“I am the bread of life.”

Yesterday and today’s Gospel reading for John are laying the groundwork for the discourse of Jesus to come. In yesterday’s account, Jesus shared with the people who gathered about him, the people who had already received the miraculous multiplication of bread, that they were not to “work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life” and Jesus also shared that they were to “believe in the one [God] sent” (see Jn 6:27-29).
 
In today’s account, the people are asking for a sign, just as Moses gave to their ancestors in the desert. Jesus reminds them that his Father had given them the bread from heaven, and also added: “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:32-33). Certainly, this offer is appealing, and so the people not only want some of this bread also, they want an endless supply of it. Now Jesus moves from the subtle foundation he has been building to the core structure of his point: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn 6:35).
 
Jesus encouraged his listeners to pursue the food that “endures for eternal life” to believe in the one his Father sent, then he shares how his Father gives them the true bread from heaven “for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Jesus is the one his listeners are to build their relationship with, for he is the very presence of God in their midst. Jesus is the promise of eternal life. Jesus is the one sent by his Father to give life to the world. Jesus is the bread of life!
 
We are a living craving, hunger, and desire to be one with God and each other, and this is true for the atheist and the believer alike. That which God has created, he has created good, but the material and finite will not fulfill us. We, in short order, experience the limitations of the finite and seek something more. This is how we are wired, because ultimately, our deepest desire, that which we seek to fulfill us, is eternal. The One to satisfy this eternal hunger which we can never exhaust is the bread of life, Jesus Christ.
 
Do we believe this to be true? Do we believe that Jesus is the bread of life, that he is the source and sustenance, the very foundation of our being and existence? During this time when so many are still not able to receive the Eucharist, of which I can relate as I am one of the many, could this be a time to ignite again our hunger for the food that does not perish?
 
If we have been caught up: in the business of life, in the mere existence or survival mode of the day-to-day, or stuck in our sin, addiction, brokenness, or disillusionment, or if we feel like we are just running on empty. If we have just taken this reality for granted, then let us “believe in the one who God sent”, commit or recommit our selves, our very life to the one who is our source and sustainer, Jesus, the Bread of Life. This is why we are an Alleluia people and are to radiate joy no matter what.
 
——————————————————————-
 
Painting: “Figure of Christ”, Heinrich Hofmann, 1880’s
 

Do we believe in the One whom God has sent?

One of the best ways to celebrate the Easter Season is to continue to conform our lives to the one who gave his life for us that we may experience and be engaged in our life to the full. We can accomplish this better by putting into practice what we read in the Gospels as well as being open to encountering God in our daily experiences and one another.
Today’s Gospel reading continues after Jesus not only fed the 5,000 but also after he had walked across the Sea of Galilee and guided his disciples safely to the shore. Those who had eaten as a result of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, got in their own boats to follow Jesus to Capernaum as well.
When the crowd found and gathered around Jesus, he continued to teach them, guiding them to “not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” The people asked him what they could, “do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent” (cf: Jn 6:27-29).
The people asked Jesus what they were to do to accomplish the work of God, and he said to believe in the one he sent. The response of Jesus may not appear to fit the request. But to believe is not passive. Belief is to be followed by action. If we say that we believe in Jesus, do we pray with him, do we worship him independently and in communion with fellow believers, do we sing songs praising him, do we serve him through the giving of ourselves to one another by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy?
When we experience setbacks, interruptions, conflicts, or are weighed down by tribulations, do we turn to cursing and yelling or turn instead to Jesus for guidance and direction? By the way, yelling or expressing our anger at Jesus is honest prayer and we are talking to instead of turning our back on him. Do we turn within ourselves or only surround ourselves with those of like mind, color, political and/or religious views, and make others into scapegoats, or do we embrace the richness, uniqueness, and diversity of God’s people, open ourselves to dialogue, and new possibilities?
If we are not consistently doing any of the above, then do we really believe in Jesus Christ, the one whom God sent? Where are we spending our time, talent, and treasure? Answering these questions is a good way to assess what and in who we truly believe. If our diagnosis today is that we are not as faithful as we would like, my recommendation is to take a spoonful of belief in Jesus and do one small thing today in his name with great love.
——————————————————-
A photo that I took of the Easter flowers last year after the Saturday Vigil surrounding the altar at St Peter Catholic Church, Jupiter, FL.
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, April 19, 2021

Jesus has come to bring us healing and reconciliation.

