We trace our roots as parish and faith communities to Easter night when Jesus “breathed” his spirit of peace and reconciliation upon his frightened disciples, transforming them into the new Church.The “peace” that Christ gives his new Church is not a passive sense of good feeling or the mere absence of conflict. Christ’s peace is hard work: the peace of the Easter Christ is to honor one another as children of the same Father in heaven; the peace of the Easter Christ seeks to build bridges and find solutions rather than assigning blame or extracting punishment; the peace of Christ is centered in relationships that are just, ethical and moral. The “peace” that the Risen Christ breathes into us at Easter shows us a way out of those tombs in which we bury ourselves; the forgiveness he extends enables us to get beyond the facades we create and the rationalizations we devise to justify them.
Jesus’ entrusting to the disciples the work of forgiveness is what it means to be the church: to accept one another, to affirm one another, to support one another as God has done for us in the Risen Christ. What brought the apostles and first Christians together as a community – unity of heart, missionary witness, prayer, reconciliation and healing – no less powerfully binds us to one another as the Church of today.
All of us, at one time or another, experience the doubt and skepticism of Thomas: While we have heard the good news of Jesus’ empty tomb, all of our fears, problems and sorrows prevent us from realizing it in our own lives. In raising his beloved Son from the dead, God also raises our spirits to the realization of the totality and limitlessness of his love for us.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears to his disciples and shows them his hands and his side; later he invites the doubting Thomas to touch the marks made by the nails and the gash from the soldier’s lance. We all have scars from our own Good Fridays that remain despite our small resurrections. Our “nail marks” remind us that all pain and grief, all ridicule and suffering, all disappointments and anguish, are transformed into healing and peace in the love of God we experience from others and that we extend to them. Compassion, forgiveness, justice — no matter how clumsily offered — can heal and mend.
Your nail marks
A prominent Washington attorney died, a man who had lived a good life: solid, moral and trustworthy, a faithful husband and loving father. He had worked hard; his work ethic and professionalism were beyond reproach. When he died, he went to heaven where St. Peter greeted him at the gates of God’s dwelling place.
When the attorney asked if he could enter, Peter pulled out a sheet of paper. It was the man’s resume of his many accomplishments. Peter nodded approvingly as he scanned the sheet, clearly impressed by what he saw — but then a frown settled on the saint’s face.
“But,” Peter said, “I’m puzzled about one thing. Where are your wounds?”
“What do you mean?” the distinguished guest said. “My wounds?”
“Your wounds,” Peter explained, “back down on earth. Did you see your city and nation, even your world, struggling through countless crises? Couldn’t you recognize the pain in front of you as you moved around your city — people without homes and jobs, without health care, without hope? Couldn’t you see the people around your city and country and world in desperate straits? Could you not be wounded, even a little, for the sake of all the wounds around you?”
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles has an apt description of the ideal Christian community, a community gathered around the risen Lord. There are two characteristics pointed out in this community. Firstly, there was a tremendous unity and secondly, as a result of this unity there was a generous sharing of all that they had, out of concern for others. It is good to remind ourselves today that if we are truly Christians, then our communities should have the same characteristics. Today we are reminded that if we are an Easter people we have to share our lives and in the measure we care, in that measure we grow as a Christian community.
Uplifting One Another
Have you ever watched geese fly in V-formation? While a thing of beauty to watch, the formation is essential to the geese for survival. If you listen, you can hear the beat of their wings whistling through the air in unison. And that is the secret of their strength: the lead goose cuts a swath through the air resistance, which creates a helping uplift for the birds behind it. In turn their flapping makes it easier for the birds behind them, and so on. Each bird takes its turn at being leader. The tired ones fan out to the edges of the V for a breather, and the rested ones surge towards the point of the V to drive the flock onward. If a goose becomes too exhausted or ill and has to drop out of the flock, it is never abandoned. A stronger member of the flock will follow the failing, weak one to its resting place and wait till the bird is well enough to fly again. Together, cooperating as a flock, geese can fly at 71% longer range, with up to 60% less work.
