Divine Mercy Sunday April 22, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Sunday of Easter
Reading I (Acts 5:12-16) Reading II (Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19)
Gospel (St. John 20:19-31)
At the end of the Gospel reading today, Saint John tells us that he has written these things down so that we will believe that Jesus is the Christ; that through belief in His name, we will have life. That is the purpose of Our Lordís coming: that we would have life. He said we would have life to its fullness. He wants us to have abundant life. Not just natural life, like somebody, for instance, who is lying in a hospital bed, dying. The person is still alive, they still have life. The Lord wants us to have life to the full - abundant life. He wants us to be overflowing with His life. It is not merely natural life the Lord gives to us, but it is supernatural life that He is offering to us. He is giving us His own self.
These things are difficult for us to grasp. So, the Lord, many times over, has tried to demonstrate His love to us. A few hundred years ago, He appeared to Saint Margaret Mary and showed us His heart to demonstrate how much He loves us. He said to her, "Behold the heart that has loved men so much and has been loved so little in return." He is loved so little in return because we donít really believe. We donít believe in the love of God. We donít believe in the mercy of God.
Today the Church celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday. In fact, right here we have a picture of Our Lord as He appeared to Saint Faustina. He told her of the mercy He wanted to give to the people, if only we will believe. That is our problem: We donít really believe in Jesus Christ. We donít really believe in the promises of Our Lord. Tragically, most of us are lukewarm at best. We listen, Sunday after Sunday, and, hopefully, we read the Scriptures every day. Yet we walk away, for the most part, unchanged because we really donít believe. We know fully well if we did believe we would have to change our lives; we would have to do something different; we would not fit in anymore with all the people out in the world.
We would be like the apostles who were gathered in Solomonís Portico, but the people were afraid to be with them. It said in this morningís reading "they didnít dare to come over to them." Even though more people were added to them in great numbers, the people were terrified because they were different. They were not like the other Jews of the time. There was something special about these people that set them apart. Because they were set apart, nobody wanted to be with them. But each one of us has been set apart. Each one of us has been consecrated to the Most Holy Trinity on the day of our baptism. The word "consecrate" means literally to set apart. We have been set aside for a holy purpose. To do Godís work, we are not to be like everyone else out there; we are to be like Jesus Christ.
It is interesting, when we look at the second two readings today. When Jesus appears to His apostles, he says to them, "Peace be with you." They were not at peace. They knew Jesus Christ, they believed in Him (sort of), but they were not at peace. And in the second reading we hear Our Lord say, "Do not be afraid." Why should we be afraid? The only reason we would be afraid, the only reason we would not be at peace is because we donít trust Him. We donít fully believe. In our heads, we know; but in our hearts, we donít accept. We keep Jesus at an armís distance so that our lives donít have to change. We donít want to let Him in very far because we know that it will do something to us; something wonderful, something incredible, but we donít know what. So, we count the cost and we donít let Him any closer. We are afraid to be vulnerable with God.
We look at the Scripture that is here, and listen to Our Lordís words: "Do not be afraid. Be at peace." The Holy Spirit is breathed upon the disciples and they are given the authority to forgive sin, our sins. When we really know that our sins are forgiven, we can be at peace. We have nothing to fear if we truly believe in the promises of Our Lord. But we live in a day and age when the mercy of God is more necessary than ever before. It is true that we live in the most sinful society that history has ever known. We need the mercy more than ever. As Our Lord told Saint Paul, "Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more." So there is an absolute, overwhelming abundance of grace that is available to us today because there is an overwhelming abundance of sin in the world today.
But that is not the only reason the devotion to the mercy of God is so necessary. It is necessary today, more than ever, because people donít believe in the mercy of God. They donít believe in their own dignity. They donít believe in the forgiveness of sin. hey donít believe that God really loves them because they donít believe that they can be loved. So the Lord comes to us, once again, and He points to His heart. The rays of love flow from His heart depicting, in the two different colors, the waters of Baptism and the blood of Jesus Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament. They are the Eucharist and Baptism; the covenant and the celebration of the covenant that each one of us has entered into.
The Lord wants us to understand. He wants us to know and to believe. He wants us to be at peace, knowing that our sins are truly, actually, and completely forgiven. These are not just empty rituals we are going through. We donít just go through the motions of coming here, Sunday after Sunday, and walk out unchanged. This is a reality that is more profound than anything in the world. It is the true and real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and the actual reality of having your soul cleansed of sin. When you kneel before the priest and hear those beautiful words of absolution, you walk out with the knowledge, the unshakable knowledge, that your sins have been removed from your soul. They are there no longer. The mercy of God is greater than anything we can do; that is what Our Lord wants us to know. There is nothing we can do that is bigger than Him. He wants, more than anything, to forgive our sins.
When we think about the events of the last week that we have celebrated, the Passion, the Crucifixion, the Death, and the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we need to think about what He did. He took to Himself every single sin that ever had been committed and ever would be committed in the history of the world. He took it all to Himself. He took them to the Cross and crucified them there. Every sin that you and I have ever committed and will ever commit has already been crucified in the person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus rose from the dead, He rose victorious over sin and death. There was no more sin affecting Him, it was destroyed. And death was destroyed with it because death is present because of sin, it is one of the effects of sin. The Lord destroyed it so that we are no longer going to be held bounds by the bonds of death; we no longer have to live in fear of death.
If the Lord has already taken every single sin that we could commit, that we have committed, or that we will commit, why are we afraid that our sins are not forgiven? Why donít we believe that the Lord really will forgive us? Or that He really has forgiven us? Think of the worst possible sin that you have ever committed. More than that, think of the worst possible sin that anyone in the history of the world has ever committed, or ever could commit. Let your imagination run for a minute. What is the worst thing anybody could ever do? Saint Therese of Lisieux tell us that is like one little drop of water in the ocean of Godís mercy. The worst thing, the biggest thing that we could ever commit is like one little drop of water in the ocean because Godís mercy is infinite. His love for you is infinite; it is beyond anything we could ever grasp or imagine. As big as our sins might be, they are nothing for the Lord. If you have confessed the sin, it is gone, it is not there anymore. We stand back and say, "Yeah, but..." And the Lord looks you right in the face today, as He looked at Thomas 2,000 years ago, and He says, "Doubt no longer, but believe." Believe because He promised it. Believe because He did it. He nailed that sin to the Cross already. It is over with, it is done. If you have confessed it, itís gone. That is the mercy of God.
But it doesnít end there. His mercy is so that you can have life; so you can share His divine life in this world. Far more than that, it is so that you can be united with Him forever in the next world; so that you can go to Heaven; so that you can be one with Jesus Christ for eternity. That is the mercy of God. That is the promise He has made. Doubt no longer, but believe. Let your life be changed. We need to be transformed in Jesus Christ because we donít live merely a natural life; we live a divine life. Sanctifying grace is the very life of God and it has been poured forth into your soul, if you are in the state of grace, so that the life of Jesus Christ can be lived in you. We need to believe that. We need to accept it. That is how much Our Lord loves us. He died for us so that we could have His life. He took on our sins so that we could be sinless. He accepted our death so that we could have His life. He went into hell so that we could go to Heaven. That is the mercy of God.
When we can believe that, then we need no longer be afraid. We need not be afraid to go to confession. We need not be afraid of death because our sins are forgiven and we have been given life. We have the promises of Christ; in those promises, we can be at peace if we truly trust Our Lord and what He has said. When we can be at peace, when we are filled with trust, when we are no longer afraid, then it can be said of each one of us what was said of Thomas when he made that profession "My Lord and my God" : He doubted no longer, but believed.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.