A ghost is a disembodied spirit or an apparition. Jesus is no ghost, though when he appears to his disciples they believe him to be just that. Jesus then tells them: “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have” (Lk 24:39). He also then requested from them something to eat, and Jesus received and ate the baked fish he was given.
Jesus, in showing the wounds on his hands and feet and in eating of the fish, revealed to his disciples that his resurrection is a bodily one. Jesus is not disembodied, and no mere apparition or hallucination. Jesus, not merely resuscitated, has conquered death and is risen from the dead. Jesus then proceeded, as he had done with Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus, to share with those present how he is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets by opening the scriptures for them.
Jesus not only revealed himself as having risen from the dead and shared that he was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, he embodied forgiveness. Though the disciples had betrayed him, and carried the weight of shame upon their shoulders for their lack of courage, the first words Jesus spoke were: “Peace be with you” (Lk 24:36). In the showing of his wounds, the disciples were certainly reminded of what Jesus had gone through, his suffering and crucifixion. Could those wounds have also mirrored their own betrayal of him, as well as their internal wounds, as well their own need for healing and repentance? Yet, Jesus did not bring up their past failures.
All of us are wounded and have experienced trauma brought on by the myriad ways we have been exposed to the fallen nature of humanity. May we stop running from the fear of facing our hurts and the roots of our suffering and instead be willing to kneel before Jesus, with his hands held out to us, so that we may ponder the wounds of his hands. May we come to a deeper appreciation of the suffering he endured for us, even into his death, that we may also see in his hands a mirror that reveals to us our brokenness, sin, and need for his healing.
Look up into the face of the one who conquered death, who rose again. Resist turning away from the smile that radiates his unconditional love. Lose your self in the eyes of his acceptance, that offer each and every one of us the realization that Jesus loves us in this moment just as we are, and absorb the words, “Peace be with you.” In those words of invitation, may all our fears, anxieties, and hurts melt away. May we die to our pride and arise, allowing ourselves to be embraced by Jesus, embraced by his love, and experience the foretaste of eternity. Let our healing begin.

Pencil drawing: Kathryn J. Brown, 1982
Link for the Mass readings for the third Sunday of Easter, April 18, 2021

In collaboration with Jesus, we can walk through any storm.

Some of the context for today’s reading of the Gospel is found in John’s account of the multiplication of the loaves which closes with this verse: “Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone” (Jn 6:15). Both Jesus and the people knew the Torah. In Deuteronomy 18:15-18, Moses shared that he was not the seal or end of prophetic tradition, he, like John the Baptist, pointed to one that would be greater than he.
As the five-thousand ate they talked among themselves, many may have then recalled how God fed the Hebrews in the desert, manna, bread from heaven. The miraculous multiplication mingled with the manna remembrance, comingled with the already growing messianic hope, could make a good case for why the people began to believe that Jesus was the “Prophet, the one who is to come into the world” (Jn 6:14), and then they rose to make him their king.
Recognizing their motivation and lack of understanding of the fullness of the kingship he would indeed assume, Jesus withdrew back higher up the mountain upon which he saw the people coming to him in the first place. The people presumably camped where they had eaten since evening drew near. Separation occurred between Jesus and the people because they moved to make him into something he was not. He refused, as he did during his fast in the desert, to give in to the temptation of power, pride, and honor. In doing so, he was helping the people to understand who he was and the true Messiah he would become.
The disciples were also separated from Jesus. They set out on the sea and headed toward Capernaum, and would be reunited in the midst of the rough sea of Galilee. Already full of anxiety, because they were being tossed about by the waves, their fear grew as Jesus came closer to their boat, walking on the water. He calmed them as he said, “It is I. Do not be afraid” (Jn 6: 20).
The people present at the multiplication, the disciples, nor us today fully comprehend Jesus, for he embodies the fullness of humanity and divinity. He is not ours to tame. Jesus comes to us, is present to us, he loves and is willing to walk among us through all our trials and tribulations, as well as our joys and exaltations. Though, what he will not do is be untrue to himself or to who he calls us to be. If we want to be fulfilled in this life, we need to let go of making Jesus in our image and likeness. Instead, with humility, we are invited to accept the great gift of his grace which is participation in his life, such that we become conformed to his will. We need to decrease, so that he may increase. We need to die in him, so that he may live in us.
In our willingness to surrender to the will of Jesus, we are able to keep our eyes focused on him. This does not mean our life will be perfect. There will continue to be challenges and conflict, in actually, the closer we come to Jesus they will increase, because we live in a fallen world. The difference is that we will experience the closeness of Jesus in the midst of going through our conflicts, trials, and storms in this life.
We will grow stronger in our faith and trust in Jesus, and be more able to help others along the way to do the same, when we are willing to collaborate in the life of Jesus. In this free act of our will, we are aligning ourselves with the infinite power and ground of our being. In our participation with Jesus, we have access to his power working in and through us, we become agents of stillness and calm for ourselves and others, even in the midst of the storms of our everyday lives. “Be not afraid!” Trust in Jesus! For with him we can walk through any storm.
——————————————————————
Painting: “Christ Walking on the Water”, Julius Sergius von Klever, early 1900’s
Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, April 17, 2021

