The mercy of God re-creates
Today we celebrate the second Sunday of Easter also known as Sunday of the Divine Mercy. In his writing to launch the extraordinary jubilee year of mercy, misericordiae vultus, Pope Francis invited us to contemplate the mystery of God’s mercy: “It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life.
Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.” (MV 2) The elements in this quotation will help us to celebrate the Divine Mercy Sunday aware that we are in most need of His mercy.
Human suffering moves the heart of God
“Mercy” is “Misericordia” in Latin. They are two words in one: miser = suffering and cor, cordis =heart. It means a heart bent towards suffering. Our salvation depends on this. The Holy Scriptures present to us a journey of a merciful God with a suffering humanity. In the book of Exodus we read: "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.”(Ex 3, 7-9). God is moved by the suffering of the people. His is not only pity but a mission to do away with suffering. True mercy tries to alleviate suffering. It is amazing that God counts on the collaboration of human beings in order to bring about liberation. This is the mission that He shares with Moses. Please note that Moses is not a perfect man! Moses himself will make the experience that Yahweh is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34, 6). This is the nature of God which is being revealed throughout the Scriptures.
Jesus is the Father’s messenger of mercy
In the person and mission of Jesus of Nazareth, we see the face of the Father’s mercy. Jesus did not only present a completely different image of God as Father, but He revealed the very heart of God. The Gospel of Luke presents, more than any other, parables of Jesus that are about mercy: (Lk 7, 36-50; 10, 25-37; 15, 1-10; 15, 11-32; 16, 19-31; 18, 1-8; and 18, 9-14). In all these parables we see God’s supreme act of coming to meet us in our vulnerability. Mercy is, thus, God’s way of dealing with our wounds. It is love’s response to suffering. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10, 25-37), we see Jesus himself coming to pay the price in order to heal the man (humanity) who was left for dead. He is not ashamed of our wounds. In fact, he descends into these wounds by allowing himself to be wounded on the Cross. This is how precious the humans are that he bought them with his own blood. In his resurrection we see these wounds healed. He shows them to his friends, especially Thomas, so that their wounds may also be healed. This is what we see in today’s gospel (John 20, 19-31).
Holy Spirit given for mercy
The Risen Lord comes to His friends who had locked themselves behind doors for fear of the Jews (not for fear of the coronavirus!). The first gift he gives them is that of peace. This is a peace which the world cannot give. It is peace which takes away fear. He raises them out of the tomb of fear and disappointment. Another image presented to us by the Evangelist John is that of breathing on them. Instead of rebuking them for deserting him in the hour he needed them most, he pours into them his life-giving Spirit. This is exactly what God does when he lets His Spirit sweep over the original chaos at the beginning of creation. It is this Spirit that creates order (cosmos) and a living space. The human being depends on God for life. The Spirit of God is given for the forgiveness of sin: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” The Lord knows that without forgiveness, the human being remains in his/her brokenness brought about by sin. St. Peter, in today’s second reading (1 Peter 1, 3-9) invites us to embrace the new and living hope to which we have been reborn through the resurrection of Christ and the forgiveness of our sins. This is the hope that will carry us through the current trials of the covid-19 pandemic. Our perseverance in this time when the whole world is locked down will let our faith be purified so that we may return to the inexhaustible mercy of God.
Sent to be messengers of mercy
Some Christians find it difficult to go to confession because they are convinced that they sort themselves out with God directly. Yes. It is God who forgives. The sacrament of penance is an encounter with the mercy of God mediated by the minister who acts in the person of Christ (in persona Christi). What happens in this encounter is not judgement but a loving embrace with mercy itself. However imperfect the ministers (priests) are, God finds them worthy to stand in His presence and be instruments of his mercy. The mercy of God is like a well that never dries up. The words of the prophet Isaiah may serve to articulate God’s invitation: “…everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55, 1). Indeed, we ought to draw water from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12, 3).
Mercy is not only a word
It is good to contemplate the bountiful mercy of God but it is better to learn from God how to be merciful. Many times we confuse mercy with pity. What is required of us is to be imitators of the God we worship. He is merciful. We also ought to practice mercy towards others. We ought to note that this mercy begins with a changed attitude of heart. The experience of the resurrection transforms our hearts from a cold indifference to a warm sensitivity to the needs of our suffering brothers and sisters. Today’s first reading challenges us to copy the example of the first Christian community: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need.” (Acts 2, 44-45). May the current pandemic bring the best out of us, namely solidarity. Let nobody take advantage of the current suffering in order to enrich oneself. May the spirit of solidarity and sensitivity to the poorest and most abandoned move our members of parliament to put the generously allocated covid-19 facilitation into a common pool that will rescue many out of misery!