On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he said this he showed them his hands and his side. (John 20:19-20)
Even though the doors were locked, Jesus stood in their midst because his resurrected, glorified body does not have the same limitations as our physical body. For this reason he shows them his wounds. In another Gospel, he asks for something to eat to prove he is not a ghost.
The Power of This Feast
He then breaths on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.” He gives the Apostles and their successors the authority to forgive sins. This is the basis for the Sacrament of Reconciliation in which Jesus himself forgives the sins of those who confess to priests and bishops who are successors to those who were in the Upper Room.
It is fitting that we hear this Gospel on Divine Mercy Sunday, because the Sacrament of Reconciliation is especially a sacrament of our Lord’s mercy. When we confess our sins to a priest, Jesus not only forgives our sins and relieves us the burden we carry; he also gives us grace we need to help us overcome temptation and grow in virtue. It is for this reason that we should try to go to confession at least once a month. If we only go to confession a couple times a year, so many of the things we do that offend our relationship with God and others will begin to pass unnoticed and become part of our life routine. Small sins that are habitual, lead to more serious sin. It is so easy for us to fall into the trap of unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, and stubbornness that cause us to become a negative person, and this negativity affects all of our relationships. If you have not been able to forgive someone, ask Jesus to help you forgive, because you know he wants you to forgive and be relieved of the burden of that sin.
In 1934, Jesus revealed to St. Faustina that he wanted the second Sunday of Easter to be known as Divine Mercy Sunday. In her diary, Divine Mercy In My Soul, she wrote down this message:
I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and a shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day are opened all the divine floodgates through which graces flow. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.
Even if we are not aware of having committed serious sin, we still need the mercy of God to dominate our lives so that we can remain close to him. As it says on his image, our daily prayer should be, “Jesus I trust in you.”
If you have not been to confession for a while, you can still receive the graces of this feast if you receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) within the next 14 days. Jesus longs for us to come to him and receive his mercy.
Living In Peace – Now and Forever
The Apostle Thomas was not with the others when Jesus appeared to them Easter evening. Thomas said he would not believe that Jesus was alive unless he would put his fingers in the nail marks and his hand in His side.
Our human logic is very powerful. Even though the disciples Thomas trusted told him that they had seen Jesus, Thomas would not believe them without proof. For him, it wasn’t logical that someone would rise from the dead, even Jesus.
That’s the world we live in. We are at the point where just as many people do not believe in God as those who do believe, and that number continues to grow. One way we see this lack of a relationship with God manifested is in so much hatred and violence. The only thing that that can reverse this present trend is the love of God and his mercy, which he freely offers, but he does not impose it upon us. In his Church, Jesus has given us everything we need to live in peace and happiness, but we must approach him in faith and humility. Jesus says, “Come to me… and I will give you rest.” The rest he offers us is the peace he promises to those who put their trust in him, especially when experiencing trials. Even the most hardened sinner can experience this peace if he would turn to Jesus in humility and ask for the grace to turn away from sin.
I am reminded of a woman I visited many years ago who was dying of cancer. She was in much pain, and death was not far away; yet she said she thanked God for the cancer because it gave her a chance to turn back to God. She said if she would have died suddenly, her soul may have been lost.
Salvation is not a casual thing, but God’s love and mercy are not only about saving our soul. It is first of all about a daily relationship with God that fills our lives with joy and hope. He has shown us how this is possible in the Scriptures and in the Church. The solution has been revealed to us, but do we believe?
Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas needed proof to believe. Do we?
What we all believe right now is a consequence of the choices we have made up until this moment. Does our faith influence the most important decisions we make? Have we asked Jesus to be the Lord of our life and then pray for the grace we need to trust him in every situation of our life? If every day, throughout the day we pray from our hearts, “Jesus I trust in you,” it will become a reality. He will gently guide us if we are sincere.
Deacon Tom Fox is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with his wife, Mary Jane Fox. The two left their careers after a profound conversion experience and began working full-time in ministry at their parish in 1986. After several years and having impacted tens of thousands of families, the Foxes founded Pilgrim Center of Hope in 1993 as a response to the Church’s call for a New Evangelization. Tom continues to serve as a permanent deacon, at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.