“God of everlasting mercy, who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast kindle the faith of the people you have made your own,
increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed, that all may grasp and rightly understand
in what font they have been washed, / by whose Spirit they have been reborn, / by whose Blood they have been redeemed” (Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter).
Jesus Christ has suffered, has died, has been buried in the virginal tomb (cf. John 19:41), and has come forth to new life from a new virginal womb. His message, though, remains constant: “Repent” for “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy” (Psalm 103:8).
In the Readings this Sunday we are shown the blueprint of the life of the first Christians after the Resurrection: “The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” This is the same model that we still follow today. It has remained unbroken, and the true Church of Christ will always remain indissolubly bound to this “Way” (cf. Acts 9:2) until her Lord returns and then forevermore. The Catechism of the Catholic Church uses this verse of Scripture found in our First Reading (Acts 2:42) as the model of its own structure: “The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles (Part One: The Profession of Faith/The Creed), to the brotherhood (Part Three: Life in Christ), to the breaking of bread (Part Two: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery/The Sacraments) and to the prayers (Part Four: Christian Prayer).”
When death has been destroyed by the death and Resurrection of Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:55), we live without fear and we love without limits. This enabled the early Christians to hold everything in common, live as one body and gather every Sunday for “the breaking of the bread,” which is what Mass was called in the early Church. We can and must continue to do the same today because we live with the same joy and hope in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus and we, just like Christ, are the same Church yesterday, today, and forever (cf. Hebrews 13:8).
This is what St Peter, in our epistle this Sunday, reveals to us: “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in His great mercy has given us a new birth as His sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away, because it is being kept for you in the heavens.”
In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus appears to the Apostles in the upper room where they first “broke bread” with Jesus; the bread and wine that became His most precious Body and Blood. The way that He appears is evocative of the Mass itself. Both appearances take place on Sunday (“the first day of the week.”); the Lord comes to those who love and follow Him: His disciples; they rejoice, listen to His word, and receive the gift of forgiveness and peace as He says “Peace be with you;” He offers His wounded and scarred body to them in remembrance of His suffering and death; and they finally worship Him as their Lord and their God. These are the same elements that comprise the Mass still today.
This Divine Mercy Sunday, we are shown, also in the midst of our Gospel, the divine commission to the Apostles to forgive sins and retain them too if repentance is lacking. This permission to retain sins is important. This limits the forgiveness of sins (only mortal sins — cf. 1 John 5:16-17) to the priesthood and this notion of “I confess directly with God because He hears me and is merciful” is dispelled. Not because that oft-repeated statement is untrue, but because that is not the way that God has deigned that sins be forgiven, for our own sakes.
This Sunday, as we approach the Table of the Lord, think about how high Mother Church sets the bar, calling us on to sanctity — to Sainthood! But think also, that the bar of the Father’s mercy is equally high to compensate for when we fall short. Let us meditate on the words of the Psalm that we will sing:
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His love (also translated “mercy”) has no end.”
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.