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Fr Billy Swan

Dear friends. It is the second Sunday of Easter, the day also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. In his message for the close of the Year of Mercy in 2016, Pope Francis expressed his hope that although the year of mercy was drawing to a close, the message of mercy would continue to be proclaimed and lived by the whole Church.

There are two ways to think about divine mercy. The first is from our point of view. We are told that God loves us, that he is compassionate, forgiving and merciful. Of course all of this is true as we see from the life of Jesus. We normally greet this news with thoughts like:

‘That’s good to know – that God is there for me when I sin or screw up or at the very end of my life. To know God’s mercy is there when I need it is very comforting and assuring. But in the meantime, I am happy to carry on as before’.

The problem with this approach is that it considers divine mercy from our perspective only as if God were someone we turn to only when we are in trouble. But this is not how God wants to relate to us which is why we must consider divine mercy from his point of view as well. Divine mercy from God’s perspective is always active and in pursuit of those who need it most. It is a mercy that reaches out and reaches in, that is offered and applied precisely in ways in which it is needed.

See what happens in the Gospel on this divine mercy Sunday. We are told that the disciples were locked in a room out of fear. They were afraid but also dispirited and guilty. Their hopes were shattered. They had all ran away and deserted Jesus at his hour of need. So much for their loyalty. Yet when Jesus appeared to them, his words and approach were not of rebuke and scorn. Instead, they were words of peace and assurance: ‘Peace be with you!’ Note what the mercy of God is like and how it is on display here. It seeks out the disciples, speaks to their fears, their guilt and anxieties. Mercy is a spirit of forgiveness that is breathed on them and sends them back out into the world to be ministers of forgiveness. Jesus is merciful particularly to Thomas. Again, when he approaches Thomas, he is not angry with him for his lack of faith. All he wants is his faith which comes after touching his wounds.

So often we seek out God’s mercy only when we need it! But rarely do we consider how God’s mercy seeks us out all the time. The first time Jesus came to seek out the disciples, Thomas was absent. We are often absent too when God seeks us out and seeks our attention. We are too busy, too distracted or indifferent. We want to relate to God on our terms, in our own time and when we are ready. But God’s mercy seeks to reach us, unite with us, heal us, teach us, open us up, bless us and send us in ways and times that are greater than our own agendas and plans. When we receive divine mercy on God’s terms, we are always more merciful after than before and more ready to be people of mercy to those who need to experience it from us.

In the words of St Peter in the second reading today, ‘God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth in his great mercy’. Divine Mercy is not a one way street. It’s not merely something we seek out when we need it. It is a love and mercy that seeks us and tries to reach our hearts all the time. When we welcome it and experience it in the heart, we are born anew. Then we join with Thomas in making our own his great acclamation of faith: ‘My Lord and my God!’ May these words be on our lips and may mercy fill our hearts this day!


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