In the early Church -Baptism – probably exclusively of adults - was celebrated on Holy Saturday night. The newly baptised proudly worn their white baptismal garments for the rest of Easter Week to publicise their new status as full members of the Christian community.
On one occasion in a sermon to them on the following Sunday - this Sunday - St. Augustine reminded them that as they removed their white garments today, from now on THEIR LIVES must continue to distinguish them as Christians. From the highs and joys of their first Easter, they must now come down to earth today – LOW Sunday as it was called - and live in the light of what they have learned – Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ has come again. His power and presence in the world must come through them.
That reality is still the same this Low Sunday. St. Augustine could well say the same to us – our lives must show forth the power and the presence and the influence of the Risen Christ. Our lives must mirror His.
For the six weeks of Lent and the seven days of Holy Week we have been recalling how His way of life developed through God’s plan to bring us back to Himself and His invitation to share His life –the life of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The central plank of that plan is astonishing: - that “GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON…SO THAT WE MIGHT HAVE LIFE THOUGH HIM” (John 3:16ff).
We celebrate that extraordinary love in today’s feast- DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY. Jesus was so anxious that we would appreciate the extent of God’s love and mercy that He asked a Polish nun – St. Faustina- to arrange this feast for this Sunday. A Polish Pope- St.John Paul II, made it a reality. He made it a centre piece of his time as Pope. Interestingly he died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005; he was proclaimed BLESSED by Pope Benedict on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2011 and canonised SAINT by Pope Francis on Divine Mercy Sunday 2014.
The full extent of God’s Divine love and mercy are given full expression in the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus.
As a result of the resurrection that unconditional love and mercy are available to us- no matter what our failings were or are. That hope and resurrection is guaranteed to us- if we turn back to Him and live as He wishes. Of course, our turning back must be genuine. His love and mercy are not a licence for doing what we like and ignoring His wishes. In all decency, if we are treated well by others, we should show our gratitude by responding in a decent way to them. The same with our relationship with God.
The Resurrection assures us of the power to make that proper response. It helps us RISE above our weaknesses. As we mentioned last week, we have a tendency to see resurrection in terms of the NEXT life- which of course is true. But resurrection is for this life too - for every day. Every time I overcome a weakness - that is resurrection.
I am becoming the person I want to be; the person God wants me to be. St. Paul said if Christ is not risen from the dead, then my faith is without a foundation. In the Gospel today Jesus faults Thomas because he said he would not believe in the resurrection unless he actually saw Jesus. Jesus had us in mind when he replied: “Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe”. He further encourages us in the second reading: - “Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last; I am the Living One. I was dead and now I am alive forever and ever…”
My faith is for everyday – resurrection too. The Risen Jesus is alive and active and available to me each day, no matter what kind of day I’m having.
God’s Divine Mercy is with us each step of the way…welcoming, encouraging, strengthening, healing, restoring – the lost sheep is carried back; the lost son is embraced and forgiven; the thief on the Cross is assured of eternal life.
The Lord has truly risen Alleluia, Alleluia.