Phillip Yancy, in 'Benedict Arnold Seagull'
In the Gospel, Easter Peace is very much linked with our readiness to forgive and to receive forgiveness from others. We are all called to be witnesses of His Peace and His forgiveness. The Gospel adds a little detail that Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord he refused to believe. He demanded proof that would satisfy him. "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." We have people who are believers and people who are doubters; people who are ready to accept the word of others as gospel truth and people who question even those in authority. Apparently, the apostles let Thomas be part of the group in spite of his doubts and questions. Equally, it must be said, that in spite of not believing their testimonies, Thomas did not walk out on them, but rather, stayed with the community. His perseverance was rewarded with the second appearance of Jesus to him. Jesus on his part is seen to be patient and tolerant of Thomas and takes the initiative to meet him on his terms and conditions. "Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Doubt no longer but believe." The gospel concludes with those reassuring words for many of us, who have our doubts, who have not seen and are struggling to believe. "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
"I remember one occasion when I led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One of the young men in the group was quite mentally limited, although his grasp of God, of Jesus, and the events of the gospel were uncanny. We arrived at the tomb of the basilica, and we joined the long line, waiting our turn to enter. One lady came out of the tomb, and was obviously deeply touched by the experience of her visit to such a sacred spot. She sat down outside the entrance, took out a tissue, and began wiping her tears. My friend, who was back in the line, spotted what was happening, and responded instantly. He ran straight up to her, put his hand on her shoulder and said, "Don't be crying, it's ok. He's alive; don't you know that?" The whole thing was so spontaneous and genuine that the woman stood up, and gave him a warm hug. The simple fact was that he could not understand how anybody could be crying at this tomb, of all the tombs in the world. - Jesus thanked the Father for giving a message that was so simple and straightforward that the intellectual and the worldly-wise would fail to grasp it, and yet it could be fully accepted by someone with the mind of a child. Happy are they who have not seen yet believe."
Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel Truth'
Cure for Sorrow
There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, "What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?" Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, "Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life." The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, "I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me." They told her, "You've certainly come to the wrong place," and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them. The woman said to herself, "Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?" She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. She became so involved in ministering to other people's grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her life.
Brian Cavanaugh in 'The Sower's Seeds'
The conversation at a party turned to religion. Many gave their opinion on a whole series of contemporary issues. One person kept silent. Then one of the guests asked him: "By the way, what are you?" In the context it was clear that he was asked what religion he was affiliated with. He said: "Oh, I happen to be a Christian!" You could tell by the way he said it that either he didn't take his religious convictions seriously, or he didn't want to admit it if he did. How different from those Christians from the Acts! They had no difficulty in describing or defining themselves; they had no identity problems. They would say things like: "We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who listen." They didn't just 'happen to be' Christians. They were Christians by conscious choice and commitment. They had opened their hearts and minds to the presence of the spirit of Jesus. They not only witnessed to Jesus by professing what had happened to him; they witnessed to Jesus by living as he lived.
Joseph G. Donders in 'With hearts on Fire'
Hope for the Flowers
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then, it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could. So the man decided to help, he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly. What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. We could never fly!
Is God Alive?
In a philosophy class being taught by a great Master of Philosophy, the issue being discussed was "The Existence of God-Myth or Reality". The professor was very verbose about the folly of the whole idea of "God". While he was thus going on, one of the boys in the class was eating an orange right under the professor's nose while taking in all that the professor was saying. At the end of the discussion, the professor, with a very gleeful look of great satisfaction, asked his students whether anyone had anything to add to what he had said. Very promptly this student, who had just finished licking the final bit of juice off his fingers, popped up and asked the professor: "Sir, wasn't that orange simply scrumptious!". The professor turned all the colours of the rainbow. He was furious and yelled at the student: "How do I know you imbecile, you ate the orange not me. How can I tell the taste of something I did not eat?!!" The whole class laughed- but the student quite undeterred spoke up and said: "Exactly my point sir, how then can you speak of God whom you have never known or experienced, when I have known Him and experienced Him and I can tell you that He is, beyond a shadow of doubt".