Wisdom comes when we are open and willing to wonder.

The feeding of the five thousand that we encounter in today’s Gospel from John is reported in each of the four Gospels. The only other incident that is recorded in all four is the Resurrection accounts. This point is relevant because biblical scholars look to the multiple attestation theory as one means as to whether an account in the Gospel record is more or less plausible. Having the same account present in each of the four is strong evidence in support for that event happening.
From a different perspective, there are those that embrace scientism meaning that they will not believe in anything that can not be measured, experimented upon, or proven within the realm of the five senses. For those ascribing to this strict interpretation, religion and accounts of miracles are often dismissed as superstition, that if something indeed did happen, there is a scientific explanation to dismiss the miraculous. Even some believers may discount the record of the feeding of the five thousand as more of a symbolic representation of the generosity and service encouraged by Jesus such that everyone gave their small share and there was enough for all, not that he actually was able to multiply the bread and fish.
These perspectives of downplaying the miracle of multiplication seek to reduce or limit Jesus to just his humanity, but he is so much more. Jesus is human, fully human, yes, but he is also fully divine. Coming to understand the wonder of the unity of the divinity and humanity of Jesus can help us better understand the reality of our world and cosmos. One of the core aspects of who we are as human beings is that we are people of wonder. The physical sciences are tools that we have in our toolbox that we can access to help us to understand our physical realm, while at the same time we also have spiritual tools that aid us in understanding both physical and spiritual realities. I would argue that the physical sciences actually emerge precisely because of our spiritual pursuit to understand the wonders of God’s creation. In accessing both faith and reason, we come to have a broader picture, more pieces of the puzzle in which to put together and better experience our world.
When we limit or explain away the miracles of Jesus we rob ourselves of a more accurate picture of the reality of creation. One concrete example of this is when our third president, Thomas Jefferson, took a sharp object and painstakingly cut out verses from the Bible and pasted them to blank pages. He did so in columns of Latin and Greek on one side of the paper and French and English on the other. This eighty-four-page tome is commonly called the Jefferson Bible, but the president titled it: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. This text offers a human portrayal of Jesus that dismisses anything divine.
If we remove ourselves from the divine, and 99.9% of our life, experience, interests, and thought is spent in the finite material realm, we will miss a deeper expression of who we are as human beings and much of the joy and gift of life. It stands to reason then why we would find it hard to believe in miracles, the mystical, the spiritual. I cannot attest to all the miracles recorded in the Gospels, but I do believe in a greater majority of them and see in them, not a self-aggrandizing move on Jesus’ part, but a move of love and empathy. Jesus is moved, time and again, to reach out in love, to care for and support those who are in need. As we read in today’s account of the feeding of the five thousand he is showing what living life to the full is all about: being in communion with God and one another.
We need to resist the temptation to write off too quickly the miracles of Jesus. May we also not dismiss the gift and value of the sciences. By approaching our world with a both/and approach, we will get a better understanding of and appreciation for not only the gift and wonder of creation but also who we are as human beings. God has imparted within us the ability to access and develop both our faith and reason, to think critically, and to pray and meditate deeply.
Jesus as the firstborn of the new creation embodies the reality of the fullness of who we are called by God and in the depths of our souls, aspire to be, human and divine. Jesus is still present to us today, knocking on the doors of our hearts, minds, and souls. If we only follow the moral and social teachings of Jesus, as did Thomas Jefferson, we will experience some benefit but we will limit ourselves because we will be cutting out the very life force that sustains those virtues we hope to aspire to. We will access the fullness of all that God the Father offers us when we open the door to his Son this Easter Season. Let the Holy Spirit in and offer the little we have and watch how much he can multiply our simple gifts.
Let us continue to journey together, to read and pray together the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. May we resist rejecting outright what we do not understand or comprehend, and instead be willing to ponder the wonders of miracles, the gift of God’s grace building on nature, the reality of God-incidences all around us, and embrace the eternal foundation and ground of our being which is the Trinitarian Love of God.

