My Dear Sisters and Brothers! A few weeks ago I was approached by a bishop looking for a priest to fill in for an absent prison chaplain. When I was checking my diary, I realised that it was going to be Divine Mercy Sunday. As I was staring at my diary I heard a voice inside me saying: “You cannot find a better place to preach God’s unfathomable mercy.” So what could I tell the bishop rather then: “I’d love to take the message of Divine Mercy to those who are behind bars”?
Somehow rather John’s Gospel for this Sunday takes us inside a “prison” as we read that: “the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.” It was “in the evening of that same day, the first day of the week.” It was the evening of the first Easter Sunday; however there is no celebration mood among the disciples. No one is thinking about egg hunt either. Their fear paralyses them. The fear of the disciples in the Upper Room doesn’t differ from our fear. We also fear: of rejection, failure, humiliation, illness, loneliness, death, unemployment, aging, etc. That’s why I would like to invite you, my Dear Fellow Christians, to imagine yourself in that well bolted room. Step into that room full of fear and take your fear with you into that room.
So you are inside now, you are “inmates” with the other fearful disciples. What you have in common is your fear. You may feel urged to talk to others about your fear and certainly you will hear others talking about their fear as well. If there is fear it means there is also stress, impatience, oversensitivity, suspicion, anger and self-focus. Now in the midst of that rather depressing gathering appears the Risen Lord. Why did he come? “Peace be with you” says he. Is he going to counsel us out of fear? “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” We are not ready! We need to sort out ourselves first. “After saying this he breathed on them” like God breathed on the first human and “thus man became a living being.” At the beginning of creation God out of dirt fashioned Adam and into that dirt he breathed his spirit. In the Upper Room the Risen Lord out of fearful people created a community and breathed on them his Spirit to fashion them into the Church. Can you see how the Merciful Lord moves them from their self-focus to other-focus? Where is their fear now? It has given way to their new mission. “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained." The Church truly recognises in these words the origin of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation as we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1485). But it would be an injustice done to today’s Feast of Divine Mercy if we limited those words to the formula of absolution which we hear after confessing our sins to a priest. The Risen Lord, the Merciful One, has given us his Spirit so that we ourselves could forgive from the heart those who have wronged us. What’s a point to tell others how great our Lord is if we choose to harbour resentment? We contradict ourselves.
My Dear Friends! Our Blessed Lord invites us to be a shining witness of having been forgiven. In the name of the forgiveness we have been granted he sends us to forgive others. Last year during the Jubilee of Mercy Pope Francis conceived an idea of Missionaries of Mercy. They were priests who were sent by the Holy Father to forgive even the sins which only the Pope can forgive. As you emerge from this Divine Mercy Sunday I pray so that you can believe that the Lord Jesus has appointed you to be his Missionaries of Mercy too. Jesus gives you authority even greater than that given by the Pope last year to those specially chosen clerics; Jesus gives you authority to forgive those who have wronged you. Exercise that authority generously and faithfully.