God cannot be separated from our lives
About two centuries ago, some atheistic scientists in France set out to prove that, if an individual was never told about God, he would never think of the existence of God. And so they devised a strange plan. They made an agreement with the parents of a newborn infant to remove the entire family to a remote region where they could enjoy the very best by way of nutrition and recreation. The little boy was educated by the best of tutors, who were however strictly instructed never to make a mention of God. When the little boy was seven, his nurse found him missing one morning. In a state of alarm, she searched for him until she found him on a little hillock, facing the rising sun. He was on his knees, his hands were reverently joined, his head respectfully bowed and his eyes were closed as though he was lost in prayer. "What on earth are you doing?" demanded the anguished nurse. Without batting an eyelid, the little fellow said: "I am only praising the almighty Person who made that beautiful sunrise!" And there ended the sinister plan of those atheistic scientists and their presumptive objective.
James Valladares in 'Your Words O Lord, are Spirit and they are life.
A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death.
"Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for."
"Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman's son.
You may be interested to know that in the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas. It is in John's Gospel that he emerges as a distinct personality, but even then there are only 155 words about him. There is not a lot about this disciple in the Bible but there is more than one description.
When Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. It was a courageous statement, yet we don't remember him for that. We also fail to point out that in this story of Thomas' doubt we have the one place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? Look at his confession, "My Lord, and my God." Not teacher. Not Lord. Not Messiah. But God! It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4, and the sun is in the sky. You are my Lord and my God! These are certainly not the words of a doubter.
Unfortunately history has remembered him for this scene where the resurrected Christ made an appearance to the disciples in a home in Jerusalem...
The British writer Arthur C. Clarke proposed three "laws" of prediction that are known as "Clarke's Three Laws." Here they are:
GIVING BLOOD by Leonard Sweet - a must-have manual for preachers. Get your copy today! http://www.zondervan.com/giving-blood.html
Would You Still Like to be Rescued?
Finally, in a last desperate effort, he contacted a friend in another city who hadn't heard about his death. And that person was able to convince his family and friends that the judge really was alive.
1: Mercy during tragedy: The news is filled with illustrations of mercy—or the need for mercy—in our world. One of the most moving stories came to us on October 6, 2006, when an armed man entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He chased out the little boys and lined up the 10 little girls in front of the blackboard. He shot all of them and then killed himself. Five of the girls died. After the medics and police left, the families of the fallen came and carried their slain children home. They removed their bloody clothes and washed the bodies. They sat for a time and mourned their beloved children. After a while they walked to the home of the man who killed their children. They told his widow they forgave her husband for what he had done, and they consoled her for the loss of her spouse. They buried their anger before they buried their children. Amish Christians teach us that forgiveness is central. They believe in a real sense that God’s forgiveness of themselves depends on their extending forgiveness to other people. That’s what the mercy of God is all about. That mercy is why we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. (Rev. Alfred McBride, O.Praem: Catholic Update – March 2008). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