Photo: Tree frog that has found comfort in my trashcan for the past few weeks. Interesting…
Link to the Mass readings for Friday, April 16, 2021

Jesus is the one who…

The question that arises and is foremost regarding Christianity above all else is, “Who is Jesus?” How this is answered has a lot to do with what we believe. We read in today’s Gospel account about how John the Baptist addresses this question to his disciples. They are concerned that Jesus is growing in popularity over and above John. John shares his understanding of Jesus as, the one who “comes from above” and the one who “comes from heaven is above all”; this one “testifies to what he has seen and heard” and he is sent by God to speak “the words of God”; he is also generous in that he “does not ration the gift of the Spirit”; and the Son is loved by the Father and God “has given everything over to him”.
John declares in each of these phrases that Jesus is the Son of God who has come from above, he has come to reveal the truth about the Father and is able to do so because he has seen and has an infinite relationship with him. He preaches the Gospel, the Good News, that God loves us, that he seeks and has always sought, to be in communion with us, his created beings. Jesus has come to reveal the Love of the Father and that his love is unlimited.
The proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah, is not just revealed in the Gospel of John, but each of the three other Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as the epistles. Jesus, as the Son of God, is also the key to unlocking the Hebrew Scriptures, and we can see how the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings all point to Jesus as well. Jesus shared this outline of salvation history with Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus, such that their hearts were burning within them while Jesus spoke as he opened the scriptures to them (cf. Lk 24:32).
John the Baptist gets it. Jesus is the Son of the Living God and he offers a model for us to follow when he shared with his disciples: “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). May we spend some time in quiet reflection today by pondering the phrases John shares with his disciples regarding who Jesus is. Which one calls to you?
“The one who comes from above is above all.”
“The one who comes from heaven is above all.”
“He testifies to what he has seen and heard.”
“For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.”
“He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.”
“The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.”
When we have finished, what is our response to John? Do we disobey or discount that Jesus is who he says he is or do we “accept his testimony” and “certify that God is trustworthy”? If we “accept his testimony”, are we willing to decrease, such that he will increase his influence in our life. Do we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God?

Painting: Christ Blessing (‘The Savior of the World’), by El Greco, 1600
Link for the Mass readings for Thursday, April 15, 2021

We have been loved into existence and are to love in return.

Jesus continues his conversation with Nicodemus in today’s Gospel from John. In the opening verse, Jesus outlines why he came into the world: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). God has created us out of love and shepherds us out of love. God loves what he has created, and in his order and timing, he sent his Son to enter humanity to become one with us, to heal us and invite us to come out of the shadows and dark recesses of turning in upon ourselves, from living in fear and sin, and to coming home to God.
Loving means to risk being rejected. Jesus entered humanity as we all did, in the utter vulnerability of the womb. His very life was at risk from the moment of conception. Mary, a young woman,  betrothed to Joseph, in a time and culture in which a woman found to be with child and not from her husband, could be stoned to death. Mary could have made a different choice, Joseph could have made a different choice, but both chose to follow the will of God. They resisted the temptation to close in upon themselves and make an isolated decision based on their own needs, anxieties, and fears. While all of creation held its collective breath, Mary and Joseph trusted God, they chose the light, they chose to protect life.
“Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God” (Jn 3:18). Jesus did not come to condemn, he came to redeem, to save, to love us into eternity. For love to be real, it must be truly free. Free to the full extent that it can be rejected. To love is to risk rejection. Otherwise, what is experienced by the other is coercion, conditions, manipulation, pressure, but not love. The Son of God entered the womb of Mary risking rejection by her, Joseph, and/or their extended family. The only difference between Jesus in the womb and Jesus who ministered to those on the margins was that he was smaller and more vulnerable. Those who, like Mary and Joseph, believe will come to have eternal life, and those who do not have already been condemned, not by God but by themselves.
Those rejecting God have been invited to receive his love also, but for reasons they may or may not be aware of say no. We who follow Jesus are to be his presence of love among those we encounter, even those who shy away or reject him. We may be the only Bible someone ever reads. We are to protect the the unborn as well as those who have been born as well. We as Christians are not just pro-birth, but we are also pro-life. That means that each of us has a charism of who we are called to reach out to and touch with the love of Jesus, to be present to those who God brings into our lives. We can think, speak, and act by respecting the dignity of each person we encounter, in-person and online, supporting a consistent ethic of life from the moment of conception until natural death.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). We, even in our brokenness, imperfections, and sin, are loved by Jesus. We can reject or accept his love. As Pope Francis wrote: “We are called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.” As we receive and experience the love of Jesus, may we seek to love every person we encounter as he has loved us. If there are those that we might not necessarily include in everyone, may we be willing to allow Jesus to love them through us.

