Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday Year B. 11-04-2021
by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Acts 4: 32-35
Psalm: Psalm 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Second Reading: 1 John 5:1-6
Gospel: John 20: 19-31
Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. It is not an occasion to celebrate and glorify our weaknesses and failures as we are always wont to quickly admit “I am only human” or “to err is human” whenever we have committed faux pas. Rather, this feast instituted by Pope St. John Paul II avails us a unique opportunity to acknowledge with gratitude God’s innumerable mercies in our lives and with the commitment not to abuse them but to challenge ourselves to use them as a prospect to becoming better versions of ourselves as intended by God, so that though human we can also be divine. Mercy is one way of experiencing the divine attributes used to define God just like good, love, peace, omnipotence, e.t.c. This means that in God, all of these attributes unite, finding a meeting point without contradicting one another. In us too made in the image and likeness of God, these abstract attributes can become concretised in our words and actions when we emulate God. The early Christian community described in the first reading lived in the practice of these attributes; in unity of mind and heart, common life, and charity, and God was in their midst. They lived in the practice of mercy as a love that responds to human need in an unmerited manner. With this, the constant presence of God was felt in this community. That is why the ancient 9th century Latin hymn Ubi Caritas says that ‘where charity and love abide, there God is found.’ And this is what today’s feast calls us to reflect in our lives. Ask yourself, is God found in your life? Do others experience Him through you? Be a man or woman of mercy like Christ and you are already revealing God’s merciful face.
Christ in instructing His disciples in Matthew 9:13 says, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners,” and indeed this is true. Because even the twelve apostles Christ chose were not the best and the most righteous of persons even in the eyes of the world. Instead, Christ chose weak, sinful illiterate, ordinary men whom society did not really reckon with. He did this to demonstrate that truly God’s power is made manifest in human weakness. This is what St. Paul acknowledges thus, “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Corinthians 12:10). Therefore, as the Holy Father Pope Francis acknowledges in his apostolic letter inaugurating the year of Mercy, Misericordia Vultus, Jesus Christ is the face of God’s mercy. His mercy is “visceral” changing us from the inside out as He demonstrated in the healing of the sick, welcoming of strangers, and pardoning of sinners including most especially those who denied, persecuted and killed Him. This is why mercy does matter every time as now. Don’t you need mercy?
St. Paul in Romans 3:23 tells us, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and this is a reminder that mercy matters because we all need forgiveness. And more so, mercy matters because it is what can join us all together in spite of our differences. It was mercy that led Christ to return to His disciples today as we have in the gospel reading on the evening of the first day of the week to give them peace. The gift of peace to the same people who had denied and abandoned Him during His passion was a sign that He had forgiven them. Only a Christian can do this. Are you one? For this was an act of mercy necessary for the continuation of Christ’s mission of mercy in the world for our salvation. That is why the Romans say “nemo dat quod non habet” (no one gives what he does not have). Therefore, to make them dispensers of God’s mercy, they must first be made beneficiaries of His mercy. And so, having forgiven them, He gifted them with the Holy Spirit and instituted them ministers and dispensers of God’s Divine Mercy, which has remained a key ministry in God’s church exercised by the clergy to this day in the sacrament of reconciliation where the priest functions and acts not in his own name but in persona Christi capitis. Hence, outside of this sacrament, the priest cannot absolve the sins of anyone. Nevertheless, as a participator in the exercise of this office bestowed upon the apostles by Christ, the priest who has the faculty can absolve all sins confessed by a truly repentant sinner. So, it is not pretentious that psalm 51:19 assures us, “a humbled contrite heart o God, you will not spurn.” Because this is the face of God we encounter on the Mercy Seat. And this is why mercy matters, for it is the meeting point between heaven and earth. Does heaven and earth have a meeting point in you? It can, only if you become a reflection of Christ’s merciful face, albeit an imperfect one.
Christ extends His loving mercy in a special way to Thomas today. Thomas, one of the twelve, had truly loved His master and had being a witness to the crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. However, the claim of Jesus’ resurrection was a stumbling block to His faith. He doubted this so much that He became the last of the twelve to witness this great miracle. His faith was weak, but Jesus did not get angry at him. Rather, for his sake Christ chose to show Himself a second time to His disciples after His resurrection, to strengthen their faith. This no doubt is to accentuate the very important and necessary task Jesus wants us to undertake despite our human weaknesses. Every human being has a weakness. That was Thomas’ weakness. For you, what is your weakness? Are you willing to admit it and be helped like Thomas? When we pretend about our weaknesses, they eventually destroy us. One must not be boastful of his or her weakness but must in honesty and humility admit it with a readiness to change and the disposition to receive help. This is when Christ can make use of us, in spite of our weaknesses. Can Christ make use of you?
Leaders must also be conscious of the fact that in every group there are strong and weak members. The weak must strive to learn from the strong while the strong must bear with the weak and help them to be strong. As Christ’s mercy transformed Thomas from a dis-believer to a believer, so mercy towards those who are weak can make them strong. Having become strong, Thomas exclaimed, ‘My Lord, and My God,’ and from this day he became an ardent gospel evangeliser in the continent of Asia. Like Thomas, God sees and knows our weaknesses, but out of mercy He still calls us to work for Him so that if we co-operate with His will His mercy can transform us from sinners into useful instruments to conquer the world for His kingdom. This is why mercy matters, because it transforms. Before God, mercy transforms sinners into saints just as among humans, it can transform enmity, evil and wickedness into friendship, love and goodness. As we receive mercy from God may we also learn to be merciful to one another. And on this day of Divine Mercy Sunday, we pray that the good Lord may show us His mercy to transform us into His true sons and daughters fit for His kingdom here on earth and forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.