2: Divine Mercy in action: A TIME magazine issue in 1984 presented a startling cover. It pictured a prison cell where two men sat on metal folding chairs. The young man wore a blue turtleneck sweater, blue jeans and white running shoes. The older man was dressed in a white robe and had a white skullcap on his head. They sat facing one another, up-close and personal. They spoke quietly so as to keep others from hearing the conversation. The young man was Mehmet Ali Agca, the pope’s would-be assassin (he shot and wounded the Pope on May 13, 1981); the other man was Pope St. John Paul II, the intended victim. The Pope held the hand that had held the gun whose bullet had torn into the Pope’s body. This was a living icon of mercy. John Paul’s forgiveness was deeply Christian. His deed with Ali Agca spoke a thousand words. He embraced his enemy and pardoned him. At the end of their 20-minute meeting, Ali Agca raised the Pope’s hand to his forehead as a sign of respect. John Paul shook Ali Agca’s hand tenderly. When the Pope left the cell he said, “What we talked about must remain a secret between us. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.” This is an example of God’s Divine Mercy, the same Divine Mercy whose message St. Faustina witnessed. (http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac0308.asp) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
3: St. Faustina and the Image of the Divine Mercy: St. Faustina of Poland is the well-known apostle of Divine Mercy. On the 30th of April 2000, at 10:00 AM, on the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday, the Feast requested by Jesus in His communications with St. Faustina), His Holiness Pope St. John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist in Saint Peter’s Square and proceeded to the canonization of Blessed Sister Faustina. [John Paul himself would be canonized on this same Feast Day – April 27 in 2014 – by Pope Francis.] At the canonization of St. Faustina, Saint John Paul II said, “Believing in the love of God means believing in His mercy.” Saint Faustina invites us by the witness of her life to keep our Faith and Hope fixed on God the Father, rich in mercy, Who saved us by the precious Blood of His Son. During her short life, the Lord Jesus assigned to St. Faustina three basic tasks: 1. to pray for souls, entrusting them to God’s incomprehensible Mercy; 2. to tell the world about God’s generous Mercy; 3. to start a new movement in the Church focusing on God’s Mercy. At the canonization of St. Faustina, Pope St. John Paul II said: “The cross, even after the Resurrection of the Son of God, speaks, and never ceases to speak, of God the Father, Who is absolutely faithful to His eternal love for man. … Believing in this love means believing in mercy.” “The Lord of Divine Mercy,” a drawing of Jesus based on the vision given to St. Faustina, shows Jesus raising his right hand in a gesture of blessing, with His left hand on his heart from which gush forth two rays, one red and one white. The picture contains the message, “Jesus, I trust in You!” (Jezu ufam Tobie). The rays streaming out have symbolic meaning: red for the Blood of Jesus, which is the life of souls and white for the Baptismal water which justifies souls. The whole image is symbolic of the mercy, forgiveness and love of God. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
4. Traffic cop’s mercy: A priest was forced by a police officer to pull over for speeding. As the officer was about to write the ticket, the priest said to him, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7). The police officer handed the priest the ticket, and said, “Go, and sin no more” \
5. Photographer’s mercy: The story is told of a politician who, after receiving the proofs of a picture, was very angry with the photographer. He stormed back to the man’s studio and screamed at him: “This picture does not do me justice!” The photographer replied, “Sir, with a face like yours, what you need is mercy, not justice!”
6. Mercy of Sisters of Mercy: There is a joke about the payment of a bill at the Sisters of Mercy Hospital. A man was brought to Mercy Hospital for surgery. The operation went well. The sister waiting by his bed said to the man, “You’re going to be just fine,” and asked him, “We want to know how you intend to pay for your stay here. Are you covered by insurance?” He whispered, “No, I’m not.” The sister asked, “Can you pay in cash?” He replied, “I’m afraid I can’t, Sister.” She continued, “Do you have any close relatives, then?” The patient replied, “Just my sister in New Mexico, but she’s a spinster nun.” The sister said, “Nuns are not spinsters, Mr. Smith. They are married to Jesus.” The man said with a smile, “Okay, then send the bill to Jesus, my brother-in-law.”
