Breaking Open the Word

April 11, 2021

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

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Introduction

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What does “Peace” mean? It is more than a lack of conflict. Shalom ("peace" in Hebrew) meant God was working in the world. When God worked, He put the world in balance. No war, no hatred, no cynicism could overcome God's providence. No fear, no doubt, no lack of trust could overcome the sheer joy of God's presence. “The peace of Jesus is perfect because it calms us interiorly and exteriorly and disposes us to enjoy eternal things.” - St. Thomas Aquinas

Do you have peace?  The world certainly does not.  The world also is greatly lacking in faith in Jesus.  The great gift of our Risen Lord is peace in this world and for eternity. 

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Gospel Explained

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Jesus comes to His disciples through a locked door, where they are hiding, and reveals to them His wounds. They are not seeing a ghost or imposter.  They are truly seeing the Risen, glorified body of Jesus Himself.  Jesus’ greeting, Peace be with you (“Shalom” in Hebrew) the first word of the Risen One, is arguably the most revealing message of the Gospel.

 

These men were the ones Jesus had earlier called friends (15:15), and whom He had just referred to as brothers. Under pressure, one of them had totally and publicly disowned Him.  With the exception of the Beloved Disciple, the other male disciples had all deserted Him, in abject fear for their lives. Their sin, in some ways, was not essentially different from that of Jesus’ betrayer or the chief priests who had plotted His death or of Pilate who had sentenced Him. All were motivated, to different degrees, by their own self-interests, at the price of the violent death of an innocent One, One whom they had loved.

 

Jesus had been humiliated, brutalized, abandoned, and lynched, yet, without a single word of recrimination, His first word to those who had disowned and deserted Him was Peace be with you. This was before any expression of sorrow or indication of conversion from any of them. 

 

The single word Shalom quite simply expressed the essential heart of Christ. His was a totally free, unconditioned, unshakable, and limitless love. And in His love, He revealed the essential heart of His Father.  

 

The love of the Risen Jesus took the shape of unmerited forgiveness. It needed to be offered gratuitously. We can own and even repent of our sin, only through the power of God’s unconditional mercy.  Only the love, expressed so totally and perfectly in Jesus’ willingly accepted death, could ever enable the darkness of sin to be recognized, owned, and repented.

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Today’s Theme:

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Jesus said to the disciples, 'Peace be with you.  As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.'  After saying this He breathed on them and said: 'Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone's sins, they are retained." In Hebrew and in Greek the word for "breath" is the same word as "spirit." God first breathed into Adam to give him physical life and now Christ breathes His Spirit into the Apostles to give them spiritual life.  He is sending them forth, in the power of the Holy Spirit, who will make all things "new" again just as He did in the first creation. 

 

The prophet Ezekiel envisioned this day when he wrote of the Messianic restoration of Israel: "He said to me, 'Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man.  Say to the breath, "the Lord Yahweh says this: come from the four winds, breath; breathe on these dead, so that they come to life!" I prophesied as He had ordered me, and the breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet, a great, an immense army."(Ezekiel 37:9-10)  Man, formally dead to sin has been resurrected in Christ and this faithful remnant of the Old Israel has become the nucleus of the New Israel, the New Covenant Universal (Catholic) Church that will become an immense army of disciples converting the world through the spread of the Gospel.  We are one of these disciples.

 

Jesus also institutes the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Under the Old Covenant the sinner placed his hands on the animal, confesses his sins before the priest, and the animal died in his place.  Now Christ is the Lamb of sacrifice, but we still must have confession and repentance before sins can be forgiven and communion with God restored.  

 

We bring our venial sins [unintentional sins] before the Lord in the Penitential rite of the Mass in order to receive forgiveness, and any mortal sins must be confessed to an ordained priest, who is a successor of the priesthood in Christ, to whom we confess as though we are confessing to Christ Himself.

 

The Catechism explains that Jesus is the physician of our souls and our bodies.  He both healed the sick and forgave their sins and He has willed His Church, in the power of God the Holy Spirit, to continue His work of healing and salvation.  In this sacrament the sinner places himself before the merciful judgment of God who heals and purifies hearts and souls.  

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Theme in Our Life

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So how will we respond to this invitation, this call to be part of the army of disciples who will witness to the immense love and mercy of God?  A love so deep, a mercy so wide, that the world cannot fathom it. We like the first disciples must be willing to give all we have to Christ, knowing He perfects all things through us and in us.  As we place God first in our lives actively seeking to know Him and His will for us, we surrender our will. This surrender brings great peace and happiness, no matter what is happening around us.  For only through total TRUST in the One who loved us into being, can we experience the peace of Christ. 

 

On Divine Mercy Sunday we might ask, what is Divine Mercy? In the Old Testament, there are two principal Hebrew words that translate as mercy. First, the word hesed, which means "steadfast love, covenant love." Someone who has the attribute of hesed is someone you can always count on, someone who never lets you down. The second is rachamim: tender, compassionate love, a love that springs from pity. Someone who has rahamim is someone who feels for your plight and is moved with compassion to help you.  In the New Testament, the Greek word that is usually translated as "mercy" is the word eleos, meaning oil that is poured out. The merciful love of God will be poured out upon His children, like holy oil from above. Putting this all together…Divine Mercy is the love of God poured into our soul, like oil that seeps into every part of our being, that will never let us down because He compassionately feels all our pain.  St. John Paul II said, "Mercy is love's second name and is the greatest attribute of God."

 

Jesus asked St. Faustina to place 5 words below the Divine Mercy image, “Jesus, I Trust In You!” As we surrender to God and trust in Him, we will experience His Divine Mercy.  

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Preparing for Sunday

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To prepare for Sunday: 

*Read the Gospel and place yourself in the story.  Experience the peace that Jesus gives to His disciples.  This peace is given to you also.

*Begin reading the Diary of St. Faustina.  She is the great apostle of Divine Mercy, for her mission came directly from Jesus.

*Commit to praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day. Begin this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, during the hour of mercy at 3 pm.

 

Let us pray:

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

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