Father Donald Senior, CP

Divine mercy

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Perspectives on Scripture

April 3: Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 5:12-16; Rv 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; Jn 20:19-31

In the jubilee year of 2000, Pope John Paul II declared this second Sunday of Easter to be “Divine Mercy Sunday,” a time when the church, still basking in the glow of Easter, would remember God’s lavish mercy and forgiveness. Now, Pope Francis has declared the Jubilee of Mercy and has asked the church to not only recall the unlimited mercy of God but also to extend God’s gracious mercy to the world.

The readings for this Sunday fit right into this powerful motif of God’s mercy. During this period after Easter we will hear readings from the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, as we do in the first reading today. While Luke portrays Peter boldly proclaiming the message of the resurrection to the Jerusalem crowds, he also emphasizes the healing power of Jesus’ disciples.

In this dramatic scene we hear today, crowds of people bring their sick out into the streets “on cots and mats,” hoping that as Peter walked by his shadow might fall on them and heal them. An earlier scene in the Acts of the Apostles, where Peter and John heal a paralyzed man at the gate of the temple, provides the rationale for these acts of healing. “I have no silver or gold,” Peter said to the man, “but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk” (Acts 3:6). The disciples are now empowered to do as Jesus did — to bring God’s healing mercy to those in need.

The Gospel selection from John is drawn from the final appearances of the Risen Jesus to his disciples who are huddled in fear behind locked doors. Here, too, we are reminded of God’s mercy that is manifested through the mission of Jesus.

The Risen Christ begins by greeting his shaken disciples, “Peace be with you.” Then something startling occurs that both John’s and Luke’s Gospels will emphasize. The Risen Jesus shows the disciples his wounds. His hands that had been torn through crucifixion; his side pierced by the soldier’s lance. The disciples rejoice when they see this — now they know it is truly Jesus, and Jesus repeats his greeting of peace.

The Gospel makes a powerful statement here — the Risen Christ is truly also the Crucified Christ. The reader of John’s Gospel knows that the death of Jesus on the cross was the supreme sign of Jesus’ love for this disciples: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).

Giving up one’s life for another is the most compelling act of love one can make. This is self-evident and a fundamental truth that transcends all time and every culture. For John’s Gospel, the love that Jesus demonstrates in laying down his life is, in turn, the fulfillment of Jesus’ mission.

As Jesus tells Nicodemus in the first discourse of this Gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:16-17).

To drive this message home, John’s Gospel includes a second resurrection appearance — this time for the sake of Thomas, who was absent before and who is skeptical. Unless he can see and touch those wounds of Jesus, he will not believe. When the Risen Christ comes again and offers Thomas the proof he demanded, the disciple’s doubts crumble and he utters one of the most powerful confessions of Jesus’ identity found in all of the Gospels: “My Lord and my God!”

The wounds of Jesus are now signs of his abundant love and mercy, always available to those who may doubt and strain to believe. That message of mercy, as Pope Francis has repeatedly reminded us, is also the mission of the church: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” That is the astounding message of God’s Word to us on this Divine Mercy Sunday.


  • scripture