Readings for Mass
First Reading: Acts 4:32-35
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Second Reading: First John 5:1-6
Gospel: John 20:19-31
Homily by Rev. Denis J. Hanly, M.M.
This week’s beautiful homily is on Mercy. It was recorded on 19th April 2009.
Last Saturday evening, we baptized many, many people in this church and a number of people next door in the hall. And I was in the hall and we were baptizing not only adults but some children. And then, after Mass, one of them came up and she had a piece of candy her parents had given her, jelly beans or something. And so I said to her, “Can I have one?” And she walked away. And then, suddenly, I think she realized it was Easter time, so she came running back and she said, “You can have all of them.” I said, “Oh, how sweet.” This is the mercy of God at work, believe it or not.
Today’s gospel is very full. It would take us about a week and a half to take it line by line.
It begins, for instance, John himself, when he begins his gospel, he says it is the first day in the week. What he’s talking about is that he wants everybody to understand that the resurrection is the beginning of a new world. All the imagery of paradise and the first creation of the world, God creates life, they’re all found in the first paragraph of this setting, so that you all might know that what has happened two thousand years ago has changed creation.
Then, when he talks about what happened, one of the important concepts is mercy. He always speaks of the mercy of God, and “the mercy of God has come upon us” and “the mercy of God is within us” and “the mercy of God inspires us.”
And, sometimes, we confuse mercy with pity, and we think well God takes pity on us all and for that reason we are full of his kindness and generosity.
But it has a much deeper meaning, the mercy of God. Because mercy is a Hebrew word, originally, and it’s translated into Latin in another way. It is not pity. We sometimes confuse it with God takes pity on us therefore he saves us. The mercy of God is actually the action of God. It is God himself.
And when the people of the Old and New Testaments speak of God’s mercy, they mean God is making something out of nothing. Think of that now. God is making something out of nothing.
A good example would be He sees darkness and all of us huddled in darkness and God comes and says, “Let there be light.” It is his mercy. He has mercy upon us and his mercy changes our lives.
This is very important to understand, because what it means for us is that when God is among us, mercy is in the world. It is our loving saviour’s presence, who is the incarnation of God’s mercy, who is with us all the time, not to just feel sorry for us, but to change us. For when we go about the world as a community, we are filled with that mercy and we are to release it upon others.
And what does that mean? Well, it means changing the world. That’s what it means. It seems so simple, but it is not so simple.
When we say God is with us, God has had mercy upon us. It means that we have been changed. We are vessels of his mercy. We are dispensers of his mercy. We are to go out and to care and respond.
And how does God show mercy?
Look at Jesus. He sees the blind and he cures the blind. He sees the hungry and he feeds the hungry. He sees the lost and lonely and goes to them and gives them a new purpose and a new life. He sees those who are sick and he heals. This is God’s mercy at work, and now that we have been baptized, we are to share that. We are the ones who carry this because we carry the mercy of God within us and mercy makes something out of nothing.
There is no reason to be discouraged as long as the living Christ is in the world, because he will take what is dark and bring light to it, he will take what is sinful and he will forgive it, he will take what is impossible to do, which is change the hearts of men and women, and he will change them.
And this is what we mean when we say God has mercy on his people. Not as a distant feeling sorry for everybody in pain, but as one who has come to love us. And that, of course, is the word.
God’s mercy is his love and his love is his mercy.
And those who love God are full of his mercy, acts of mercy, caring and reaching out in places, bringing his light to where there is darkness, bringing his peace to where it does not exist, bringing his honour and love to all the people that come in contact with us. This is the meaning of Christian movement and the life of God within the world.
It is not feeling sorry for someone, it is to recognize that we have been changed and that we carry this life light of the Risen Lord with us. Sometimes he may be hiding. Sometimes we may hide from him. But that does not take away the reality that everyone born again in the life of baptism is a herald, is a mark, is a mercy given to the world.
And so we rejoice in these things. And with not only full of joy because of them, we realize, which is the best part of all, we do nothing to deserve it, we do nothing to earn it, we do nothing to do wonderful, wonderful acts in order to make it happen. We just have to be human beings and open our hearts.
Remember the famous passage, I knock. If you knock, it shall be opened to you, and you will enter this world, this world of forgiveness, of compassion, of caring. And it will always be a force.
Jesus, when he came, one of the disciples was missing. And the disciple, of course, that was missing was poor Thomas.
Only a few weeks before, when Jesus heard that Lazarus had died and he said he was going back to be there at the tomb, it was Thomas who cried out, “No, you can’t go there, because they are ready to kill you.” And then when he decides that he’s going, Thomas says, “Let us all go and die with him.”
Well, Thomas didn’t die with him, he ran away like everybody else. And one of the great sadnesses and the beautiful passage is the second half of today’s gospel, how God shows mercy.
And there is Thomas when Jesus appears the second time. And he’s ashamed and he’s angry and he loses his bravado.
When the disciples said, “We have seen the Lord,” he said, “I will not believe unless I put my hand into his side and feel his wounds, I will not believe.”
And, of course, this is the word of a disillusioned, angry person. These are the words of someone who’d hoped and hoped dearly and was willing to die for him, and yet was terribly disappointed by what had happened.
And it is for this reason Jesus says, “Come Thomas, touch my wounds. Put your hand in my side where the sword entered my heart. Put your fingers into the wounds of my hands and my feet.”
And why is he saying this? This is a very, very important concept.
We are saved by his wounds, we are saved by his pain, we are saved by his death, because it is only out of touching his wounds, and he touching our wounds, that we understand that God has come to be with us, not only in the spirit, but in the Risen Lord.
He has shared our pain, and he has done that, and he wants the disciples to know that when they go out to the world, they must realize the entry of God is first by vulnerability.
We must realize that we are vulnerable people, that we fall, that we get sick, that we have all kinds of troubles, because out of the way we respond to this, the vulnerability of ourselves, we respond to the vulnerability of God. And this only makes sense with one word.
If you are not vulnerable, you are incapable of love, because love is what heals. And if you do not need healing, then you do not need love.
And so Jesus says to Thomas, “This is the way of love. We suffer, but we never, never despair, because I have suffered, and I have risen, and I am here, now present among you, to let you know that the pains and difficulties and troubles of life are only gateways to the peace that I have already given you.”
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