The early Church is described in this way, “With great power the apostles bore witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” We are also told how they gave this witness to the risen Christ, “There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.”(Acts 4:33-35) Thus, they gave witness to the risen Christ by readily sacrificing something to meet the needs of others in community.
They gave witness to the Resurrection by becoming signs and instruments of divine mercy in our world. Divine mercy triumphed over sin, evil, suffering and death at the Resurrection because that was when our crucified Savior, Jesus Christ, rose from the grave to give us the things that we needed the most but did not deserve at all. He willingly sacrificed Himself to merit for us things that we needed but did not deserve e.g. divine graces, forgiveness, peace, love and hope, etc.
The risen Christ appeared to His terrified disciples not to deservedly rebuke them but to give them peace, “Peace be with you.” (Jn 20:19) They could not find that peace by huddling together behind locked doors in fear of the Jews. This peace is first a gift of divine mercy from the risen Christ. In His mercy, Jesus freely offered them that gift of peace that their scared hearts badly needed and which they did not deserve because of their unfaithfulness to Him. He showed them the wounds on His hands and side to impress on them the truth that He willingly sacrificed His life so that they could have this precious gift of peace.
But this peace is not a just a gift to be received; it is also a response to the call to mission as signs and instruments of divine mercy to the world by the power of the Holy Spirit, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you…Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven and whose sins you retained are retained.” (Jn 20:21-22) In His mercy, He has also called and equipped us with His own Spirit to be on mission for Him as signs and instruments of His mercy in our world. For us to possess and enjoy His gift of peace, we too must be ready to sacrifice something so as to meet the needs of others, whether they deserve it or not.
Let us reflect briefly on the example of Thomas in the event of the Resurrection. The other disciples tried to share with him the Good News, “We have seen the Lord.” But Thomas refused to believe and gave conditions for his belief, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”(Jn 20:25) They did not throw him out there and then as an apostate but gave him the patience and understanding that he needed but did not deserve.
In His mercy, Jesus repaid His visit and again showed to Thomas the wounds He bore for us so that we could have in Him “every spiritual blessing in the heavens.”(Eph 1:3) The earlier words of the other disciples and their merciful attitude towards Thomas prepared and disposed him to now receive the much-needed but undeserved faith from the risen Christ and to exclaim, “My Lord, and my God.” Like Christ, the Head, the Church too reflects divine mercy to all, striving to meet the needs of all persons.
Our risen Lord once said to St. Faustina Kowalska, “Mankind will never know peace until it turns to my mercy.” We will have peace only when we turn to His mercy and receive it first as a gift and then embrace the mission to become signs and instruments of divine mercy in our world.
For us to have this peace of Christ, we must answer these following questions correctly:
First, do we receive the mercy of God as a gift? The risen Christ is not ashamed to show the wounds that He bore out of love for us. Looking at His wounds, are we also bold enough to show Him our wounds from our own sinful choices and from the harm that others have done to us? Are we trying to hide our wounds in shame and pretend that we do not have them? How confidently do we bring our sins to the Sacrament of Confession? Do we leave these sins at the cross after receiving His mercy or do we still continue to beat ourselves over our past sins?
Second, how aware are we of the many needs in our world today? Are we aware of the need for selfless love, acceptance, healing, forgiveness, hope, faith, and saving truths in our world? How much do we care about the many material and spiritual needs in our world? How concerned are we for the infants crying out for a chance just to be allowed to live and not be murdered in their mothers’ wombs through abortion? Are we even touched by any of these needs?
Third, what are we ready to sacrifice now to meet these needs? Are we willing to give up some of our time and treasures for the sake of these needs? Are we ready to put our talents and our reputations on the line too if needed to assuage these needs in others? Are we ready to give up our comfort, security, prestige for the sake of those in need? Are we ready to let go of our hurt feelings and wounded egos so as to provide these needs? We cannot be signs and instruments of divine mercy if we are unwilling and unready to sacrifice anything for those in need out of love for Christ.
We cannot wait for people to become deserving before we reflect to them the mercy of God we have received. Jesus did not wait for us to become deserving of His gifts before He laid down His life for us, “God proved His love for us in that while we still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Rom 5:8) The Blessed Virgin Mary did not wait for Elizabeth to ask for or deserve her visit,
“Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43) If we really want to have the peace of Christ in our hearts, why should we wait for others to appreciate us or deserve anything from us before we attend to their authentic needs?
The Eucharist is Christ’s self-sacrifice by which He has mercifully won for us all the undeserved things that we need, especially the gift of His peace. Jesus also empowers us with His Spirit to be on mission as witnesses of His Resurrection and as signs and instruments of divine mercy in our world. By the power of this Spirit, we can also participate in Christ’s self-sacrifice. We will possess and enjoy His peace only when we too willingly sacrifice something for the needs of others, whether they deserve it or not.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!
Photo by Hannah Wernecke on Unsplash