Homily 04 23 2017
The readings for this Sunday are about God’s mercy, the necessity for trusting Faith and the need for the forgiveness of sins. The opening prayer addresses the Father as "God of everlasting Mercy." In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 118), we repeat several times, “His mercy endures forever!”
God revealed His mercy, first and foremost, by sending His only-begotten Son to become our Savior and Lord by His suffering, death and Resurrection.
Divine mercy is given to us also in each celebration of the Sacraments, instituted to sanctify us.
Unlocking our own doors. We have all become security conscious nowadays. Most houses are now alarmed; the alarm has become as basic an item as table and chairs. We also need to have good strong locks; long gone, at least in the cities and towns, are the days when you could just leave the key in the door, and allow neighbors to casually ramble in for a chat and a cup of tea.
We are more fearful about our security than we used to be, and this fear and anxiety has led us to take more precautions to protect ourselves. Fear of what others can do to us tends to close us in on ourselves, in the physical sense of getting stronger security, but also in other senses.
We tend to be somewhat withdrawn around people we perceive to be critical. We are slow to open up to someone we think will judge us. We hesitate to share ideas and plans we might have with those who are known not to suffer fools gladly. Fear of others can hold us back and stunt our growth.
In the gospel reading today we find the disciples locking themselves into a room because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Even though Mary Magdalene had come to them from the empty tomb announcing, “I have seen the Lord,” this was not enough to overcome their fear. What had been done to Jesus could be done to them. .. which led to their hiding in self-imposed confinement.
The turning point came when the risen Lord himself appeared to them behind their closed doors and helped them over their fear. He did this by breathing on them the Holy Spirit, filling them new energy and hope, freeing them from fear and releasing them to share in his mission. “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you,” he said.
In the power of the Spirit they came to life and went out from their self-imposed prison and bear witness to the risen Lord. This is the picture of the disciples that Luke gives us in the first reading today. He describes a community of believers, the church, witnessing to the resurrection both in word and by the quality of their living.
We can all find ourselves in the situation of those first disciples locked in their hiding place. Any combination of the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” can water down our commitment to following the Lord. Like the disciples in the gospel reading, we can be tempted to give up on our faith journey.
The will to self-preservation can prevent us from doing what we are capable of doing with the Lord’s help. The wounds we carry from earlier, failed initiatives make us hesitate to try again.
Even when someone seems full of enthusiasm and hope like a Mary Magdalene, we shrug it off. We let them get on with it, while we hold back and stay safe. The gospel reading today suggests a way out of our self-imposed confinement. If Magdalene makes no impact on us, the Lord will find another way to enter our lives and to fill us with new life and energy for his service.
No locked doors, nor even locked hearts, can keep him out. He finds a way to enter the space where we have chosen to retreat and he empowers us to resist what is holding us back. He does require some openness on our part; at the least some desire on our part to become what he is calling us to be. The risen Lord never ceases to recreate us and to renew us in his love. Easter is the season to celebrate the good news.
Just as the disciples were unmoved by the hopeful enthusiasm of Mary Magdalene who announced, “I have seen the Lord,” so Thomas was unmoved by the witness of the disciples who said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
Thomas, it seems, was an even harder nut to crack than the other disciples. He is one of those people who insist on certain conditions being met before he makes a move, “Unless I see..” As he had done with the other disciples, the Lord took Thomas on Thomas” own terms. He accommodated himself to Thomas” conditions, “Put your finger here..”
The gospel reading today implies that the Lord meets us wherever we are. He takes us seriously in all our fears and doubts. The Lord is prepared to stand on our ground, whatever that ground is, and from there he will speak to us a word that is suited to our own state of mind and heart.
We don’t have to get ourselves to some particular place in order for the Lord to engage with us. He takes himself to where we are, wherever it is a place of fear or of doubt.
We might pray this Easter season for the openness to receive the Lord’s coming into the concrete circumstances of our own lives, so that we too might say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” We might also pray that, like the Lord, we would receive others where they are, rather than where we would like them to be.
This feast of Divine Mercy reminds us of many parables taught by Jesus emphasizing God’s mercy. We remember the three beautiful parables of Luke 15. God is like a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to go in search of the one lost one. God is like a woman who searches the entire house to find the coin she lost.
God is like a father who comes out of the house to welcome back his prodigal son and who comes out of the house a second time to entice the elder son to come in and join in the party. Today God has thrown a party during which we can receive God’s infinite mercy. Let us to the party and receive God’s mercy.
The readings today invite us to take a plunge into that reality - to plunge into the ocean of Divine Mercy. "In his great mercy," says St. Peter, God "gave us a new birth." Come to that ocean of mercy. Make a new beginning; be born again.
Jesus calls us to his mercy. "Do not be afraid." According an ancient say, "A lamb can bathe in it without drowning - and an elephant swim in it." Take the plunge into Divine Mercy.
This Sunday I offer a challenge: "Take the Plunge!" Do something to improve your spirituality…like the men’s Ignatian group…or the Mercy Cenacle…or going to Mass more often…..or going to Confession…or reading from scripture everyday if you are not doing that.. .
For this week I invite you to come to God's mercy - his Word. A lamb can bathe in it without drowning and an elephant can swim in it. Take the Plunge - Life in Christ.
As Jesus says, "Do not be afraid." Amen.im. O Most Divine Mercy, have mercy on us all sinners. Amen.