Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter(May 2nd, 2016)

Today’s excerpt from the Book of Acts presents St. Paul in the midst of his missionary adventures. He is making his way westward, into Greece, a trajectory that will eventually ensure that the Gospel is proclaimed throughout the whole world!

While on his mission a woman named Lydia accepts Paul’s invitation to know Christ in his Church, and as she is a wealthy woman of considerable means, she invites Paul to stay with her. Paul accepts Lydia’s hospitality.

Lydia’s gratitude to Paul expresses itself in generosity. Paul has given her something greater than anything that her personal fortune could ever buy- a relationship with Christ in his Church.

How thankful are we for the faith that we have received, for the Sacraments of the Church, for the apostolic teaching, for our unique, Christian way of life? Remember, our faith is always a gift, we did not, could not earn it or purchase it, nor do we deserve what Christ gives to us. How do we show ourselves to be people of gratitude, a people of generosity?

Do we give only out of self-interest or for the sake of personal gain? Or are we willing to give to others in imitation of Christ, who gave gifts to those whom he knew could not or would not ever be able to return the favor?

Christ in his Gospel testifies that his disciples will know persecution. The worldly will hear in the Gospel what they do not want to hear. The wicked knowing that they cannot harm Christ, will seek to harm those whom Christ loves. Christians will always be a sign of contradiction in a world that privileges and favors wealth, pleasure, power and honors.

Thus, being a disciple of the Lord Jesus is not for the faint of heart. It demands courage and conviction. It makes us different, even strange and off putting- more human, rather than less. And in a world that is so often inhumane, more human can be taken as an affront.

To be a Christian is not an easy way, but it is the way that God wants. It always leads to him, even if the way to him takes us through the cross.

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Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter (April 30th, 2016)

Today’s scripture from the Book of Acts presents Paul in the midst of his missionary adventures. St. Paul is joined on his adventures by a young man named Timothy, whose father was Greek and his mother was an Israelite. Timothy gives his life over to Christ. Christ gives Timothy over to Paul to be his friend and helper.

The Book of Acts testifies that Timothy accepted circumcision so that he might be a more effective missionary to both Greek and Israelites. This is no mere detail, but a statement about Timothy’s commitment and character. He was ready and willing to serve Christ, even if it meant enduring physical discomfort and pain. Timothy did not have to be circumcised in order to be faithful to Christ and a member of the Church, but he accepted circumcision so that he might be more effective in his mission. The mission was Timothy’s priority, not his comfort or self-interest.

What are we willing to endure or sacrifice for the sake of the mission Christ has given us?

It is likely we will not be asked to endure the kinds of things or make the kinds of sacrifices that St. Paul, Timothy and the earliest apostles and disciples were asked to accept, but it is inevitable that Christ will ask something of us. The willingness to offer small sacrifices now can help to prepare us to larger sacrifices in the future.

There is another detail in today’s scripture from the Book of Acts that is worthy of note. St. Paul has a visionary dream in which a Greek from Macedonia asks that Paul come to his region to evangelize.   Macedonia is in northern Greece, it is the territory where Alexander the Great was from.

Provoked by the dream, Paul and Timothy resolve to set off for Macedonia.

This is not an insignificant detail.

St. Paul’s decision to go west, out of the eastern territories of the Roman Empire, would prove to be a decisive move that would change the course of civilization. St. Paul might not have perceived it at the time, but his movement west to evangelize would ultimately change the world.

There is a dynamic movement of the Church through its missionaries recorded in the Book of Acts- from Jerusalem throughout the near east and then with St. Paul, towards the west and Rome, and from Rome, out into the whole world. The Church is not meant to be limited to a single place or the possession of a single people. The Church is Christ’s gift to the world, the privileged bearer of his life and presence. It is supposed to move outward until the end of time, venturing forth, and fulfilling its purpose to introduce people to Jesus Christ and invite them to share in the unique way of life he offers to all people.

Thus, the Church is not nor can it be our own private club meant to serve only the needs of its members. This would be a distortion of what Christ intends the Church to be, and when a narrowing of the Church is attempted, the Church falters and fails. Our mission territory may not be Macedonia, but it is the neighborhood in which we live. How many people in our own neighborhood are we introducing to Christ and inviting to share his way of life in his Church?

The Church is essentially missionary by nature. The great missionary adventure is meant to be our adventure, the adventure that belongs to every disciple of the Lord Jesus. What St. Paul and St. Timothy did, we are now supposed to do!

