Read John 20:19-31
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... Read More…
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath...
It is an attribute of God himself...
--The Merchant of Venice
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. ‘Mercy,’ in Hebrew is ‘Hesed’ meaning ‘loving kindness.’ St. Luke takes this word Hesed a step further. In the Benedictus Canticle, Zachariah proclaims ‘the loving kindness of the heart of our God.’
Jesus in his parables, particularly in the Prodigal Son, reveals to us in story form, this ‘Hesed,’ this loving kindness of the heart of our God. We see the father throwing off his dignity to run and embrace his child. He holds close to his heart the ragged smelly dirty guilty squanderer of his birth- right, who comes back home with little expectation of receiving a welcome to his previous relationship with his father. The father does not need any explanations or apologies. It is enough for him that his son has come home. His joy is complete.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus does not speak to us in parables. Jesus, the Incarnate Risen Lord, in person, reveals to us the living reality of the loving kindness of the heart of our God. The Disciples like the Prodigal Son were in a pit. Granted it was not a literal ‘pig-pit,’ but it was the pit of depression; a pit of fear of the Jews; a dark pit filled with guilt that they had abandoned the Lord when he most needed his friends. Unlike the Prodigal Son, they had no home to which to return. The one who had said to them just three nights before, “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you...” was dead. They had no home now....
It was into this dark pit of depression; fear and guilt that Jesus returned home to their hearts. They did not have to travel to find him; — he came to them in the depths of their despair. Jesus greeted his friends with the word he always used when they came together. His “Shalom” — “Peace,” would allay their fears, and assure them that it was really himself; Jesus, their beloved friend. In Hebrew, ‘Shalom’ means, “I wish you the fullness of well-being of mind and body and soul.” John tells us “the Disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord.” They were so filled with joy that they were dumbfounded, (Thomas was not there to ask any questions!) so Jesus had to repeat his “Shalom.”
Joy was the first gift Jesus gave to his friends after his Resurrection. He had promised them that joy the night before he died. “You are sad now, but I shall see you again, and your hearts will be full of joy.” Jesus tells us just as he told the Disciples that same night, “Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.” St Luke tells us: “There will be more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.” It is rather lovely to think that we can make God’s joy complete when as prodigal sons or daughters we accept “the loving kindness of the heart of our God who visits us like the dawn from on high.” Like the father of the Prodigal Son, Jesus needed no explanations of his friends’ downfalls. Instead he totally embraced them in love, joy and peace (the first three gifts of the Holy Spirit as related by Paul in his letter to the Galatians). He commissioned them to go out in just the same way that the Father had sent him. Jesus then breathed on his friends and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We too have received this commission. We too have been breathed on by the Holy Spirit. We also have been given the gifts that Paul talks about in his letter to the Galatians.
How can we make this a reality in our lives and reveal to others the loving kindness of the heart of our God? How can we share the joy of the risen Christ with everyone we meet? Perhaps the best way is to invite the Lord to take over and do it within us!
Dear Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go;
• Flood my soul with your spirit and life;
• Penetrate and possess my whole being so completely, that all my life may be only a radiance of yours;
• Shine through me and be so in me, that everyone with whom I come into contact may feel your presence within me.
Let them look up and see no longer me — but only Jesus.