Photo: My maternal grandparents, Helen and Bernard Morcus, models of love for me.
Link for article on Gaudete et Exultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”)
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Jesus opened up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed.

Jesus continues to teach Nicodemus and with these words, “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man” (Jn 3:13), Jesus expresses the truth about who he is, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. From all eternity and for all eternity the Son is begotten not made. The Son has always existed with the Father and at the appropriate time, the Father called and sent his Son to be one with us so that we can become one with him.
We have been loved into existence by the outpouring of the love between God the Father, God the Son and the Love that is shared between them, God the Holy Spirit. This Son, the second person of the Trinity is the one who entered into our humanity. He came to invite us back to himself, to show us where we have strayed, so that we may correct the course of our journey back to who we have been created to be. We have been created to be in communion with God and one another.
Jesus, the Son of God became incarnate, took on flesh, and entered into our human condition that we would be deified, transformed into the very life of God by our participation in the life of Christ. This is why Jesus tells Nicodemus that we are to be born from above because through our baptism we are born again as sons and daughters of God the Father. The one who has come down from heaven has, as St Irenaeus wrote, “opened up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed.”
Our life is about being willing to be loved into existence and to love in return. Our life is a gift given to us by God such that we can receive his love and share it with others. During these present uncertain times, we are given an opportunity to be more aware of what is important to us. It is in times like these that we are given a chance to appreciate and grow closer to our family and friends, as well as begin to be more aware of those who are in dire need.
The gift of all life is precious. We need to resist taking this precious gift for granted, and love others today in our own special and unique way, as Jesus has loved us from the beginning, more than we can ever imagine and more than we can ever mess up! Just as the sun shines on the good and bad alike, so God loves each one of us with a love that is beyond our understanding.

Photo: An evening walk from last year.
Link for the Mass readings for today, Tuesday, April 13, 2021

“You must be born from above.”

