The 2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) (Jn 20:13-31) “The Apostles’ First Reconciliation” PDF Version
Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter, Year B (2018) (Jn 20:19-31)
During the 50 days that Our Risen Lord spent on earth before His Ascension into heaven, we learn from the Gospels and the letters of St. Paul that Our Lord did not spent his time in idleness nor hidden from the public eye!
St. Paul recounted for the first Christians of Corinth that after Jesus appeared to the faithful women at the tomb, He then appeared to Cephas (Peter), then the Apostles, then to more than 500 disciples at once and then to one untimely born, He appeared to that great sinner turned missionary of the Gentiles, Paul of Tarsus.
We can try to imagine what these encounters with the Risen Lord must have been like, what they spoke of, what further teachings Jesus offered them and joyful excitement that came from the news about the Coming Paraclete who would be sent by the Heavenly Father. The Gospels tell us little of what the Lord said to the remaining 11 Apostles, though St Mark is was not too embarrassed to recount that Our Lord did strongly rebuke them for their unbelief in the Resurrection.
But a common theme we can begin to detect amount the Gospel accounts of encountering the Risen Christ was that these meetings were moments of Reconciliation, Forgiveness and an experience of Divine Mercy. It was not enough that the Apostles privately confess to God their sorrow for abandoning Christ at the Cross. They had been filled with such pride and confidence on Palm Sunday as they triumphantly marched into Jerusalem with Jesus, waving palm branches in the air as an act of defiance to the powers of Rome that their Messiah had come to vanquish their rule.
Only 5 days later did they turn from being confident co-conquerors with Christ to traitors, forsaking their king in His hour of need and for Peter even denying to have known the One who had made him the Rock on which Christ would build His Holy Church.
A private confession of guilt and sorrow was not sufficient to undue to bonds of sins that were wrapped around their hearts and had caused scandal to their fellow disciples who watched them cower from the Cross. What was required was a very public reconciliation with the Lord, where He would stand before each of them and they would confess their sins to both Christ and one another, bringing healing to their souls and to the fledgling Church that had been so wounded by the Apostles’ betrayal.
St John records for us today the first celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the 11 apostles being the first to partake of this sacrament from the Risen Lord. It was only after they had been reconciled to Christ, forgiven for their sins by the power of the water and blood that flowed from the open wounds they now saw in His resurrected body, and aware that God had shown them unmerited mercy, that they then could receive from the Christ the power to forgive sins in His name.
Because they had been forgiven, they could now receive His spirit, that same spirit that is given to every priest on the day of his ordination, to forgive sins in the name and person of Jesus Christ, meaning every celebration of this great sacrament is a reliving of that Divine Mercy Sunday when the Apostles, the foundation stones of our Church, were reconciled back to God and commissioned to freely offer forgiveness to those who sought it and promised to turn away from sins.
When one ponders the 2000 year history of Our Church, it becomes evident that among the reasons it has endured is because of the Sacrament of Reconciliation! Was there no means for us to be forgiven by God, and empowered with the ability to then forgive one another, our Church would have destroyed itself long ago, as more and more un-repented sins caused deeper and deeper wounds to the Body of the Christ which is the Catholic Church, causing her to drown in the filth of sin and be unable to proclaim the Gospel to others. Every great empire and civilization that has faded away into the sands of history did so because it did not have the means to bring forgiveness into the world and to heal the wounds of sin!
It is because countless men and women, from St John Paul II making a confession every week of his papacy, to children making their first reconciliation, to someone returning back to this great sacrament after a long absence from God’s grace, that has allowed our Church to carry on the Mission Christ left us and show the world that Divine Mercy is readily available to one and all.
In these glorious days of Easter, which continue until the great feast of Pentecost, let us consider the ways in which Christ is calling each of us to be reconciled to them. He desires each of us to receive His forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to seek out those whom we wish to forgive and to ask forgiveness in return, and to believe that I am able to receive Divine Mercy which flows from the body of the Risen yet Pierced Saviour.
It is within His wounds that we find healing. It is within His wounds that we find forgiveness. It is within His wounds that we find the depth of Divine Mercy. And so sang one poet:
“In this our bright and Paschal day
The sun shines out with purer ray,
When Christ, to earthly sight made plain,
The glad Apostles see again.
The wounds, the riven wounds He shows
In that His flesh with light that glows
In loud accord both far and nigh
The Lord’s arising testify.
O Christ, the king who lovest to bless,
To you our hearts and souls possess;
To you our praise that we may pay,
To whom our laud is due for aye.” (St. Ambrose of Milan)