Divine Mercy Sunday
By Fr. Victor Feltes
During the Exodus, before descending in fire and smoke upon a trembling Mount Sinai, God gave instructions to prepare the Hebrews for this encounter. The Lord said to Moses:
“Go to the people and have them sanctify themselves today and tomorrow. Have them wash their garments and be ready for the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Set limits for the people all around, saying: ‘Take care not to go up the mountain, or even to touch its edge. All who touch the mountain must be put to death. No hand shall touch them, but they must be stoned to death or killed with arrows. Whether human being or beast, they must not be allowed to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds may they go up on the mountain.”
Then Moses came down from the mountain to the people and had them sanctify themselves, and they washed their garments. He said to the people, “Be ready for the third day.”
On the third day, as all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blast of the ram’s horn and the mountain smoking, they became afraid and trembled. So they took up a position farther away and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we shall die!” Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid, for God has come only to test you and put the fear of him upon you so you do not sin.” So the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.
A pair of themes throughout the Old Testament are the holy otherness of God and the deadly sinfulness of man. Our Fall made it dangerous to approach God carelessly. And even Moses was mysteriously told, “You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” Compare and contrast that with this Sunday’s Gospel.
On the third day, despite the doors being locked where the disciple were, the Risen Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. And he said again, “Peace be with you.” A week later when Thomas was there, Jesus appeared again and said, “Peace be with you.” He then invited Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
In former times, seeing the Lord or merely touching the mountain or ark of his holy presence could mean death. But disciples in the New Testament are invited to see his face and touch his wounds. In the New Covenant, we are called to receive Jesus Christ alive in the Eucharist. Today we celebrate Divine Mercy, mercy reflected in how — even after our sins led him to his Cross — Jesus returns and repeatedly wishes us “Peace.” In forgetting our past, we fail to appreciate what the Lord has done for us. And too few rejoice in his Divine Mercy because so many do not realize their need for it.
On Easter Sunday evening, Jesus breathed on his apostles saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Why would Jesus give them this power to forgive sins if he did not intend them to use it? Why would he give his Church such a Sacrament if we did not need it? Jesus wishes you a peace beyond your fear. He desires to forgive your sins and personally give himself to you in the Eucharist. Will you trust him enough to regularly encounter his healing Divine Mercy in the confessional so that you may receive him all the more reverently, fittingly, lovingly and joyfully at his altar?
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