Divine Mercy and Restoration

Doubting ThomasToday’s reflection is for the Second Sunday of Easter (Or Sunday of Divine Mercy), April 28, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here. This reflection was given as a homily at the Deuel Vocational Institute, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in Tracy.

On this second Sunday of Easter, also referred to as Divine Mercy Sunday, we reflect not only on Jesus’ resurrection, but on what His resurrection means to those of us who believe. In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Sister Faustina, also known as The Apostle of Divine Mercy, for her visions of Jesus; the merciful love of God revealed to the whole world.

Today we stop to reflect on a God of mercy who is one hundred percent committed to our total restore-ation. Mercy, because God does not give us what we deserve due to our sin, but more than what we deserve because of His grace and love. And restoration, because like the Father who welcomed back the prodigal son, God does not welcome us back as a slave to hang our head low in shame—the most we could hope for, but instead as a son filled with love—more that we could ever have imagined. That’s Divine Mercy—a wayward child welcomed back home with open arms.

Today’s Gospel reading gives us the well-known story of Thomas, who, like a lot of us, says that seeing is believing! Just a week earlier, the Scripture says, Jesus appeared to his disciples showed them his wounds and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He breathed on them the Holy Spirit, and gave them, his Apostles, his own power to forgive sins! Remember in Luke 5:21, the scribes and Pharisees accused Jesus of blasphemy! They asked, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Of course, God is the only one who can forgive sins, and Jesus is God, so God forgave sins, but in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives the very men who denied him and abandoned him the power to bind to their words and actions His own power to forgive the sins of the world. That’s Divine Mercy—giving broken men the power of God.

Jesus is the savior, but for 2,000 years Jesus’ Apostles have been forgiving sins by the power of the Savior himself. In every generation there are those who, like the tax collector in Luke’s gospel, stand at a distance, unworthy to approach the throne of God, who beat their breast, and cry out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” (18:13) and God’s mercy is given through the ministry and ministers of the Church. That’s Divine Mercy—a sinner hearing the words of forgiveness that he could not possibly obtain on his own.

Interestingly enough, Thomas was not actually there when Jesus appeared to his apostles, and Thomas, like many of us, refused to believe until he saw it for himself! Arrogant. Prideful. And like many of us, he wanted proof. And that’s exactly what Jesus did. He reappeared, offered himself and his open wounds to an unbeliever so that he might believe. That’s Divine Mercy—a doubter given a sign so that he might believe.

My brothers, God’s mercy, Divine Mercy, is NEVER about what we are owed, what we deserve, or what we rate—in fact, it isn’t about us at all. Divine mercy is called Divine Mercy for a reason; it’s about God. It’s about God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s desire for our friendship, and God’s desire for our joy and fulfillment that can only be found in him. God has such great plans for each of us, and none of us can experience it on our own.

I told you last week that like Peter and John, we must be willing to remain united together—as different as some of us may be. We must be willing to enter the tomb if we are to rise with him. Today’s first reading shows the fruit of unity and dying to oneself. It shows the fruit of Divine Mercy. Acts of the Apostles tells us, “Many signs and wonders were done at the hands of the apostles, people respected them, and believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women, were added to them.” The Scriptures say that the sick were carried out into the streets just so that when Peter came by his shadow might fall on them. A large number of people brought out the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were cured. That’s the fruit of Divine Mercy!

Like I said, Divine Mercy isn’t about you, it’s about God and what God wants to do through you! And me! Divine Mercy is restorative. It recreates us to God’s image so that we can be his life, his love, and his goodness in a world of darkness. Do we believe God can do anything good with us at all?

That’s always our problem, we don’t see it. We stand back to back with God. We see and know only our past, God sees and cares only about our future. We say, “You can’t use me, God, look where I’ve been and what I’ve done!” God says, “I’ve got great plans for you, wherever you are, and whomever you are with.” It was true of Moses, of the prophets, of the Apostles, and of the Saints of the Church. And it can be true for us too.

It doesn’t matter where we’ve been, it doesn’t matter what we’ve done, all that matters is if we’re willing to seek Divine Mercy and go to where God is calling us to go. Will you accept his mercy today? Will you allow him to heal you? Transform you? Repurpose you? Restore you to your original goodness in His image. He just needs our “yes” and He will do amazing things through us—and many will come to believe and be healed.

For Reflection:

Am I aware of, and do I believe in the transforming power of Divine Mercy?

Am I like Thomas? What’s keeping me from believing?

To what degree have I given my “yes” to God? Where is God calling me? Am I willing to go?

By Deacon Stephen Valgos

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