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Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter (April 28th, 2016)

God in Christ revealed that the purpose for which he had chosen the Israelites was to make his presence known to all the nations and offer all people an opportunity to share a relationship with him. This would all happen in a new kind of Israel, called the Church, which would simultaneously be the means by which God in Christ would be known and the also the way he would share a relationship with him.christ

In other words, the relationship the Israelites enjoyed with God, the gifts that he gave them, was not just meant for them exclusively, but was given so that other people might know and experience for themselves friendship with the one, true God.

Christ revealed that he had come precisely to gather all the nations into a new kind of fellowship, a new kind of Israel. This is what the Church is and it is the mission of the Church to continue the mission of Christ to draw all the peoples of the world into a relationship with God.

In our scripture today from the New Testament Book entitled Acts of the Apostles, we heard about a debate that caused a great deal of consternation among Christ’s first disciples. That debate was about what those people who had not been born and raised as Israelites, but who accepted from Christ a relationship and became members of the Church, were supposed to do about the Law of Moses. Remember, the Law of Moses was a codification of the beliefs and practices of the Israelites. Were the new Israelites who accepted Christ and became part of the Church expected to keep all these laws? Was it the Law of Moses that made one an Israelite? Or because of the revelation of God in Christ, was it now something else?

The conclusion of the Apostles is that God in Christ had created a new way of being an Israelite, and as such, much of the Law of Moses had been brought to its fulfillment, with the essentials remaining, but with worldly customs relative to time and circumstance, no longer serving as necessary criteria for being an Israelite.

Many Christians whose lives had been defined by the Law of Moses found this upsetting. Many Christians who knew nothing about the Law of Moses found the situation confusing. The Apostles had to help the Church think all this through. None of this was easy.

What the Apostles did know was that God in Christ wanted people to know him and as the way of a disciple was demanding enough, he didn’t want customs relative to time and circumstance imposed in such a way that those customs became a block, rather than a bridge to knowing him.

The Church has over time developed many beautiful customs that are intended to evoke curiosity and serve as routes of access to knowing Christ. These customs are at their best when the express who the Lord Jesus really and truly is and lead us into a deeper relationship with Christ. They are meant to be bridges, not blocks, routes of access, not walls.

How these customs serve the mission is up to those disciples who treasure them, but one thing is clear, our customs, which can be legitimate ways of coming to know Christ, are supposed to draw people into the Church and not drive people away.

Customs are helpful, but they are not essential. What is essential to our relationship with God in Christ are commandments. Commandments indicate our way of life, a way of life that is meant to make us ever more like Christ. Christ indicates in his Gospel that God’s commandments are intended for the sake of love, which is not merely a sentiment or emotion, but an act of will by which we desire the good for another person.

This good which we should desire for the other is not simply what someone perceive to be good, but the good that God wants- and it is in this regard that the commandments of God teach us. The commandments of God show us the good that we should desire for other people.

Custom and Commandments will always be a part of the Christian way of life, and in their regard we must always be discerning, that in our practice of both, we are serving Christ’s purposes, not our own, and are through our way of life, we are leading people to know Christ and inviting people to share the gifts Christ wants to give in his Church.

Fifth Sunday of Easter (April 24th, 2016)

The four Gospels testify to the marvelous and mysterious revelation that God has accepted a human nature and lived a real human life. Each of the four Gospels provides a unique vantage point, a perspective that imparts to us a vision of the revelation of God in Christ- God, who has, as I just stated, accepted a human nature and lived a real, human life.

What this means is that God, the one, true God presented himself to the world in a body, a human body- the human body of Jesus of Nazareth.

Through this human body of Jesus, God revealed the truth about himself, but also revealed the reason why he created us. He further revealed a way of life through which we could show ourselves to be his friends. All this is what the testimony of the Gospels is about, but most importantly, the four Gospels are about who the Lord Jesus really and truly is- not just a prophet or teacher or activist or politician, but God.

Once you “get” this, that Jesus is God, you “get” what the Gospels are all about. The Gospels are testimony, distilled into stories, from people whose lives were changed because they encountered in Christ, not just a great man, but the one, true and living God! That was the experience that surprised them, shocked them and changed their lives.

The four Gospels present testimony to the revelation of God in Christ as he presents himself in his human body. The New Testament book that serves as a follow up book of the four Gospels, called “Acts of the Apostles” presents testimony to the revelation of God in Christ in a new kind of body, the body of Christ called the Church.

