2nd Sunday of Easter. April 3, 2016.
Acts 5:12-16; Rev 1:9-11,12-13,17-19; Jn 20:19-31
When mercy flows
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
About 6,000 impoverished farmers in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato, Philippines, formed a human barricade blocking traffic along the Makilala-Kidapawan highway for 3 days last week. The farmers were protesting for the release of rice, financial subsidies, and free vegetable seedlings that had been promised them during the drought that has completely devastated their farms. The local police responded to the protesting farmers last Friday by shooting at them, killing three farmers and leaving over two dozen of the protesters wounded.
How easily power can be used to kill, oppress, intimidate and dominate others? The government police officers had power to shoot at poor starving farmers who were only demanding their rights to food and relief supplies promised them by the government. The authorities freely chose to use that power and shoot and kill. How easily we forget that how we use power will determine the peace in our hearts, family, society, Church and world?
How did Jesus use His power? Jesus speaks of how He used the power that He received from the Father, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.” (Jn 10:17-18)
Jesus was empowered by the Father for His mission to lay down His life for us on the cross and to rise from the dead so that we have the peace that comes from being reconciled with the Father. Jesus Christ remains forever our Prince of Peace because He used His power to willingly lay down His life for us on the Cross so that His Father’s love may flow to us through the wounds that He bore, “He was pierced for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities…by His stripes we are healed.”(Is 53:5)
In today’s Gospel, the risen Christ uses His power to pass through closed doors again not to accuse His disciples or make them feel bad for their cowardice or their deserting Him at the hour of His passion and death. But He uses this power to break into their midst and announce to them the peace that He has won for them and to point them to the path of true peace, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He showed them His wounds and side, those priceless channels of divine mercy to us. Just as the Father sent His merciful love to us through the wounds of His only begotten Son, by these same wounds we too have been empowered to be channels of divine mercy in today’s world.
He says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, whose sins you retain are retained.” The weak, scared, discouraged, and confused disciples will not find peace by huddling together behind closed doors to prevent themselves from being hurt by the Jews. They will find peace only by receiving the forgiveness that Christ has won for them and letting this forgiveness flow to others. Likewise, we will not have peace because we are powerful, without wounds, or protected from those who may hurt us; but the peace of the risen Christ remains in us when we let His mercy flow through us to others.
Pope Francis’ special prayer for the Jubilee Year of Mercy has two lines which I will like us to reflect upon. Speaking about Jesus Christ, it says, “You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy.” Speaking about us, the Church, the body of Christ, the prayer states, “Let the Church be your (Christ’s) visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.”
First, God is powerful and He shows His power above all by forgiveness and mercy. Secondly, we are not the powerful ones but the ones “clothe with weakness” who enter into peace of God not by being or pretending to be powerful but by receiving His merciful love and letting this mercy of God flow through us towards those in ignorance and error. Christ’s calling to His Church is to be merciful towards those like St. Thomas the Apostle inside and outside her fold whose faith is weak even as she shares with them the saving truth and grace of the risen Christ in her midst.
I was particularly struck by the meditations on the 7th day of the Divine Mercy novena in preparation for the Feast of Divine Mercy which we celebrate today. Jesus had said to St. Faustina, “Today bring to me the souls who especially venerate and glorify my mercy, and immerse them in my mercy…They are the living images of my compassionate heart.” As we venerate the icon of Divine Mercy, let us remember that divine mercy is not only to be venerated but also glorified and spread to others through us who have become living images of Jesus’ compassionate heart. If the mere shadow of the weak St. Peter can bring healing to many as we see in the First Reading of Mass today, surely our own weakness cannot hinder the powerful healing rays of risen Christ to shine on others through us.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we live in a world where power is sought only to be abused by individuals, the state, governments, the Church, etc. Married spouses use the power of their masculinity and femininity to dominate and manipulate each other. The infant in the womb is denied the right to life by those who have the power to make laws and govern the land. There is a constant temptation to exercise power over others, to dominate them, oppress them, make them do our bidding, etc simply because we have the power to do so. The only use of power that leads to peace is to use power the way that Christ used it and the way that we have been empowered to make use of it – to set others free from all forms of bondage.
On the other hand, we must not be afraid of our wounds or afraid of being wounded or deny our vulnerability. We do not find peace by craving power over others or by eliminating all form of weakness. Peace comes and abides in us when we let the mercy of God flow through us.
In a world that is obsessed with power and only ends up abusing it, we are in ever greater need for the frequent reception and celebration of the sacrament of confession. In the sacrament of Confession, the risen Christ shows us His wounds not to oppress us or to instill guilt in us for our failures. He shows us His wounds so as to bring us peace by reminding us that He was wounded so that we may find mercy and forgiveness for sin. In this sacrament too, we show Him our wounds with all honesty and trust so as to receive His mercy. If we refuse to pretend or to hide our wounds and weaknesses from Him, His mercy will empower us to love those who hurt us, to forgive all hurts, to be merciful to those who may not deserve it, and to raise others up as we have been lifted up by the power of the risen Christ. All this because we have been empowered to let divine mercy flow through us.
In this Eucharist, Jesus uses His power over bread and wine to communicate His life to us. He also sends us just as the Father sent Him. As the Father empowered Him for the sake of mercy and He was willing to be wounded so that we possess that mercy, we too are empowered and sent into our world to be channels of His mercy even with our wounds and weaknesses.
Alleluia! God is ever powerful and He continuously manifests His power above all by mercy, forgiveness and compassion. As we receive His love and mercy in this Eucharist, we must not be fixated on power or pretend that we are powerful, without any wounds or moral weaknesses.
His invitation to us is clear – Just let His mercy flow through us to others and His peace will be with us always.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!