Happy Easter! I write this bulletin column this week as Fr. Manny enjoys some much deserved rest and relaxation after presiding over the fullness of Holy Week. As we priests say, “Once Jesus comes out of the tomb, Father goes in the tomb.” I will have my opportunity this upcoming week. While we priests may feel a bit of the fatigue after Holy Week, we certainly are not the only ones. We would like to thank all the hands and hearts that made this Holy Week so special. Our office staff, our clergy, our decorators, our musicians and singers, our liturgical ministers, our ushers, and our custodial staff all came together to make this holiest of weeks flow smoothly. The Church was jam packed. Having been empty only three years ago at this time, I think we can all agree that it is better to be full.
In the Sunday readings of this Octave Day of Easter, the Acts of the Apostles paints an idyllic picture of the early Church basking in the warmth of Resurrection light and the fire of Pentecost. “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers … All who believed were together and had all things in common … They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.” Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? That’s because it is! Human nature and a little knowledge of Church history tells us that this did not last for long. The harmony really only lasted a few chapters in Acts before the diaconate had to be established to resolve issues within the community.
Suffice it to say, we human beings fall short quite often in our journey of following Jesus Christ. The Apostles, the pillars of our Church and the sources of episcopal authority, are Exhibit A of how to fail Jesus. Yet, they were also the top recipients of the Lord’s greatest attribute, something we celebrate today in a special way: His overwhelming mercy.
What is the first thing Jesus tells them when He enters the Upper Room? “Peace be with you”. That is to say, “Rest easy, brothers. I’m back and I’m in charge.” Moreover, it was not, “Where were you when I needed you?” or “How could you deny me?” What Jesus offered them was mercy and a mission to receive the Holy Spirit and forgive sins. Not only was He alive, but He was also preparing them for something so much greater.
Now, if you ask me, Thomas gets a bum rap in terms of the biblical history. He was out of the Upper Room when Jesus first appeared to the apostles. There has been much reflection as to why Thomas was not with them, but all we know is he was not there. So, I think his reaction to the news of Jesus’ appearance is quite understandable. It would be our response to what we would consider a bad and poorly timed April Fool’s joke.
Yet, the Lord continues to show mercy. He appears again and affords Thomas the opportunity to place his finger into the nail marks in His hands and the wound in His side. The Lord in His mercy overcomes Thomas’ disbelief. The transformation within Thomas from that one encounter of mercy with the Lord propelled him all the way to India. He would bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth and die a martyr’s death in that land.
It is the Lord’s mercy that brings about the greatest transformation within the human heart. There is no force on this Earth as strong as mercy, as true authentic forgiveness. The Lord offered it to humanity from the Cross as He prayed for those who did not know what they were doing. It poured from his pierced side in blood and water. That image remains with us from the inspiration of St. Faustina Kowalska. Mercy in the face of evil is a force unparalleled in this world or the next. The harmony between us may be short lived. Our flawed human nature is always one step away from rearing its ugly head. Yet, Jesus on the Cross has overcome everything. The risen Jesus has poured out His mercy over us. What more can we say except, “My Lord and my God!”?
– Fr. Andrew