Sunday Scripture readings, April 19, 2020: Second Sunday of Easter
1) Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
2) 1 Pt 1:3-9
Gospel: Jn 20:19-31
Seeking God’s mercy in challenging times
“I can’t believe this is really happening!” This was the deeply felt sentiment, spoken and unspoken, on the minds and hearts of many as the rapid spread of COVID-19 brought normal daily life to a shuddering halt.
The most gifted novelists and creative movie makers could not have imagined the unfolding scene as the new coronavirus unleashed its devastating effect on the world. As the disease spread rapidly, it left in its trail an unprecedented amount of fear, uncertainty, hardship, suffering and death.
Even as the deadly virus spread during the final weeks of winter, the strength and resilience of the human spirit, now under severe test, spread wide and deep.
As cities went into lockdown and social distancing became the norm of human interaction, the kindness and compassion that lies hidden within us surfaced. Families, friends and neighbors came together with concern for the elderly and vulnerable, and communities recognized the need for self-sacrifice for the sake of the common good.
This spirit of solidarity and compassion inspired the first Christians described in today’s first reading. Drawn together by the power of the Lord’s resurrection, they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the breaking of bread, the care of the weak and the poor, and communal living, holding all possessions in common.
And on this Second Sunday of Easter, celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday, the church invites us to recognize God’s mercy in the face of today’s unprecedented health crisis. But what is divine mercy?
St. John Paul II in his last book, “Memory and Identity,” wrote that Christ “wanted to reveal that the limit imposed upon evil, of which man is both perpetrator and victim, is ultimately divine mercy. … God can always draw good from evil, he wills that all should be saved and come to knowledge of the truth. … God is love. Christ, crucified and risen, just as he appeared to Sister Faustina, is the superior revelation of this truth.”
Divine mercy, not suffering, is the final word on our frail human condition. As the First Letter of Peter says, “Although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
In the Gospel, the risen Jesus appears to the disciples locked in the grip of fear. As we grapple with our own personal fears and uncertainties today, Jesus says: “Peace be with you.”
What the human community has experienced in recent weeks defies complete understanding. We have come face to face with human limitations as we wrap our minds around the reality and power of disease.
As we seek God’s mercy in these challenging times let us be counted among those who Jesus promises a blessing when he said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” In Easter faith we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
Reflection Question: How can you grow in Easter faith today?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.