Blog & Pastor Letters

Divine Mercy Sunday

04-16-2023Weekly ReflectionFr. Christopher O'Connor

What would you say to your closest friends if they betrayed you? If you were having a very difficult time, a severe illness, lost your job, going through a breakup or another kind of traumatic experience and they were not present to you, what would you say after it was over? There are many responses: “Where were you? How could have abandoned me? I thought you loved me! You are dead to me! I will never forgive you!” For how many of us would the response have been “It is okay, I understand?”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears to his apostles after the resurrection. He enters into the Upper Room where he washed their feet, celebrated the Passover with them and gave them the Eucharist. He enters the room even though the doors are locked and stands in their midst. You can imagine that the first reaction might be fear. Then the Lord speaks a word. He does not scream at them, asking, “Where were you when I needed you? Did you think I was kidding about the cross? You failed me and I am done with you!” He does not speak to Peter and say, “I was not kidding about denying me three times, was I Peter? Mr. ‘I’ll never deny you, Lord.’” The Lord does not call out in anger or vengeance, but the word he speaks is “Shalom,” “Peace be with you.” In that moment, the Lord tells them that they are forgiven, he does not hold anything against them. This gift of peace drives away fear from their hearts and prepares them to preach the message of forgiveness of sins.

The Lord speaks again, “Peace be with you,” and then breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit. At this moment, the Lord manifests himself as Divine Mercy and gives them the authority to forgive sins in his name. This gift resides in the Church today in the sacrament of confession, where the priest, acting in the person of Christ, forgives sins and sets us free. The bishops of the United States have recently approved a new translation for the prayer of absolution that the priest says. The changes are minor, only three words are different. Instead of saying “sent the Holy Spirit,” it now says “poured out the Holy Spirit.”

Why is this important? What is the difference? Besides being a more accurate translation of the Latin, do you hear the difference? “Sent” has one connotation but “poured out” gives the impression of something greater, that God holds nothing back and pours out the Holy Spirit on us, giving us a new anointing each time we confess our sins and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. God does not hold back from us but pours out the Holy Spirit that we can live in the freedom won for us on the cross.

The Divine Mercy image gives us an excellent example of that grace being poured out. We see the red and pale rays pouring out of the Sacred Heart of the Lord Jesus and they cover us in grace. The main reason that Jesus appeared to St. Faustina and revealed himself as Divine Mercy was so we would not be afraid, that we would trust in his love for us and allow ourselves to be bathed in that mercy.

St. Thomas was not present when Jesus first appeared and did not believe the apostles when they told him they had seen the Lord. How crazy is that, when ten others tell you that Mary Magdalene was right and you still refuse to believe? When the Lord appeared again the following week, he did not condemn Thomas but spoke “Shalom” to him and let his peace be upon Thomas. The Lord showed great mercy despite the unbelief of Thomas, and that Divine Mercy is also ours to receive, no matter what we have done, said, or not believed. The Lord wants to pour out the Holy Spirit upon us so that we may be restored and saved. Let us open our hearts to receive this great gift and hear the Lord say to us, “Peace be with you.”