Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) Year C 2022 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.
Readings: Acts 5:12-16; Pslam 117(118):2-4, 22-27; Apocalypse 1:9-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31
Sisters and brothers,
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues unabated, it can be difficult to find a sense of hope amongst the rubbles of war. More than 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled their country, most of whom are women and children. The men, including husbands and fathers, are left behind to defend their country. In the midst of uncertainty and loss, there have been moments of hope and resilience in Ukraine and around the world, as strangers come together to help those in need. Stories of courage, selflessness, generosity, solidarity and strength of the human spirit are on full display. They transcend borders, politics and entrenched rivalries. They inspire us to build a better world for all.
Scriptures on the Second Sunday of Easter also provide us with a resurrection hope that can shape our response to life’s challenges. In a world of fear and division, we are called to be the catalysts for the Kingdom and the yeast for the leavening of God’s people in the world.
We are inspired by the early Christian community, who show us the way out of the darkness of despair and disillusionment in the wake of the shocking events in Jerusalem. In fact, right throughout the Easter season, the scriptures focus our attention on the fledgling Church and how it transforms itself into a shining instrument of the Gospel. The readings today tell us about how the early Christians experienced God’s love and mercy, and they in turn share that love and mercy with one another and the wider society.
The Acts of the Apostles present us with a small and vulnerable group of believers, which emerged from the turbulent period following the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. We are told that these early disciples met and prayed in the Portico of Solomon. This was the Temple’s Outer Court, which was often reserved for an assortment of non-Jews, the sick and crippled. By choosing to meet here rather than in the inner court of the Jews, the apostles identified themselves with the marginalised. They embraced radical solidarity. They shared their possessions and made sure that no one was left behind. They formed an intentional community of faith, hope and love, ensuring each other’s welfare and that of the most vulnerable.
The Gospel story takes us back to the interim period between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. It tells us how Thomas refused to believe in the testimony of others. “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.” Thus, even in that ideal Christian community, there were disagreements and certainly different levels of faith. Some were strong; others were weak and wavering. Yet the Church was not like a club with strict rules for its members. It was a family that cut plenty of slack, that made plenty of room, that accommodated those who struggled, questioned, who doubted, who even strayed and got lost. It did so to Thomas because it had experienced that overwhelming, unconditional love and mercy from Jesus himself.
Let us thank God for Thomas who stands for us who struggle and who are not yet perfect in our faith. In those times when we identify with Thomas’s doubts, we may boldly ask Jesus to show himself to us. If, like Thomas, we find ourselves isolated from the community of faith and envious of others’ faith, which seems strong and unwavering, we may hesitate to rely on the word of others who try to encourage us to believe. Then Thomas may assure us in our doubts. But he also challenges us to deepen our faith, trust and commitment to Christ, even if we have not seen him.
This is the inspiration for us today as we grapple with the unsettling and disconcerting situation. As we are subject to the dying and rising pattern of Christ, we learn to die to what is unnecessary or indeed unworthy of the Gospel. Equally, we learn to rise to what we are called to be, a community of faith, hope and love, a sacrament of mercy and compassion to the world.
Today, we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. The image of the wounded Christ is particularly fitting for today’s liturgy. It reminds us that God’s love is all-embracing, unconditional and sacrificial. We are invited to avail ourselves of this love, to sustain ourselves by it. Only on the strength of Divine Mercy can we live a fuller Christian life and become the instruments of God’s love. On Anzac Day this long weekend, we commend those who sacrificed their own lives for others, for our country and ultimately for the sake of a better world. May we live out the resurrection hope that Christ offers us. May we embody this Good News in our communities and relationships as we seek to empower all to live life more fully.
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