercy we receive and that offered to the greatest of sinners. We do believe in being compassionate, but we believe even compassion should come after a period of penalty by those who have done some grievous wrong. That is because we have failed to understand how sin has already inflicted its penalty on us by separating us from God.
Divine mercy is offered by God to all. It is free flowing, unmetered comingled love and mercy flowing to us because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The penalty for our sin is right there for us to see, hanging on that cross. That penalty was paid for our offences and those of the greatest of sinners. The only way we will ever be able to shed our belief in unfairness is to encounter Jesus as Thomas did. We need to touch and be touched by the wounds of Jesus and acknowledge him as not just the lamb of God who died for the sins of the world but as the one who died for me.
Once we accept that, then we need to allow Jesus to breath into us the breath of life, just as he does the disciples on this day. We need the Spirit to open our minds and hearts to comprehend how mercy changes us to become disciples and to open us to feel the power of his resurrection flowing through us. Inspiring us to open ourselves to more of the graces God desires us to receive and to share with others.
Mercy is not given to us by God just to restore us. It is given to us to move us to become active disciples offering that same grace to others who need grace.