22 Additional anecdotes:
1: “Law vs Mercy” In Reader’s Digest, Jim Williams of Montana, writes: “I was driving too fast late one night when I saw the flashing lights of a police car in my rearview mirror. As I pulled over and rolled down my window of my station wagon, I tried to dream up an excuse for my haste. But when the patrolman reached the car, he said nothing. Instead, he merely shined his flashlight in my face, then on my seven-month-old in his car seat, then on our three other children, who were asleep, and lastly on the two dogs in the very back of the car. Returning the beam of light to my face, he then uttered the only words of the encounter. “’Son,’ he said, ‘you can’t afford a ticket. Slow down.’” And with that, he returned to his car and drove away.” — Sometimes mercy triumphs over law. So it is for sinners who call out to Jesus.” (Sent by Fr. email@example.com on March 1, 2013) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
2) Divine mercy experience of Rev. Fr. James Alberione. The founder of the religious congregation to which I belong is Rev. Fr. James Alberione. A holy man with a prophetic vision, he harnessed the pastoral potentiality of the modern means of communication at the service of evangelization. The Holy Father, Pope St. John Paul II will beatify him today – April 27, 2003 – in Rome. Fr. Alberione founded five religious congregations, four aggregated Institutes, and the Association of Pauline Cooperators, all of which comprise the “Pauline Family.” In 1923, he was struck down with a serious illness that led him into a kind of crisis about the future of the religious family launched just a few years earlier. He needed some kind of assurance in the midst of uncertainties. He looked for confirmation in the most difficult moment of his life. The Divine Master kindheartedly obliged by appearing to him in a dream, assuring him of His Divine assistance and presence. Here is Fr. Alberione’s personal account of that awesome experience. In a particularly difficult moment, reexamining all his ways of doing things to see if there might perhaps be impediments to the action of grace on his part, it seems that the Divine Master may have wanted to reassure the Institute that had only gotten underway a few years before. In a subsequent dream, he had what seemed to him to be a reply. Jesus, the Master, in fact, said to him: “Fear not. I am with you. From here I will enlighten. Have a contrite heart.” The “from here” came forth from the tabernacle; and with power, such as to make one understand that from Him, the Master, must one receive all enlightenment. Fr. Alberione spoke of this with his spiritual director, noting in what light the figure of the Master has been enveloped. His reply to me was: “Be at peace; dream or otherwise, what was said is holy; make it a practical program of life and of light for yourself and for all members.” From that point on he became more and more oriented to and received all from the tabernacle. (Cf. Abundantes Divitiae, n. 151-155). Indeed, the experience of Blessed James Alberione, a “true missionary of the Church” and a modern apostle for our times, is similar to that of the apostle Thomas, who experienced the compassion of the saving and merciful Lord as predilection. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
3) Iranian mother saves son’s killer from hanging, with a slap of mercy and forgiveness: Tehran: An Iranian mother spared the life of her son’s convicted murderer with an emotional slap in the face as he awaited execution with the noose around his neck, a newspaper reported on Thursday. The dramatic climax followed a rare public campaign to save the life of Balal, who at 19 killed another young man, Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, in a street fight with a knife in 2007. The newspaper Shargh said police officers led Balal to a public execution site in the northern city of Nowshahr as a large crowd gathered on Tuesday morning. Samereh Alinejad, mother of the victim, who had lost another son in a motorbike accident four years ago, asked the onlookers whether they knew “how difficult it is to live in an empty house.”