In today’s reading from the Gospel of John, we are presented with Nicodemus “a teacher of Israel” struggling to understand what Jesus meant when he said, “You must be born from above.” Jesus attempted to clarify for Nicodemus with an analogy of the wind, yet this still did not help. Jesus went on to explain how much of a problem it was if Nicodemus and the leaders of Israel did not understand things that are concrete and plainly in view: “If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”
Thinking at that point that Jesus would soften his message he instead deepened his discussion, talking about how no one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, that the same Son of Man would be lifted up as Moses lifted up a snake in the desert, and God sent his only Son so that all might have eternal life. If Nicodemus’ head wasn’t already spinning with Jesus’ born from above statement, the follow-up statements would have really done it.
What Jesus conveyed to Nicodemus, his Apostles, and disciples, as well as anyone in earshot, and ongoing for generations up to us this present day is that Christianity is not Gnosticism, some secret sect of knowledge that is passed on for a select, elite few. Neither is Christianity a form of dualism or Manicheism such that our body and all that is material are bad and we need to shed the physical as soon as possible to attain the fullness of our potential through the absolute embrace of the spiritual only. Nor is Christianity Pelagianism, where we just need the proper discipline, will power, and persistence to follow the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus offers us a universal invitation for all to “be born from above”, which means to be baptized in his name, to follow him into his death, to die not to our our false sense of self, to our sin, our pride, that attitude and disposition that strives to set apart, diminish, devalue, dehumanize, divide, and polarize, and to rise with him. In being born from above, we receive the offer of divinity and so, instead of rejecting our humanity, embrace the fullness of our humanity. The grace of God builds on our nature, the goodness of the creation he has made and formed into existence with his love. We accomplish this the same way Mary, the Apostles, Mary Magdalene, the disciples, and Nicodemus did. We answer the call to holiness and sanctity. We say yes to Jesus and give him all we are and recognize all that we have is a gift from God the Father.
Day by day we need to be willing to be lead by the hand of Jesus, the firstborn of the new creation and participate with him by offering our hand to others. May we resist the temptation to put up barriers, to keep others at arm’s length. We are all, every one of us, invited to become saints through our participation in the life of Jesus.
I agree with Pope Francis who in his exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), that we cannot “claim to say where God is not, because God is mysteriously present in the life of every person, in a way that he himself chooses, and we cannot exclude this by our presumed certainties. Even when someone’s life appears completely wrecked, even when we see it devastated by vices or addictions, God is present there. If we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit rather than our own preconceptions, we can and must try to find the Lord in every human life.”
God is present in each of our lives. May we embrace the gift of our baptism, so to understand what Jesus was teaching Nicodemus, that we have been born from above. Through our dying and rising in Christ, we have better access and a share in the breath and life of the Holy Spirit. In this way, we are transformed and made new by the Holy Spirit, the very Love of God. This is a gift to be shared so that we all may draw deeply from this spring of living water.
————————————————————————–
Painting: Nicodemus talking to Jesus, William Brassey Hole
Link for the Pope Francis article on “Rejoice and Be Glad”
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, April 12, 2021

 

“Peace be with you.”

The disciples locked themselves in a room fearing further persecution from the Jewish leadership. Jesus was crucified and as their followers, they believed that they would be next. They were also ashamed of having turned away from Jesus during his time of dire need. Amidst this heavy weight of fear, despair, and shame, Jesus “came and stood in their midst”. Their reaction of amazement and fear of Jesus’ judgment could only just begin to form in their minds because as Jesus came and stood in their midst he said to them, “Peace be with you.”
Jesus forgave them for their betrayal. He did not rub their nose in their shame or say that he had told them so. Jesus came among them and immediately bestowed upon them his mercy. He then commissioned them to be his Apostles as he said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” As Jesus is the Son of God, he has the power to forgive, and he is now sending his Apostles to be bearers of his forgiveness and mercy as he works through them.
Thomas, though not present on this first encounter, is present the following week and seeing the marks on Jesus’ hands and his side, he too believed, saying, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas too, even though initially doubting the resurrection of Jesus, became an agent of mercy and reconciliation.
Today, we still have access to the gift of God’s mercy and forgiveness instituted by Jesus as is recorded in today’s Gospel of John. This is a gift of healing made available to each of us, like the Eucharist, so that we may continue to experience Jesus, our Lord, and our God, working in our life. When we come to the priest, we are coming to those, who in an unbroken apostolic succession, have continued to be bearers of Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy. It is to Jesus, through our priests, that we confess, and that we hear the words of and receive absolution.
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, may we spend some quiet time with today’s Gospel and imagine ourselves in the locked room with the disciples. Experience Jesus appearing in our midst as he says, “Peace be with you!” Allow the radiating light of his mercy and forgiveness to wash over and through our whole being. Let us call to mind those sins that have kept us bound, visualize them as words floating up and out of us and dissipating into the radiance of the white and red rays emanating from the merciful heart of Jesus. May we allow ourselves to be transformed by the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
Having been reconciled and healed, Jesus sends us out to practice mercy and forgiveness with others. May we react less and breathe deeply more. Instead of adding fuel to the fire of negativity, let us seek to be an advocate for healing and reconciliation. May we also take some time today to think of someone who could benefit from the presence of Jesus through our being present to them, someone who may need “to hear God’s good news of forgiveness and love” (Francis, 25). We may not able to absolve someone of their sin, but we can forgive, make an effort to reach out to others in prayer and in person, and allow the love and mercy of Jesus to flow through us to those in our midst. Alleluia!
—————————————————————————————–
Close up of painting by Robert Skemp. “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
McCann, Deborah. 30 Days of Reflections and Prayers: What Pope Francis Says About Mercy. New London, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 2015.
Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, April 11, 2021