My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We continue in this Easter season in this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
As I said, just before today is Divine Mercy Sunday. And I know that it is a little difficult to celebrate “divine mercy” in a time when there is so much sorrow and grief, when so many of our neighbors and loved ones are forced to carry such terrible burdens.
All of our Scriptures today, these are beautiful readings of hope and joy. Obviously the readings sound very different as we just heard them proclaimed — they sound different to us in an empty church, carried to us over the radio, television, and internet.
So as I’ve been trying to say, it’s been a little different to celebrate this beautiful Sunday — Divine Mercy Sunday — today.
As I was reflecting on the readings, I was thinking that even though things have changed, we are still together through life and through death, and we are still following our Lord Jesus Christ. And we are still his Church — in our prayer and charity, our worship and service.
In the first reading of today’s Mass, we hear the earliest description of the Church. And we can understand that we are doing the same things that they were doing.
“All who believed were together,” we heard. And so we are. Even though we are gathered virtually by technology, we are united in one Spirit by our faith in Jesus Christ and our hope in his resurrection.
And we are “devoted to the teaching of the apostles,” just as those first Christians were. We say the same prayers and we also celebrate “the breaking of the bread,” now in spiritual communion with our Lord in his Body and Blood.
Like those first Christians, we are showing our love for God by serving our neighbors in love. We heard today that those first followers of Jesus shared everything they had; they opened their homes to share their meals, and they gave whatever they could to anyone in need.
So my dear brothers and sisters, in this pandemic, we are learning every day how much we depend on God for strength and courage. We are also learning every day how much he depends on every one of us to do his work in this world — to love and to serve, to show his mercy and compassion.
And it is wonderful to see what the Lord is doing in these days through our works of charity.
Although our Catholic school buildings are closed, we are still educating thousands of young people every day through “distance learning.” And we are still feeding thousands of children every day, with breakfast and lunch. Just in this past month in our Catholic schools, we have provided more than 300,000 meals to our young people.
And also, it’s true that our church buildings are closed, our parishes are still “open,” helping people through food pantries, and we are providing financial assistance for people to have food, clothing, and shelter. The parishes are doing it together with Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Knights of Columbus. And we are also open as we are doing right now for the celebration of the Eucharist and trying to be together as a family of God in all different parishes.
We are also serving the elderly and the sick. We are finding creative new ways to help our children learn and to help us all to pray together and stay connected and bring hope through the social media.
And the ones who cannot serve physically with their hands, they are serving all of us with their hearts — praying, offering their sacrifices and sufferings for others.
So what we are witnessing these challenging days, is that same beautiful vision of the Church that we see in those days after the first Easter! “All who believed were together.” And we are still together. And we are getting stronger in our faith in God. Stronger in our love for one another.
Even in these challenging times, we can say as St. Peter does in today’s second reading: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!”
My brothers and sisters, God’s mercy endures. Our hope is not shaken. He has made for us a new day. Beyond the darkness, beyond the sadness, Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead!2 And we will rise with him!
And in today’s Gospel passage, the disciples are scared. They’re afraid for their lives, frightened for the future. They have the doors all locked, and they are hiding out. But Jesus comes, and he stands in their midst.
Jesus will not be denied. He never let our fears come between us and his love. He is merciful when we cry to him. His heart is moved by our suffering. Though he is allowing this time of adversity, this time of affliction, he does not abandon us. He is with us.
Jesus still comes to stand before us, just as he did in those first Easter evenings. He wants to show us the mark of the nails in his hands and feet, he wants to show us his side that was pierced on the cross.
So my dear brothers and sisters, even in his risen body, Jesus carries the scars of what he suffered for us, the marks of his love for us. And even now, he comes again to bring us peace.
So let us draw near to him and look at his hands. Let us enter into the heart that was opened for our sake. Let us ask him to heal our doubts, to free us from our fears.
Jesus does not abandon us. Instead, he asks that we abandon ourselves to him, that we walk in his way.3
So today, we need to say to him, as the doubting Thomas — the doubting disciple did: “My Lord and my God!” We need to pray to him, as St. Faustina taught us: “Jesus, I trust in you!”
So my brothers and sisters, in his extraordinary Easter season, Jesus is sending us out, just as he sent out those first disciples.
Let us ask Mary our Blessed Mother to accompany his Church, as she did in those days after his resurrection.4
May she help us to love and to serve, and to break down every wall of fear. May she help us to bring the mercy and peace of her Son to our neighbors, in this time when faith is tested.