Balal, black-hooded and standing on a chair before makeshift gallows, had the noose around his neck when Ms Alinejad approached. She slapped him in the face and removed the rope from his neck, assisted by her husband, Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh, a former professional footballer. “I am a believer. I had a dream in which my son told me that he was at peace and in a good place … After that, all my relatives, even my mother, put pressure on me to pardon the killer,” Ms Alinejad told Shargh. “The murderer was crying, asking for forgiveness. I slapped him in the face. That slap helped to calm me down. Now that I’ve forgiven him, I feel relieved.” Balal said the “slap was the space between revenge and forgiveness”. “I’ve asked my friends not to carry knives … I wish someone had slapped me in the face when I wanted to carry one,” he said. A high-profile campaign was launched by public figures – including popular football commentator and TV show host Adel Ferdosipour and former international footballer Ali Daei – appealing for the victim’s family to forgive the killer. See the video commentary below: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=cwh17osBCNI
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/iranian-mother-saves-sons-killer-from-hanging-with-a-slap-20140418-zqw3f.html#ixzz300Il5O32, Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
4) “Well, then, I will have mercy.” The Emperor Napoleon was moved by a mother’s plea for pardon for her soldier son. However, the Emperor said that since it was the man’s second major offense, justice demanded death. “I do not ask for justice,” implored the mother, “I plead for mercy.” “But,” said the Emperor, “he does not deserve mercy.” “Sir,” cried the mother, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for.” The compassion and clarity of the mother’s logic prompted Napoleon to respond, “Well, then, I will have mercy.” — The Second Sunday of the Easter season invites us to reflect on God’s infinite love and mercy for His people, as detailed in the Bible and as lived and taught by Jesus, and to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
5) Divine Mercy and Zacharias Moussaoui. Zacharias Moussaoui was sentenced for a role in the devastating 9/11 tragedy. The Frederick News Post (Apr 14: Good Friday) reported it with the headline: “Suspect wishes pain for victims.” Wow. “‘So you would be happy to see 9/11 again,’ the prosecutor asked. Moussaoui said: ‘Every day until we get you.’ He told jurors that he has ‘no regret, no remorse,’ and was disgusted by the heart-rending testimony of victims and relatives and only wished they have suffered more.” Have you read any more tragic thoughts and wishes? When this Chaplain describes the words and actions as objectively “evil,” he means that, objectively, wanting to murder people, and to plague them with more harm and rub it into their lives is an evil thing. Subjectively, perhaps Zacharias Moussaoui is mentally deranged and not totally culpable for his words and actions. We don’t and can’t know this as a literal matter of fact. The question was raised by both defense and prosecution in his sentencing. Point: Mercy is just for such people – the free offer of God, to even the harshest of offenders, like Zacharias Moussaoui, of forgiveness and reconciliation if he chooses to accept it. We need to pray for Moussaoui that he may ask for and receive God’s pardon and love. This man and his sentiments are just one more reason why Jesus came to Earth-to save souls, even the most overtly plagued ones. (Fr. John J. Lombardi) http://www.emmitsburg.net/grotto/father_jack/2006/mercy_sunday.htm (Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.)
6) Mayor’s mercy: One night in 1935, Fiorello H. La Guardia, Mayor of New York City, showed up at Night Court in the poorest ward of the city. He dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench. One case involved an elderly woman who was caught stealing bread to feed her grandchildren. La Guardia said, “I’ve got to punish you. Ten dollars or ten days in jail.” As he spoke, he threw $10 into his hat. He then fined everyone in the courtroom 50 cents for living in a city “where an old woman had to steal bread so that her grandchildren should not starve.” The hat was passed around, and the woman left the courtroom with her fine paid and an additional $47.50. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
7) Mary Duray, Connecticut: Mary and her husband suffered the tragic loss of their son, and it was her understanding of Divine Mercy that helped her and her family forgive those that took his life during a robbery. Mary tells us how her attendance at a Mother of Mercy Messengers (MOMM) Divine Mercy Program helped her overcome great obstacles and allowed her to forgive and even to pray for them. Knowing that as long as there is life, there is hope, the family did not seek the death penalty for his murderers. How differently does the person filled with God’s mercy see and react to the world! (http://mercyimages.com/video_MaryDuray.php ) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