The Church presents select excerpts from the book called “Acts of the Apostles” throughout the season of Easter at Sunday and daily Mass, and each of these readings from the book of Acts is intended to help us to understand how the Church is a marvelous and mysterious encounter with Jesus Christ.

Throughout the Book of Acts, God in Christ intervenes in extraordinary ways to bring people into the Church and also, he begins to act through the Church to continue his mission. The Book of Acts presents the Church as saying and doing the kinds of things that the Lord Jesus said and did.

The point is this: God in Christ has not disappeared, but he remains really present and available to the world in the Church. If the revelation of God in a human body was a surprise, the continued revelation of God in Christ in the Church is also a great surprise.

It remains a surprise to many Christians, as the Church has become, not the marvelous and mysterious Body of the Lord Jesus living and acting in the world, but merely an institution or ethnic identity or social club. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with these kinds of things, but when this is all that the Church becomes, we are getting the Church wrong and missing the point.

The Book of Acts insists that the Church is, marvelously, mysteriously, Christ’s Body- the continuation of the revelation of God, and as such, the Church is a route of access to God and the means by which God offers the world a relationship with himself, and it is through this relationship with Christ in the Church that we become God’s friends.

There is a lot to think about and pray about in what I have just said about God, Christ and the Church. It all may seem hard to understand or difficult to believe, but what I have just said is significant as we live at the time when people, even Christians, are struggling to understand why the Church is necessary or important.

Often times, in our own struggles to make sense of the Church, we reinforce the reduction of the Church to an institution or ethnic identity or a social club. We do this, not out of malice, but because these things are accessible and easy ways for us to understand. But the fact of the matter is that those categories are not what the Church really and truly is or meant to be.

The Church really and truly is an encounter with Jesus Christ, living, present, and active in our lives and in the world. This is why the Church is important and why the Church is necessary.

That’s the lesson that all these scripture readings from Acts of the Apostles are all about.  If the revelation of Christ in the Church seems blocked for us or obscured, maybe this is because we have grown accustomed to thinking about the Church as if it is just an institution, or ethnic identity or social club, and because he are paying so much attention to these things, that we are missing revelation of God in Christ and the relationship that he offers to us in the Church.

The second scripture for Mass today is an excerpt from the New Testament Book of Revelation- one of the strangest, and most often mis-understood books in the Bible.

The Book of Revelation presents what human history looks like from the vantage point of God, and since God sees the deepest meaning and purpose of our lives and experience that we often cannot or refuse to see, what is described in the Book of Revelation seems strange, if not unintelligible to us.

Today’s scripture from the Book of Revelation presents what the Church looks like from God’s perspective, how God sees and understands the Church, and how God sees and understands the Church is not as an institution, ethnic identity or social club, but as his bride, as his spouse, as his wife.

The lesson here is that God understands the Church as a relationship, a relationship with us that is best likened to the love that is shared by a husband and wife.

That’s how God in Christ understands his own relationship with the Church. It might be helpful if we used God’s understanding as the means by which we come to understand our own relationship with the Church.

Finally, Christ, in his Gospel proclaims the primacy of love in terms of his relationship with us, and our relationships with one another.

Love is a nebulous term in our culture, and it has come to mean affirming a person as they are or as giving a person what they desire.

Christ does not intend any of this when he speaks of love. What Christ means by love is willing the good of another person. Love is willing the good for another person. It is not just affirming a person as they are, but willing for that person what is good. It is not just giving a person what they desire, but giving them what is good.

The greatest good we could offer anyone is to make our life a sacrifice on their behalf. This is true love- to make of your life a sacrifice for someone else.

This is what Christ does for us. And this is what Christ asks us to do for one another.

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Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter (April 23rd, 2016)

Today’s excerpt from the Book of Acts presents the results of the preaching by the apostle Paul and his fellow missionary Barnabas.

Their lives have been changed for the better by God in Christ and they want to invite others to share the gift of faith in Christ that they have been privileged to receive. Paul and Barnabas introduced people to Christ and invited them to share a relationship with Christ in his Church.

Some were delighted at the good news about the Lord Jesus that Paul and Barnabas shared, but others- not so much. Paul and Barnabas were opposed and forced to leave the city, but none of this deterred them from their mission.

