Second Sunday of Easter
(Sunday of Divine Mercy)
April 11, 2021 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
Today we celebrate the Sunday of Divine Mercy and proclaim: “His mercy endures forever” (Ps 118:1–4) three times in the responsorial psalm.
Although Saint John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, the evening of the day before Divine Mercy Sunday, he had prepared a message for the Regina Caeli, in which he wrote prophetically: “As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, the Risen Lord offers his love that pardons, reconciles and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!”
Today’s Gospel says: “The doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews” (Jn 20:19). The disciples, paralyzed by fear, were cowering in a room with the doors locked. Fear creates isolation and despair.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus enters their midst and brings peace. Jesus says “Peace be with you” three times. He breathes the Holy Spirit upon the fearful apostles: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He brings forgiveness and mercy: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.” The Gospel also tells us that faith in Jesus brings life: “[Y]ou may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”
The world without God is a place of fear. The dominant secularist mentality has successfully banished God from our daily life. Even believers find it is hard to not think of God as an abstraction, separated from reality.
If we believe but are still paralyzed by fear, we should consider whether our faith is merely abstract. Jesus showed his glorious wounds to the apostles, thereby demonstrating that he was a real person and not an illusion: “He showed them his hands and his side” (Jn 20:20).
There is so much fear in the world! In today’s second reading, Saint John says: “[T]he victory that conquers the world is our faith” (1 Jn 5:4). When we feel oppressed by fears, we need to invite Jesus to come and show himself, as he did for the apostles. Jesus’ living presence conquered all their fears. They passed from incredulity to faith. As today’s first reading shows, they were transformed into bold witnesses of the Lord: “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33).
In today’s Gospel, Thomas experiences a powerful transformation. He does not believe until he touches the glorious wounds of the Savior but then exclaims: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).
In today’s second reading, Saint John says: “This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood” (1 Jn 5:6). To contemplate Jesus’ heart, opened for us, conquers all our fears. Jesus’s mercy conquers the fear of not being loved, which is at the root of all fears. Through the power of Jesus’ mercy, we trust and hope in the future. As we experience God’s love for us, we can declare, in the words of today’s responsorial psalm: “My strength and my courage is the LORD” (Ps 118:14).
Today, in the words of Saint John Paul II from his final Regina Caeli, let us proclaim: “Lord, who reveal the Father’s love by your death and Resurrection, we believe in you and confidently repeat to you today: Jesus, I trust in you, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world.” Amen.