Sunday, 8 April 2018 : Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Second Sunday in the season of Easter, the last day in the Easter Octave, and by the decree of Pope St. John Paul II, also known as the Divine Mercy Sunday, following the vision of St. Faustina Kowalska of the Lord, the Divine Mercy. On this Sunday, as we continue to progress through the season of Easter, we continue to live up our Easter joy, celebrating the glorious and triumphant resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday’s Scripture readings remind us all to live faithfully in accordance to God’s will and obey His commandments following the examples set by the early Christian communities. In the first reading today, we heard about the details of the first Christian community living right after the Lord’s resurrection and the Pentecost. They lived a virtuous life, caring for one another and sharing their goods with each other.

The earliest Christian communities follow the examples set by the Lord, and followed the commands He had given to His disciples. He commanded them to be witnesses to His truth and His resurrection, and by their words and actions, He commanded them to go forth to the nations, and proclaim the Good News to all the peoples, that more and more people may come to know about God and His salvation.

They did not have things easy for them though, as if we have heard the Scripture readings during the Easter Octave, we would have noticed how the Jewish authorities, the High Priest and the council of elders were opposed to the teachings of Jesus and also the teachings of the Apostles, which spoke of the Christ crucified and of He Who has risen from the dead.

Yet, they did not fear the persecutions or were deterred by the threats and actions of those who opposed to them and their Lord. That is because they trusted the Lord and put themselves in His care and providence. The Lord has also sent the Holy Spirit to guide them and to give them the wisdom, courage and strength to carry out their mission and live their lives with zeal amidst the challenges from the world.

Before that, as we see in the Gospel today, how the disciples were themselves not firm in their faith. After the Lord had risen from the dead, the disciples were still filled with doubts and fear, which remained from the time when the Lord Jesus was arrested after the Last Supper. The disciples were scattered and they abandoned the Lord out of fear, fear for their lives and for their own safety.

We remember how St. Peter, in his attempt to protect himself, he denied knowing the Lord three times before those who accused him of belonging to the Lord’s inner circle of disciples. And then in today’s Gospel, we heard of the story of the famous doubter among Christ’s disciples, that is St. Thomas, who in another occasion in the Gospels also uttered his doubt and skepticism, when the Lord Jesus told His disciples that He would be going to Judea with them.

St. Thomas doubted the Lord at that time, as the Jewish authorities had warned to arrest Jesus and His disciples earlier on if they returned to Judea. He said to the other disciples rather sarcastically, “Let us follow Him, that we may die with Him.” This, combined with what we heard in today’s Gospel passage, of the time when the same St. Thomas showed great doubt and refused to believe that the Lord had risen from the dead showed a great lack of faith in him.

But, brothers and sisters in Christ, do we actually realise that what St. Thomas had thought, said and done, were in fact not so much different from what we ourselves have often thought, said and done? St. Thomas was a man who was not easily persuaded, lest he could see, hear, touch and experience by his own senses, and that was why, he said that unless he could see the Lord’s wounds, and put his fingers into those wounds, he would not believe.

How many times is it that we have also doubted the existence of God and His presence in our lives? We often think that God does not exist, because we cannot see Him, or perceive Him, or touch Him, and whenever we encounter troubles and difficulties in life, how many of us doubted God and said to Him, “Why did You not help us in our time of need? How can You be so ignorant of our suffering?”

That is because, we mankind are creatures of the flesh, whose existence depends on the flesh, and unless we experience it in the flesh, we find it hard to believe. But that is exactly why it is so easy for Satan to tempt us, because he can provide us with all sorts of worldly temptations and persuasions, that entice us with all sorts of pleasures that distract us and prevent us from having true faith in God.

How many of us, in our respective lives, have not been truly faithful to God? What I mean is that, how many of us have spent so little time with the Lord, so as to put the priorities in our lives first on worldly concerns for money, for prestige, for career advancement, for pleasures of the flesh, and for many other things that distract us from God. In fact, we always think that we do not have enough time for the Lord, and that we are too busy to Him.

Yet, if we think about it, we actually have a lot of time that we can spare in our lives. God does not ask much from us, just our time, attention and love. Yet, we find it so hard to give these to Him, all these while He had given everything from us. Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that our Easter joy cannot be separated from the memory of what God had done for us, by His suffering and His death on the cross, He has redeemed us all from our sins.

It was God’s love for us that made all of that possible. And that is what had inspired generations of Christian faithfuls throughout the years and ages, especially during the early days of the Church when persecution was common. In fact, they remained faithful through difficult times and trials, even to the point of giving up their lives defending their faith in God. Thus, that is why there were so many encouraging stories of the brave and courageous martyrs of our faith, who are our role models.

Now, let us ask ourselves, why is it that those martyrs were so willing in letting go of their earthly lives and existence? Is life not very important to us? In fact so many of us are so concerned about our lives and appearance, that many of us will do everything in order to preserve ourselves and our lives, and satisfy the need of our body before anything else, even in some cases, we are willing to cause harm to others if that satisfy what we want.

But for those martyrs and those who have suffered for the sake of God, they know that in God there is something far greater than all the things that the world can ever provide us. They know that they would rather save their souls for an eternity of true happiness with God and losing their earthly existence and suffer, rather than to succumb to the temptation of the world and lose their souls to an eternity of suffering and torment in hell.

They believed in God, even when many of them had not seen the Lord in person, be it before or after the Resurrection. Only the Apostles and the earliest disciples, the first members of the Church have directly interacted and seen the Lord, while the vast majority of Christians, all those from those early days to the present day, believe in God because of what the Apostles and their successors have passed on to us, that is faith.

And we believe that God is always ever loving and ever merciful to us, and hence, we celebrate today His aspect of the Divine Mercy. He is always ready to welcome us back, to be reconciled with us and to love us tenderly and completely once again, even though we have always been disobedient and filled with sin. Every time He has forgiven us, we often lapsed back into sin, and again, God extends to us His merciful love.

But in the end, we must realise, brothers and sisters in Christ, that while God extends His mercy and is truly generous in forgiving us should we ask Him, it is also up to us, whether we want to accept that offer of mercy, or reject it instead. And if we accept God’s mercy, we have to make a commitment to follow on through our choice. What does that mean? It means that we have to make the conscious effort to reject sin and to refuse a lifestyle that we once had and filled with sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, Who loves each and every one of us very much, that He is always ever ready to forgive us and to reconcile us with Himself, the Most Divine Mercy. May He always shower us all with His love and mercy, and let us all be good collaborators of God’s mercy, by allowing His mercy and love to transform us from creatures of sin, to be worthy children of the light, God’s own beloved people. Amen.

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