By Fr. Bill Nordenbrock, C.PP.S.
The first time that I preached on the Gospel account of the appearances of the Resurrected Christ to the disciples was the day after my ordination. As I reflected on this narrative then, what caught my attention was that Jesus needed to make a repeat appearance. At the Easter appearance Jesus had given the disciples his peace and his mission, but one week later the disciples were still locked away in hiding. What happened? Weren’t the disciples paying attention?
It seems that even the appearance of the Resurrected Christ was not enough for the disciples to put fear aside and to become missionary. So in my first Mass homily, I shared my prayerful hope that with the grace of God, my priesthood would be lived outside the safety of sanctuaries.
Forty years later, the context of my life has changed, and a different revelation speaks to my heart. Part of that changed context is since 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter has been designated Divine Mercy Sunday.
Recently I read a meditation that described God as being “mercy, wrapped in mercy, wrapped in mercy.” What a powerful statement about our God! This is the identity of God that is proclaimed in the second reading: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in God’s great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . . ”
The paschal mystery is the revelation and gift of God’s mercy. The life blood poured out on the cross was the mercy of God drenching all people. And the Resurrected Christ returned to his disciples to make sure that they got the message and the command to share that message with the world.
The mercy of God changes our lives; changes who we are. We become hope-filled missionaries carrying God’s mercy to all. If we are paying attention. If we have heard the promise often enough for the gift of mercy to be more than a gift from God, but also a commission to bear the Good News as a gift to be given to others.
In one of my favorite Scripture passages, St. Paul repeats this message. About the paschal mystery, he wrote: “All this has been done by God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2Cor 5:18).
Today we hear again that the mercy of God has been given to us. Again and again, this is the story of God’s unfailing and unconditional love for us. So, let’s stop being afraid. Let us hear the Good News that seeks to transform our lives and accept the commission that sends us into the world to live lives that give witness to God’s mercy.
As I often proclaim in the dismissal rite when celebrating the Sacrament of Penance: Your sins have been forgiven. Go forth in peace and forgive others.
A former moderator general of the worldwide congregation, Fr. Bill Nordenbrock, C.PP.S., resides in Chicago. He serves as the provincial secretary and treasurer of the United States Province.