The disciple trusts that their efforts on behalf of the Gospel are not contingent on worldly standards of success or failure. Instead of success or failure, the category that measures our efforts is fidelity- are we doing what Christ asked us to do? Are we willing to do what Christ asks even when it is difficult, even when we face opposition, or rejection, or apparent failure?

Too many Christians take an actuarial approach to the discipleship, carefully measuring every possible outcome and adjusting their commitment to minimize risk. The radicality of the Christian life is mitigated by a strict regard for cost and benefit. All this is justified in the name of prudence, when what is really operative is fear. If as Christians we approach our mission with fear filled hearts, holiness is stymied and the Church not only falters, it fails. Fidelity manifests itself in a willingness to take risks.

Paul and Barnabas were willing to risk much, if not everything for the sake of the Church’s mission. What will we risk?

Christ the Lord’s words about his relationship with his Heavenly Father might seem cryptic. They are indeed very mysterious!

His point is that in our encounter with Christ we encounter God. The revelation of Christ is precisely this- God is Christ and Christ is God.

As disciples we believe that God in Christ makes himself present and available to us in the Church, particularly in the Sacraments, and most particularly in the Blessed Sacrament, which is the life and presence of the Lord Jesus himself.

The Church is not merely a social club but a privileged route of access to God in Christ.

This is why there is an urgency to introducing people to Christ and inviting them to share a relationship with him in the Church. It is through the Church that God in Christ continues to reveal himself and it is in relation to the Church that God in Christ wants us to know and serve him.

The Church is not merely a nice “add on” to our relationship with the Lord Jesus. The Church is the means that Christ uses to make himself present to people and it is the way that Christ wants all people to have so that they can share the gifts he wants them to enjoy.

In terms of Christ and the Church, the Lord Jesus does not give us a choice between one or the other. The Church is his Body! Once, Christ made himself known in the Body of his Incarnation and now he makes himself known in his Body, the Church. To truly know and love Christ, to truly serve him, means that we know him, love him and serve him in his Church.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter (April 17th, 2016)

Throughout the season of Easter the Church proclaims excerpts from the New Testament book entitled Acts of the Apostles. The Book of Acts details the extraordinary events that followed after the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and how the revelation of the Lord Jesus was transformed from an encounter with the earthly body of his human nature to an encounter with his life and presence in the Church.

You see, the Church bears the life and presence of the Lord Jesus into the world- this is the purpose of the Church. What is the Church? The Church is the extension or the continuation of the Incarnation in the world, in space and time. On a practical, day to day level, this means that the Church continues the mission of the Lord Jesus. In other words, we Christians should be doing the kinds of things that the Lord Jesus did. Therefore, if we are unsure as to what the Church, indeed this parish, should be doing, we should pay careful attention to the descriptions of what the Lord Jesus did as they are presented in the Gospels.

We Christians don’t have to invent things for the Church to do or make up causes for the Church to align itself with- what the Lord Jesus did, his mission, sets our agenda and determines our actions.

Today’s excerpt from the Book of Acts presents the Apostle Paul and his friend Barnabas on mission- what are they up to? They are inviting people to know Christ and share a relationship with him in the Church.

This is the perennial task of Christians in every age of the Church’s life. It is not a mission that belongs simply to an elite corps of elites. Nor is it a mission that can be delegated away to a caste of ministerial professionals. All Christians are expected to do what Paul and Barnabas are doing- invite people to know Christ and share a relationship with him in the Church. As God in Christ went out into the world so now the Church must go out into the world. The Church is not a private clubhouse or a religious discussion group that remains sequestered behind closed doors. The Church is a missionary movement.

Each generation must come to know Christ for the first time and come to know him from Christians who already have a relationship with him. God has no grandchildren. God only has children. Faith in the Lord Jesus and sharing his life in the Church is not akin to an ethnic identity that is simply passed on through the accidents of our birth. We become the children of God by coming to know Christ and giving our lives over to him.

People do not come to know Christ by osmosis. People come to know Christ because disciples like Paul or Barnabas are intentional in their efforts to introduce Christ to others. If this does not happen, the Church falters in its mission and the Church diminishes. Maintaining faith themed institutions is not enough and recent history has forcefully demonstrated that faith themed institutions will fail if they are not supported by bold, creative, intentional efforts to introduce people to Jesus Christ and invite them to share a relationship with him in the Church.

The Church’s second scripture for today is an excerpt from the New Testament Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation presents human history from God’s perspective, this is why the descriptions of things in the Book of Revelation are so strange, even frightening. God sees things differently than how we see things. The Book of Revelation is making this point to us.

