Showing Mercy


Second Sunday of Easter

Divine Mercy Sunday

Acts 2: 42-47; 1 Peter 1: 3-9; John 20: 19-31

Dc. Larry Brockman


Mercy.  Mercy can be difficult for us.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our own suffering that the last thing on our minds is being merciful to others.  I have had some considerable discomfort over the last month  as I have undergone treatment for kidney stones.  I found myself focused on that suffering, and less concerned about others.  But, as I pondered on it during Holy Week, I realized that when that happened, when I became preoccupied with my own pains, then that is the best time for me to think about God’s goodness to me. 

First, Jesus clearly suffered and died a horrible death through no fault of his own.  And, any suffering I experience pales by comparison to what Jesus endured for me.  Second, while I may be suffering at some point in time, God has given me many gifts as well- Family, friends, a good home, and many, many other blessings, not the least of which is my Faith in Jesus and the promise of eternal life that comes from the Resurrection.  Indeed, when you keep in mind God’s immense gifts to us, then we are able to bear with the hardships of life – because we have the right perspective. 

This is what St Peter means when he says that we rejoice in God’s mercy   “Although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials.”   Those trials are not outside the scope of God’s wisdom – he allows them for a reason. This is true even of seemingly petty, everyday trials. Such things, in fact, have made sinners into saints.

Consider, for example, a monk, named Dositheus. He was a sixth century monk whose job in the monastery was to care for the sick members of the community.  The sick monks were just as ornery in their sufferings as normal people, preoccupied with their suffering.  Probably just as ornery as I was the last couple of weeks!  This orneriness grated on Dositheus.  When this happened, Dositheus would lose his patience and speak harshly to his brother monks.   Then, filled with remorse, he would run to his room, throw himself on the floor, weep bitter tears, and beg for God’s mercy. His genuine contrition allowed divine grace to work within him.  And so, over time, and with God’s help, Dositheus eventually overcame his ill-temper   and became so kind, patient, and cheerful that he filled even the sick and suffering monks with his contagious joy.  Dositheus learned to be truly merciful, and was canonized a saint for it[1].  

If we think often about God’s immense goodness and mercy to us, we, too, will be able to rejoice even amidst our trials, because we will know that they are, somehow, part of his plan for our lives.   They are part of the goodness God gives to us- they are part of God’s mercy.  They are a teaching kind of mercy.  You know, this kind of mercy is revealed in today’s Readings.  First of all, consider the Gospel reading.  The Apostles had been especially selected by Jesus.  Yet they abandoned Jesus after the Last Supper.  They fell asleep while He prayed at Gethsemane; they scattered when He was arrested, leaving Him behind; and at the beginning of today’s Gospel, they had gathered in a locked room- confused, afraid of the authorities, conflicted by what some of them had heard about- the Resurrection.  Indeed, in every sense of the word they were depressed and out of sorts and focused on their own pain.  And yet, what did Jesus do when He appeared to the Apostles?   Although they had abandoned Jesus in his most difficult hour, Jesus wasn’t going to abandon them.   Instead, he passes through the locked doors, passes through their fears, regret, and guilt, and appears to them.  Jesus sought them out and brings them his peace.   And he reaffirms his confidence in them by reaffirming their mission:   As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  We also see God’s mercy in Christ’s reaction to the men who had crucified him.    Did he come back and crush them in revenge?  No.  Instead, he sends out his Apostles to tell them – and to tell the whole sinful world,  the world that had crucified its God –  that they can be redeemed, that God has not condemned them:   And then, just to make sure that the Church is fully armed to communicate this message, Jesus gives the ultimate revelation of God’s mercy –  He delegates to his Apostles his divine power to forgive sins:   “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”    Through the institution of the sacrament of Confession, we all receive the limitless mercy of God,  A gift which overwhelms any misery we may experience in our lives  Because we merit everlasting life and joy by our reconciliation with God.   It was the ultimate revelation of Divine Mercy. This is how God has treated us.  Not because we deserved it, but because his goodness is so great and so overflowing that he wanted to give us the greatest gift he could think of: a share in his own divine life,  a real membership in the heavenly kingdom, forever.

Today, as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, our hearts should be full of simple, childlike gratitude.  The Eucharist is Christ’s pledge to us of the glory to come.  Today, when we receive this pledge in Holy Communion,  Let’s thank God for his mercy and his generosity, from the bottom of our hearts.  But let’s not just thank him with words.  Because if our King and God has treated us with such overwhelming goodness, giving us much more than we deserve, then we should strive to do the same for those around us. 

There are three simple ways we can do this, three ways we can act on God’s grace and make ourselves bearers of God’s mercy.  First, we can forgive people who offend, insult, or harm us, even when we think they don’t deserve to be forgiven – just as Christ does every time we come to confession.  Second, we can give others a gift, an opportunity, or a kindness, even when we think they have done nothing to deserve one – just as Christ will do for us today with Holy Communion.  Third, we can patiently bear with the imperfections and irritations we see in those around us- just as Christ does with each one of us every single moment of every single day.  The more we become like Christ in his mercy, through the power of his grace, the more we will experience the “indescribable and glorious joy” that he died to win for us in his Divine Mercy.

[1] Aapted from Saintly Solutions, by Fr Joseph Esper (Sophia Institute Press, 2001.]

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