by Fr. Dumisani Vilakati
First Reading: Acts 5:12-16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118
Second Reading: Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
Gospel: John 20: 19-31
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On this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, we are invited to contemplate the merciful God who invites us, his children, to be merciful. “Merciful like the Father”.
For the Hebrew people, mercy would seem, at least in part, to be a feminine quality of God. This is because the Hebrew word rechem, which means mercy or tender mercies or compassion or pity, is also the word for womb. It refers to God’s feeling towards us as a loving mother who carries us in her womb and subsequently gives birth to us. Jesus had compassion for crowds as they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mt. 9:36). Jesus’ compassion for the crowds evokes the Hebrew sense of compassion. With the Hebrew background therefore we have to perceive mercy in the sense of a mother’s loving feelings towards her child, especially a wayward one. In SiSwati uyahelwa or we could even say uneluvelo.
The first reading tells us of the signs and wonders that were done by the apostles among the sick and those possessed by unclean spirits. Being sick or possessed by unclean spirits meant that one had to live on the margins of society (Mk 5: 1-20 narrates the story of the Gerasene demoniac). Peter’s closeness to them was enough to cure them. This Divine Mercy Sunday calls upon us to be close to all those living on the margins of society. The growth of the Church is realised by the apostles’ merciful activity towards such people.
The responsorial psalm, 118, emphasises the enduring nature of God’s mercy. The psalmist, recalling the worst moments of his/her life, realises that God was always there for him/her. “I was hard pressed and was falling, but the Lord helped me”. Let us express gratitude to God for rescuing us when we were hard pressed and in trouble. Let us not forget the assistance that we received from parents, relatives, fellow Christians, friends and even anonymous persons.
The second reading recalls the moment when John was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day, i.e. Sunday. He shares some distress with the addressees of his letters and yet is consoled. Such consolation is provided by the Lord himself, the Son of Man. The magic words from the Lord are: “Do not be afraid”. Such a proclamation is important for those who feel oppressed by the weight of sin. No sin is too grave not to merit God’s forgiveness. Our anxiety about death and what will happen should not be a source of worry. This is because he who knows what has happened, what is happening and what will happen has just made it known.
The gospel recalls a meeting between Jesus and his disciples after the resurrection on the first day of the week, i.e. Sunday. Jesus does not scold the apostles for their unbelief or for having abandoned him during his passion and death. Neither does the absent Thomas get a scolding when he meets Jesus. He is slowly and patiently led to belief, to faith. Jesus’ action shows his merciful love for the disciples. Gifts of peace and the forgiveness of sins are given rather than condemnation. He simply shows them his hands and side. The faith of the disciples is born or generated after seeing and touching the side of the risen Lord.
On the cross, the pierced side of Christ flowed with blood and water. St. John Chrysostom tells us that in this we should recall the creation of Eve from the side of Adam. Jesus as the new Adam (Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:22, 45) is now creating her spouse, the new Eve, which is the Church (Cf. Eph 5:22-23). The water which flowed from the side of Christ recalls our baptism as we are born again (generated) by the waters of baptism. The blood recalls the Eucharist which renews us whenever we celebrate holy mass so that we may remain divine and proper children of God.
As Christians we have the DNA of Christ. St. Leo the Great proclaimed this truth way back in the fifth century: “Oh Christian, be aware of your nobility. It is God’s own nature that you share”. Let us live up to our divine nature by being merciful, sibe neluvelo, to our brothers and sisters.