The Book of Revelation has a particular and beautiful description of God in Christ, of the Lord Jesus- he is the Lamb of God.

What does this mean? Many Christians think that the Lord Jesus is the Lamb of God because they imagine him to be sweet or gentle. Thinking of the Lord Jesus this way is comforting to many people, but it isn’t what the scriptures or our prayers intend when they identify the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God.

Christ is the Lamb of God because he makes his life a sacrifice for us, a sacrifice that affords us a relationship with God. The Lamb is a reference to the lambs that were sacrificed in the temple of Jerusalem. The purpose of the sacrifice of these lambs was to afford the Israelites a relationship with the God. The Book of Revelation is saying that Christ the Lord now fulfills this purpose.

We receive the sacrifice of the Lamb of God whenever we participate in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Christ, the Lamb of God, who offers us his life so that we might have a relationship with God. We do not, in the Eucharist, receive merely a symbol of Christ, but Christ’s very life. Nor is the Eucharist merely a symbol of the community’s values or self expression- the Eucharist is the life of the Lord Jesus, given to us so that we might have through his sacrifice, a relationship with God.

In his Gospel, Christ the Lord speaks of his identity and mission as a shepherd, insisting that his sheep, know who he is, and knowing who he is, follow him.

It is likely that few, if any of us, here today have much if any real life experience with shepherds or sheep, especially the shepherds of the first century culture that the Lord Jesus knew.

Most likely, if we do have an image of shepherds, it is a romanticized understanding of rolling green pastures underneath quiet, friendly skies.

This has little or anything to do with what the Lord Jesus is referring to, when he claims the identity and mission of a shepherd or identifies his followers as being his sheep.

Christ is employing an image of God, as God describes himself in the Old Testament as the shepherd of his people, the Israelites. If you look into the Old Testament at the image of God as shepherd, you will discover that God declares himself to be the true shepherd of Israel over against false shepherds who rather than leading the people to God, are leading the people away from God.

These false shepherds can be false gods or false religions, or they can be political, cultural, economic or religious leaders who rather than leading people to God, offer them empty promises regarding the attainment of wealth, pleasure, power and honors.

False shepherds make attractive promises, but they ultimately lead people to destruction and despair.

Christ the Lord is saying that he is God, the true shepherd, and his intention to is guide and protect his people from false shepherds. We should listen to Christ, and our relationship with him will show itself in our willingness to do so.

Listening to Christ means that we are willing to hear what he has to tell us, even when what he has to say is difficult to believe or hard to understand. Listening to Christ means learning from him what he wants us to be and to do.

Listening to Christ opens us can be off putting, even frightening, because he will more often than not, insist that we change, change our minds, our way of thinking and acting. Listening to Christ opens us up to the very real possibility that he will ask us to do things that will change our way of life. Being willing to listen to Christ and being willing to change our way of life is what it means to be his disciple. It is how a disciple demonstrates that they truly know Christ and follow him.

Sheep that would not listen to their shepherd were in danger of being lost. Sheep that listened to false shepherds were in danger of being destroyed. What do we risk when we will not listen to the Lord who is our shepherd?

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Second Sunday of Easter (April 3rd, 2016)

 

Our first scripture for today’s Mass is an excerpt from the New Testament book entitled “Acts of the Apostles”.

The Book of Acts compliments and continues the Gospel of Luke and its purpose is to give testimony to the lasting effects of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In other words, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is an event with real world consequences- it changes people’s lives and it changes the world.

The transformative power of the resurrection continues to gain momentum in history, the evidence for this is the Church.

The Book of Acts understands that the Church is much more than an institution or social club. Instead, the Church is the power of Christ’s resurrection unleashed into the world. The Church is meant to imbue the world with the divine life and presence of the Lord Jesus.

Today’s excerpt from the Book of Acts is making precisely this point. Note how the apostles are described as doing the kinds of wonderful things that Christ did. In other words, the Church continues the mission of Christ in the world. What he did, his disciples must do. Acting in Jesus’ name means acting like Jesus.

This biblical vision of the Church challenges a status quo that sadly prevails for many Christians, for whom the experience of the Church is merely that of an institution that is expected to provide faith based services. In this construal of the Church, being a Christian is reduced to being a passive recipient of services provided by employees of a religious non for profit corporation. No divine life is necessary for this kind of pseudo Church nor is there to be found the power of Christ’s resurrection.