8) “What I don’t know is where I am going.” The story is told about Albert Einstein, the brilliant physicist of Princeton University in the early 20th century. Einstein was traveling from Princeton on a train, and when the conductor came down the aisle to punch the passengers’ tickets, Einstein couldn’t find his. He looked in his vest pocket, he looked in his pants pocket, he looked in his briefcase, but there was no ticket. The conductor was gracious; “Not to worry, Dr. Einstein, I know who you are, we all know who you are, and I’m sure you bought a ticket.” As the conductor moved down the aisle, he looked back and noticed Einstein on his hands and knees, searching under the seat for his ticket. The conductor returned to Einstein; “Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. You don’t need a ticket, I’m sure you bought one.” Einstein arose and said, “Young man, I, too, know who I am; what I don’t know is where I am going.” And that is the Good News of Easter; that we know where we are going. We have been told by the Savior that His life and death has promised us life eternal. (Steven Molin, Elated….Deflated. Quoted by Fr. Kyala)
9) Ask for Mercy: In order to receive mercy we must ask for it and be ready to accept it. If we do not accept it sincerely we will not change our attitude towards our past life. We read in history that in 1829 George Wilson was condemned to death for robbing the mail and killing the policeman who was on the way to arrest him. President Andrew Jackson granted him a pardon but George Wilson refused to accept it. The judge said ‘Pardon is a pardon only when one accepts it. George must die’. Mercy is mercy when we accept it. We read in the life of Voltaire that he wanted to live six weeks to repent for his sins. The doctor told him he would not live six days. He died unrepentant. Having mercy at his door he refused to accept it. (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families; quoted by Fr. Botelho).Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
10) “The miracle over Hudson River:” A banker on a business trip in New York City, Fred Berretta had just checked into his hotel room. He had about 20 minutes downtime before he had to meet his colleagues. For some reason he decided to clean out his briefcase, something he hadn’t done in a long time. As he emptied it out, he came across a booklet he had stuffed into a pocket years ago on praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. He recalls having prayed it a few times years ago. Only two weeks prior, Fred had made a New Year’s resolution to try to get into better spiritual shape. Here in this hotel room was an opportunity to fulfill it. So, he followed along in the booklet and prayed the chaplet, a prayer our Lord gave to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s, during a series of revelations that has sparked the modern Divine Mercy movement. He would be among the 155 people to board a jet airliner at LaGuardia Airport bound for Charlotte, N.C., his hometown. It was January 15, 2009. Ninety seconds after takeoff, the jet would apparently hit a flock of geese, the engines would explode, and the plane would lose power at 3,200 feet. The aircraft would be out of reach from any airfield. It would lose thrust and altitude. Everything would become eerily quiet. Fred would cinch his seatbelt. His left hand would clutch the armrest, his heart would race, his face would be flushed. “Prepare for impact,” the pilot would say over the PA system. As the ground surged into view, Fred would look at his watch. It would be 3:30, the Hour of Great Mercy! “I prayed with every fiber of emotion and sincerity I could muster, ‘God, please be merciful to us,’” Fred would recall two weeks later. You’ve probably heard about the crash landing of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on Jan. 15. No one was seriously injured. Then, there were the news images of a US Airways Airbus floating gently down the frigid Hudson, like some sort of breaching, people-friendly, aquatic creature. The passengers stood on its wings, calmly awaiting rescue. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
11) We might never have learned Fred Berretta’s story if it weren’t for Vinny Flynn. Following the crash, Fred felt compelled to send an email of thanks to Vinny, the former executive editor at the Marian Helpers Center, in Stockbridge, Mass. Fred had never heard of Vinny until about two hours before he boarded Flight 1549. Following morning meetings on Jan. 15, Fred had found himself in the unusual position of having some free time on a business trip. It was noon. He stepped inside Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He stayed for the 12 p.m. Mass. Afterwards, he went into St. Patrick’s gift shop. A book caught his eye — Vinny’s 7 Secrets of the Eucharist (Mercy Song Ignatius, 2006), which, with citations from St. Faustina’s Diary, gives a greater understanding of the mystery of the Eucharist. Fred also purchased a St. Michael’s scapular. In an interview with thedivinemercy.org this week, Fred explained what happened next: “I got into a cab and went to the airport,” he said. “My flight was delayed about 15 minutes, so I sat there and started reading Vinny’s book. I was really taken by it. I boarded the plane and continued to read. Just as we were rolling out for takeoff, I put the book away and closed my eyes and began to reflect on what I had been