Divine Mercy Sunday (C); April 3, 2016
Acts 5:12-16 Ps 118 Rv 1:9-11,12-13,17-19 Jn 20:19-31
(New) Folsom Prison; Deacon Jim McFadden
Jesus is Risen! What a joy to proclaim this wonderful message—one that is the ultimate “game changer”! The Resurrection is THE pivotal moment in all of Salvation History. Everything has changed; everything is relative to this event! Why? Sin and death have been transformed. And, we are given the promise of eternal life, which, incredibly begins here and now: as we abide in the Risen Jesus, we will experience “a joy that will never pass away.” Most fittingly, the Second Sunday of Easter is aptly named Divine Mercy Sunday because the Risen Jesus graciously extends the Life he shares with his Father to us: “Peace be with you” (Jn 29:19).
Again, everything is now different. We get that from the beginning of today’s Gospel, which states: “On the evening of that first day of the week” (Jn 20:19a). The first day of the week is Sunday, Resurrection Day! By saying that “the first day of the week” John is implying a new day of creation because in Genesis on the first day God began to create heaven and earth. As Jesus is risen from the dead, there is a new creating, there is a new beginning. And, brothers, you are part of that—you just have to receive the abundant Resurrected life that Jesus is offering you. Are you going to receive it? Are you going to say “Yes” to the Resurrected Jesus?! Are you going to become a new creation?
If we do say “yes,” we have to say, at the same time, “no” to our fears. Notice how the Gospel account unfolds: “…when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst…(v. 19b). The disciples out of fear had locked themselves in the (upper) room. Is there anyone in this assembly who has not been afraid? Usually we are afraid because we seem unable to control what is happening to us or what might happen to us. As a result, we lock ourselves in; we lock God out. How do we do that? When we call that which is good evil, and evil good. When we accept vice as normal and virtue as weird. When we accept the dominant culture of prison life and slip into the slippery slope of doing bad things, which gives rise to anguish and turmoil. Brothers, we lock ourselves into an interior prison when we separate ourselves from our Creator and Redeemer who loves us beyond measure. We rely instead on our ego—with its conniving projects, agendas, rationalizations, tricks and games—to control our lives. So, we’ve locked ourselves down in fear and see the world around us as a threat. Does that sound familiar?
Despite the locked doors, “Jesus came and stood in their midst…”
(v 19c). And, he stands in our midst today in C-facility because the risen Jesus transcends space and time; the risen Jesus can break through any obstacle, can overcome any barrier that we set up. He can burst into the confines of our isolated, sinful, fearful soul whether we want him to or not. That was the entire reason why He became man and suffered and died. We are redeemed and He will continue to relate to us.
Brothers, the risen Jesus wants to get into our hearts and into our minds. He wants to get into our body. He wants to get into our life and he will do it despite all the obstacles we set up for him. This is the work of amazing grace. It’s about grace; it’s not about what I do, but what God accomplishes in me despite my locked doors!
The decisive moment occurs when Jesus says what he always says, “Peace be with you” (v 19d). And, when he says this, he showed them his hands and his side. The two movements are inseparable.; they go together. The wounds of Jesus are the effects of our sin. It is important to realize that the Risen Jesus is still the wounded Jesus. In his glorified body the two have been put together. Jesus is glorified: he is at-one with his Father; yet, he is still wounded because we continue to sin against the Body of Christ, the Church. Somehow, his very woundedness is his glory. He carries his Crucifixion into his Resurrection.
Brothers, we see the Risen Christ bringing his wounds, his humanity to his Father and that itself is his glory. Jesus does this because he can trust that his Father would love him in his woundedness. And, just as the Father does that with his beloved Son, he does with you and in your brokedness and woundedness. One day, we are going to come before the Lord, not in any sense perfect, but still in your wounded humanity. Our final great act of trust is to believe, to hope, and to know finally that the Father loves us anyway. Indeed, through the prophet Zephaniah, God reveals that “he delights in us,” right here and now.
After showing his wounds, he says to them and to us, “Shalom,” which means peace. We say it up and down the liturgy: “Shalom, the Peace of the Lord be with you,” which confirms that God created us out of love and God’s love has never swayed, regardless of our sins that we commit in thought, word, and deed. This peace is the fruit of the victory of God’s love over evil; it is the fruit of forgiveness. And, receiving and sharing Jesus’ peace comes when we experience God’s mercy.
We are sinners, yes. But, much more importantly, we have been redeemed; we are forgiven sinners which means that any sin that we can possibly commit can be forgiven.
That’s why this return of Jesus is the great moment of the forgiveness of sins. That’s why the Church designates the 2nd Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy. This means redemption, and salvation is ours if we say “yes!”; if we claim and live our redemption. We have access to eternal life here and now! Sinners, yes, but sinners who are embraced by his infinite mercy. This is our faith.
And, this is why Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (v 21b). And, “When he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (vs 22-23). The forgiveness of sins that we receive from him, we now become the conduit for others. Brothers, Jesus has given you his peace so that you can spread the forgiveness of sins to the world of (New) Folsom prison, which so desperately needs to hear and receive this Good News. As the baptized People of God, we are the Church, which is sent by the Risen Christ to pass on to others the forgiveness of sins and thereby make his Kingdom of Love grow.
Brothers, the Spirit of the Risen Christ drove out fear from the Apostles hearts and impelled them to leave the Upper Room in order to spread the Gospel. He is doing the same with you. Let us have the courage in witnessing to our faith in the Risen Christ! You must not be afraid of being Christian in your cell, in the yard, on your job. We must not be afraid of living as Christians here and now. We must have this courage to go and proclaim the Risen Christ, for he is our peace.
We, the Church now have our Mission: to bring the whole world into the circle of divine love—to experience what the disciples experienced that night. The forgiveness of sins: that’s our job, that our purpose, and that’s our Mission– to be mediators of divine mercy. Amen.