Today is … what Sunday?
Yes, indeed, Divine Mercy Sunday, but much else too. First of all, it is the 2nd Sunday of Easter. We can call it a 2nd Easter, given us lest we failed fully to download the 1st. It’s a 2nd chance Easter.
This week we have been keeping the Easter Octave, 8 days, beginning from Easter Sunday and ending today. The 8th day is the first day come a second time. A 2nd Easter!
We know the Eastern Easter greeting: “Christ is risen, Alleluia!” and the answer: “He is truly risen, Alleluia!” Last Sunday, we said, “Christ is risen.” This Sunday is a chance to say with St Thomas, “He is truly risen!”
We are thinking all the time of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. We know too that the Western Church and the Eastern churches calculate the date of Easter differently. Often we keep Easter one Sunday and they another. This year, we kept ours last Sunday, and they keep theirs this Sunday. This is an added reason for remembering them. It is as if, over the noise of battle, we are calling to each other. We say, “Christ is risen!” Today they answer, “He is truly risen!” May they indeed truly experience Resurrection: victory, a just peace, freedom restored, and most of all the victory of overcoming hatred, of finding it in their hearts to forgive!
A 2nd Easter. This is what the Lord gave Thomas the Twin today. Why he wasn’t there that first Sunday and missed our Lord’s first appearance to the Eleven we don’t know. Perhaps he was simply overcome by what had happened to Jesus and by the loss of all his own hopes. Perhaps he had to go away by himself. Perhaps he had seen the crucifixion and the nails from afar. He was a realist. And when he heard the others say, He is risen, he couldn’t accept it. He had seen the horror. He didn’t want to be taken in or fall for wishful thinking. “Unless I see…” He wanted to be able to say, “He is truly risen.” But the Lord, invisibly, heard his words and read his thoughts, and gave his disciple a second Sunday, a second chance. “Put your hand here…” St Gregory the Great said that the real wounded person in the room, wounded by unbelief, was Thomas himself, but the wounds of Christ healed the wound of Thomas, and by healing his healed ours. “Doubt no longer but believe.” And how magnificently, how generously St Thomas rose to his second chance. He believed. He made the strongest and fullest profession of faith we find in the New Testament: “my Lord and my God.” Not just “Lord” or “God” but “my” Lord, “my” God. He knew he was known. He recognised he was loved. He felt the forgiveness. We see what a second-chance Christian can be! This apostle would go further than all the others – even to India.
The 2nd Sunday of Easter! This is the Sunday we recall the gift of the forgiveness of sins. The Lord breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. This takes up back to the creation of Adam in Genesis. And then he says, “Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” He gave the Apostles the authority to forgive sins. When sin is forgiven, we are re-created. And according to the teaching of the Church, this Easter gift includes not only the first forgiveness, which is Baptism, but the second forgiveness – “the plank after shipwreck” – the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. The Sacrament instituted for the forgiveness of sins after Baptism. The Sacrament of the second chance – as much a Sacrament of Resurrection and joy as the Sacrament of Baptism. The Sacrament of a new beginning. Perhaps we were baptised when we were babies, and then catechised and confirmed and given our 1st Holy Communion when we were children. And then we grew up and we turned away, we lost the plot, life’s joys seduced us or life’s sorrows disillusioned us. But the Lord provides in this sacrament a new beginning, a second life, faith and charity rekindled. It’s the birth of a second chance, 2nd Sunday Christian! Forgiveness means we can say, “He is truly risen”.
This is…what Sunday? Yes, it is the Sunday of Divine Mercy, and now we see why: the Resurrection proclaimed again, faith rediscovered, sins forgiven, a new life. St John Paul II called mercy the “second name of love.” In our lives too, love first goes towards what is radiantly loveable. But what happens – and isn’t this the story of so many relationships, so many “loves”? – when somehow that lovableness seems to fade, disappears from our eyes, in the drabness of daily life? Then is the time for second love, for second wind love, for merciful love. Divine mercy doesn’t require the beloved to be lovely, but just to be. The merciful love of the Lord reaches out to us in our unloveliness. Mercy kisses our misery and makes us lovely again. “Love to the loveless shown, that they may lovely be.” The love that gives a second chance.
Yes, Christ is risen! And now “ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven”, shown the Resurrection yet again, shown his wounds again, we can say, “He is truly risen, alleluia.” Risen not just on our lips, but in our lives. Not just in our heads, but in our hearts. Not just to us one by one, but to us all. Amen!
Sacred Heart, Torry, 23 April 2022