Divine Mercy Sunday
A Reflection by Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD
Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy
Independent Catholic Church of the Americas
Divine Mercy Sunday which is celebrated on April 7 is the anniversary of the founding of the Franciscans of Divine mercy our Franciscan order, which though very small, is dedicated to proclaiming to all who will listen of the Infinite and divine Mercy and Love of God for every human being on the face of the earth if they but choose to seek it. April 7th is also the second Sunday of the Easter season where we rejoice in Christ conquering Death and sin through his resurrection.
The readings for this Sunday have one very important point to make and that is the infinite mercy and love of God for everyone on this planet earth. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles chapter 5 verses 12-15 we read how the Apostles went forth and performed many healings and miracles; “ The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
Healing people of not only their physical afflictions but also their spiritual illnesses usually called sins is just one of the manifestations of God’s infinite mercy and Love.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, from John we hear how Christ appeared to the Apostles as they had locked themselves away from fear and when Christ appeared he began with these words; “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
The story goes on to tell us that Thomas was not among the disciples gathered there and when the apostles told them they had seen the Lord he said; “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
The Gospel goes on to tell us how about a week later Christ appeared again to the apostles even though the doors were locked and this time Thomas was with them and Christ began with the words; “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” To which Thomas is reputed to have said; “My Lord and my God!” which has become a prayer often spoken as one receives the Eucharist which is the Body and Blood of Christ, given to us at the last supper.
Christ then told Thomas; “Because you have seen me, you have believed; followed by what I feel are extremely important words for us to keep in mind; “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
We these more than 2000 years later who call ourselves Christians, or believers, therefore are told that we are blessed, because we have embraced the truth of Christ and believe.
There are so many Scriptural readings that give us insight into the Divine Mercy and Love of God for ALL His children.
“And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened”. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you: For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened”. found in the gospel of Matthew 7:7-8
Those passages remind us that we have to seek out the truth and we need to ask God to help us in not only discerning His will but also to heal us and assist us in our times of trouble, doubt or necessity.
In 1 John 5:1-6 we hear these words : “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loves him that begat loves him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not difficult. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world:”
In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Those were the words Christ quoted when asked what the greatest commandment was in Matthew 22: 34-40 to which he added “the second is like unto it, love your neighbor as you love yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”.
In John 13:34 Christ told us “A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” LOVE is the main element and LOVE is what God is. Where there is LOVE there is God and where God is there is infinite mercy and love.
So how do we show that love? We might do as those early followers did in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles 4:32-37 are said to have done; “for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made to every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet”.
This is one of the principals St. Francis wanted in his rules, which Innocent III approved 804 years ago for the order he founded later to be known as “THE FRANCISCANS”, that they own nothing of their own and use what they receive for the benefit of spreading The Good News of Salvation and to help the poor, sick, aged and societies outcasts.
The gospel relates how Jesus appeared to the apostles and disciples who had locked themselves in a room for fear that they would be persecuted and gave them the powers which have been handed down to all priests ever since at their ordination when they are anointed “Jesus and stood in the middle, and said to them, Peace be to you. And when he had so said, he showed to them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be to you: as my Father has sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive you the Holy Spirit: Whosesoever sins you remit, they are remitted to them; and whosesoever sins you retain, they are retained ……these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through his name.” John 20:19-31
I often feel that the problems we have in this world are primarily due to the fact that so many do not love themselves and therefore they are incapable of loving anyone else let alone loving someone they do not know or try to get to know and understand.
The troubles, strife, greed, genocide, poverty, war, discrimination that have and still cause so much grief in this world are the result of people not loving themselves and/or loving the God who created them.
Sadly far too many people look for the faults in, not only others, but themselves and dwell on them rather than on what is good. People tend to hold on to the negative things of their life rather than look at the good around them. I have seen this attitude cause people to actually be physically sick.
As followers of Christ we are called to seek out the light of God’s truth, to ask God to help us to know His will, to knock on the door of heaven and we have been told that if we do this we will be heard, the door will be opened and what we seek we will find. That is what the infinite and unlimited Divine Mercy and Love of God is all about.
I begin each day with this prayer in the hopes that God will be light my way and let me know his will.
Prayer for God’s Infinite Love
By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD, March 24th 2006
Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus
Almighty and merciful God, open my mind, my heart, and my soul to your infinite love. Instill within me the knowledge of your truth. Guide me in your ways in all the things I do so that I may be to others a reflection of your love towards them. Allow the light of your truth to flow through me towards all I encounter this day in order that they may come to know you better. I pray that all those with whom I come in contact each and every day may be brought into a closer union with you and enjoy your promise of salvation earned through your beloved son, Jesus Christ, in His passion, death, resurrection and ascension.
I humbly ask this in the name of your beloved son, Jesus Christ, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever unto the ages of ages. AMEN