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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Reflection/Homily: Second (2nd) Sunday of Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday (27th April 2014)

Reflection/Homily: Second (2nd) Sunday of Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday (27th April 2014)
Theme: Faith seeking Understanding

Pragmatism is an ideology that evaluates theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application. For instance, a pragmatist will only believe that one is a good cook not when he describes the process of preparing a particular dish but when he actually prepares it well. Pragmatism has permeated every sector of our society and religion has not been spared. In times past, people believed a man of God by the authority with which he spoke, but today, by the signs and wonders he perform. The world wants every theory to be practiced and proved effective before it is accepted. In the gospel reading (Jn. 20:19-31), we see Thomas as a core pragmatist. He did not believe in reasoning but in experience. He never wanted to listen to the event of Christ’s resurrection and appearance but wanted to experience it. He needed a first-hand experience. 

In our religious practices, many of us are like Thomas. We want God to show us everything, to reveal every mystery to us before we believe. We want to see the Eucharist turn into empirical flesh and blood. We want to see a candidate for anointing of the sick rise up immediately after receiving the sacrament. We want God’s blessings and promises to materialize immediately, etc. But have we ever cared to compare our expectation from God and God’s expectations from us? We expect God to be pragmatic, to be practical, but are we also pragmatic in our relationship with God? Can our religious doctrines and beliefs be seen practically in our lives? In the first reading (Acts 2:42-47), we see a good example of pragmatic Christianity. The early Christians followed the teachings of the apostles and the virtues the apostles taught were practically seen in the way they lived. They lived in peace, love and unity and God manifested His presence in practical terms through signs and wonders. As a result, they attracted more believers. Today, their community spirit and practical examples are presented to us as examples to follow.

Another significant lesson to learn from today’s liturgy is the authenticity of the power to forgive sins bestowed on the apostles. When Christ first appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he breathed on them and said to them “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained” This power which was handed over to the successors of the apostles through Apostolic succession still exists in the Church. It is through this mandate that priests can forgive sins at the confessional. In the year 2000, Pope John Paul designated the Sunday after Easter as the Sunday of Divine Mercy following the request Christ made through the Polish Nun, St. Faustina Kowalska. That is why today is called Divine mercy Sunday. Christ asked for a feast of Divine Mercy to be established on the first Sunday after Easter so that mankind would take refuge in him. According to St. Faustina, Christ said “I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of my Mercy” (Diary 1109). What this means is that all those who go to confession on that day or days before and also receive communion on that day will obtain a complete forgiveness of their sins and the remission of the punishment due to such sins. Should the person die, he/she will go straight to heaven without passing through purgatory.

Beloved friends, like Thomas, we may begin to ask for proofs for everything. We may want God to prove the authenticity of the Divine Mercy indulgence but do not forget that blessed are those who do not see but believe. We have to believe in order to understand. The Good News of Easter is that God wants us to experience His Divine Mercy and this is the gift the Church receives from the risen Lord. That is why the second reading (1 Peter 1:3-9) assures us that God has given us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ. With this living hope, let us renew our commitment to God and resolve to always take part in the activities of the Church. There is always a reward for those who are present in liturgical gatherings. Do not be absent like Thomas was. You may not get a second chance. May St. John Paul II intercede for us. God loves you. Happy feast of Divine Mercy.

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