 

Rather than being the Church, what I have just described to you is really an anti-church. The true Church is the one where disciples of the Lord Jesus are willing to take the great risks that come when you seek to continue the mission of the Lord Jesus- when you seek to accomplish in the immediacy of your own circumstances the very things that Christ the Lord accomplished.

Our second scripture for today’s Mass is an excerpt from the New Testament Book of Revelation.

The Book of Revelation is a mysterious book, made all the more mysterious by its content, which seems at first glance to describe troubling events that lead to the destruction of the planet.

The strange content of the Book of Revelation has led many folks to believe that the Book of Revelation is like a code that once cracked provides God’s agenda for the end of the world.

This isn’t what the Book of Revelation is meant to accomplish.

The Book of Revelation presents all of human history from the vantage point of heaven. In other words, all the strange symbolism of the Book of Revelation is meant to communicate what our world looks like from God’s perspective.

From our perspective it looks like the world is going to hell in a hand basket. That’s how things look to us. From God’s perspective something else is happening- Christ is acting to bring all of creation into a relationship with God. There is a lot of resistance to him, even at times violent resistance, but in the end, the Lord Jesus overcomes all this resistance. In the end, Jesus wins.

The Book of Revelation testifies that the most powerful force that so often opposes Christ is the power of death. Consider how threats of death are often used as a means of terror and control by worldly powers. Think about the inevitability and inescapability of death.

 

But then, the Book of Revelation insists, consider the power of God in Christ, a power that endured death and came back to life. Christ who conquered death in his resurrection proved himself to be more powerful than what seems to be the most powerful force in the world. It is because of Christ’s power over death that his disciples believe that his ultimate victory is assured.

Our Christian faith professes that Christ really and truly died and that he is now really and truly alive. The resurrection of Christ is not for us a metaphor or a symbol, or a feeling or idea, but a real, historical event, an event that changes history, an event that gives us hope that despite the awful mess that the world is often in. God in Christ has the power to set things right and that despite the fear-filled shadow of death into which we must walk, he is a light that is cast into the dark. The power of Christ is revealed in his resurrection.

Finally, in a magnificent account of the apostles’ experience of Christ’s resurrection, Christ demonstrates a willingness to impart a forgiveness that is as undeserved as it is unexpected.

Many preachers will highlight the doubts of the apostle, Thomas in this particular account of Christ’s resurrection, and Thomas’ doubts are an important aspect of this dramatic Gospel. Thomas’ doubts are an occasion that Christ uses to demonstrate the fact of his resurrection, that he is not a phantom or figment of imagination, but a real, living body.

However, let us remember the broader context, the context that the apostles come face to face with the Lord Jesus whom they had abandoned and betrayed, a friend they had left to languish alone in terrifying suffering and death.

Now the Lord Jesus had returned, and the natural response to his return would not have simply been bewilderment, but fear- had Christ returned for revenge? Surely they deserved to be recipients of his anger. If not for vengeance sake, had he returned to shame them, to vilify them for their cowardice?

Not for revenge or to vilify did Christ rise from the dead, but to forgive and to confirm his disciples in their mission. Having been forgiven so much, the apostles are to bear into the world the forgiveness of God in Christ that they have received. What they have received from God in Christ, they are to give to others.

What the apostles of the Lord Jesus receive from the Lord Jesus is mercy, an undeserved and unexpected grace. They couldn’t restore themselves in relationship with Christ, and in his mercy, Christ does for the apostles what they could not accomplish themselves.

As it was with the apostles, so it is with all of us.

Today, the second Sunday after Easter, the Church designates to be “Divine Mercy” Sunday. Today’s Gospel is meant to illuminate the meaning of what God’s mercy, his divine mercy, is about.

The mercy of God is how sinners experience the love of God. The mercy of God does not ignore our sin or affirm us as we are, but it is an experience of God’s willingness to forgive us and to give to us, not what we deserve, but what we need the most- another chance.

We can experience God’s mercy for ourselves in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and this should be an ordinary practice of our lives as disciples. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we can experience for ourselves what the apostles experienced in the Gospel- Christ’s forgiveness- his mercy.

Mercy is fundamental to the Church’s way of life, for no disciple of the Lord Jesus is ever anyone except a sinner who has experienced God’s mercy- a disciple is always a person (a sinner) who is the recipient of an undeserved saving grace.

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