The following homily was given by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 19, 2020, during a livestreamed Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne.
After the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples stayed in the upper room. They stayed there out of fear, today’s Gospel tells us. After Jesus’ death, they were filled with anguish. Their Master, their Teacher, was no longer with them. They were confused — after all, they had left everything and followed Him and now He was dead. They were left in sorrow and must have felt very desolate.
While they were in that state of fear and sorrow and anguish, the Risen Jesus “came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” The Lord showed them the wounds in His hands and side. In that marvelous encounter, their sorrow and fear evaporated. The Gospel tells us that the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Risen Lord. And then, the Lord said to them again, “Peace be with you.”
At different times in our lives, we experience anguish and sorrow. We can be confused and afraid. In this time of pandemic, many are in sorrow at the death of loved ones. Many are in anguish and are afraid of contracting the coronavirus. Many are afraid because they’ve been laid off from work or might be laid off from work. They are afraid for their and their family’s economic wellbeing. Many are confused about what our country and our community should do next: afraid that if restrictions are lifted, the virus might spread more or afraid that if restrictions are not lifted, the economic toll will be disastrous for many people.
In the midst of fear, anguish, confusion, and sorrow, the Lord wants to give us His peace. We need to hear Him say to us as He said to the disciples that first Easter night, “Peace be with you.” The Risen Lord wants to enter our homes and our hearts with His peace. We need to open the doors to let our Lord in. We do so when we pray. We open the doors of our homes and our hearts when we say like St. Faustina: “Jesus, I trust in you.” When we do so, we receive the Lord’s Easter gift to us: His peace.
I invite you today, Divine Mercy Sunday, to look at the wounds of Jesus, the wounds in His hands and feet, and especially the wound in His heart. These are the source from which flows the great wave of mercy that Jesus poured out on humanity. I invite you to gaze upon the image of Divine Mercy: with His right hand, Jesus is blessing us and the world. His left hand is touching the wound in His Sacred Heart, and from that Heart two rays of light come forth, one red and the other white and bluish, like the blood and water that flowed from His heart on the cross. The wound in Jesus’ heart is the great proof of God’s mercy, proof that God’s love for us is real and comes forth upon those who trust in Him.
When the Risen Jesus appeared to Thomas and the other disciples a week later, He greeted them again with the words, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas: “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Jesus wants to take away Thomas’ doubt. He wants to take away our doubts, our anguish, our fear, and our sorrow. He wants us to believe in His love and mercy. He wants us to believe what He has done for us on the Cross and to believe in His resurrection from the dead. He desires the light of His mercy to descend upon us (the light we see in the Divine Mercy image). When it does, we experience the peace which this world cannot give.
The peace that Jesus offers us is not a life free of suffering, but it’s the peace of knowing that God truly loves us, that Jesus is with us in our suffering. He still bears the wounds of His passion. They are wounds of mercy and they are now glorious wounds. God’s merciful love defeats sin and conquers death. When we are anxious or upset or afraid, we need to look at those wounds and pray: “Jesus, I trust in you.”
St. Peter wrote in his first letter: “By his wounds, you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus invites us to behold His wounds and to enter into the mystery of those wounds, to believe in God’s merciful love, and to look at Him and say with St. Thomas: “My Lord and my God.” Then we can hear Jesus saying to us: “Peace be with you.”
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, I invite you to pray before the image of Divine Mercy and to say: “Jesus, I trust in you.” These words summarize our faith, “the faith of the Christian, which is faith in the omnipotence of God’s merciful Love” (Pope Benedict XVI, Regina coeli, 4-15-2007). I also invite you to pray today for all who are sick and suffering, those who have wounds that afflict their bodies and souls, that the Risen Lord may heal their wounds.
We heard in our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles that the early Christian community, the primitive Church, was of one mind and heart. Every day the Lord added to their number. I pray that the Church today, all of us, will be so united. Like those first Christians, the Lord has entrusted us with the mission to be agents of His mercy. He calls us to be bearers of His peace and agents of His mercy. The message of divine mercy is not just for our individual spiritual lives. It is a message to be shared and spread throughout the world, especially by our actions. The Lord said to Sister Faustina: “Speak to the whole world about my mercy.”
Pope St. John Paul II told us: “Be apostles of Divine Mercy.” The devotion to Divine Mercy is not just for our chapels and churches. It is a truth to be lived by showing mercy and compassion to our neighbors in need. We’re not just to talk about the divine mercy, but to live it. It is actualized in our gestures of charity, kindness and forgiveness towards others. That’s what the early Christians did. And the Church grew. “Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” May that happen to the Church today!
May Mary, our Mother of Mercy, intercede for us, for the Church and for the whole world!
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