reading. “Some of us looked at each other,” he said. “There was nothing to be said. I knew that the only thing I could do was pray.” Which is exactly what Fred did when he suddenly realized it was the Hour of Great Mercy and he would probably be dead in a matter of seconds. He trusted, truly, for the first time. All these fragments of thought seemed to piece themselves into place. The plane was going down, yet everything was making sense. He admits he was in shock. But he also felt at peace, a deep peace. God had allowed him to find the Divine Mercy booklet in his briefcase. God had steered him to Vinny’s book. God did all this, he thought, to prepare him for death. He hunched over in his seat to brace for impact. He prayed for God’s mercy. Then he prayed two Hail Marys and one Our Father. He made it halfway though a prayer to St. Michael, the archangel, when the plane hit the water, came to a stop, and bobbed up and down like a toy in a kiddy pool. (http://thedivinemercy.org/news/story.php?NID=3493). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
12) “Sir, that is what I am afraid of.” There is a story about a soldier brought before General Robert E. Lee. Accused of misconduct, the soldier was trembling. The general said to him, “Do not be afraid, son. Here you will receive justice.” The soldier looked at the general and said, “Sir, that is what I am afraid of.” Like that soldier, Peter would have reason to tremble. Peter had boasted about his bravery, how he would always stand by Jesus. Yet when Jesus needed him most, he nodded off. Perhaps one could forgive him for falling asleep, but later – when he was wide-awake – he denied Jesus, three times, with forms of, “I do not know the man.” Some rock! In strict justice, Peter should have been punished – at the very least, removed as head of the Church. In Christ’s passion, however, a deeper justice is at work. That is what we will discover this Divine Mercy Sunday. God’s justice has a name – it is called the Divine Mercy. I invite you to return on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. These are the great days of grace – of Divine Mercy. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
13) Macbeth never had peace in his life: One of the famous tragedies of William Shakespeare is Macbeth. When Macbeth was returning after a victory, he was met by three witches. The first witch greeted him, “Thane of Glamis”. The second witch greeted him, “Thane of Cawdor”, and the third witch greeted him, “King hereafter”. As they disappeared messengers reached with the good news that he was appointed as the Thane of Glamis and Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth went home and shared this strange experience with his wife. She enkindled his hopes, and persuaded him to murder Duncan, the king, who came to his house as his guest. As Macbeth thrust the dagger into the heart of Duncan he heard a voice, “Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep…” (II, 2:35-36). Thereafter Macbeth never had peace in his life. His life became miserable. In his frantic attempt to get peace he committed murder again and again. When Macbeth sinned against the king he lost his peace. Jesus was aware that sins destroy the peace of man. So Jesus both wished the Apostles “Peace” and granted them the power to destroy sin and so make that Peace available to all of us. . To destroy a powerful enemy we need a powerful weapon. Jesus put this weapon in the hands of the Church by communicating to the Apostles the power to forgive sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus said to the apostles: “Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. Those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” (Fr. Bobby Jose). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
14) Uplifting One Another: Have you ever watched geese fly in V-formation? While a thing of beauty to watch, the formation is essential to the geese for survival. If you listen, you can hear the beat of their wings whistling through the air in unison. And that is the secret of their strength: the lead goose cuts a swath through the air resistance, which creates a helping uplift for the birds behind it. In turn their flapping makes it easier for the birds behind them, and so on. Each bird takes its turn at being leader. The tired ones fan out to the edges of the V for a breather, and the rested ones surge towards the point of the V to drive the flock onward. If a goose becomes too exhausted or ill and has to drop out of the flock, it is never abandoned. A stronger member of the flock will follow the failing, weak one to its resting place and wait till the bird is well enough to fly again. Together, cooperating as a flock, geese can fly at 71% longer range, with up to 60% less work. (Phillip Yancy in Benedict Arnold Seagull; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
15) Cure for Sorrow: There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, “What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?” Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, “Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.” The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, “I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me.” They told her, “You’ve certainly come to the wrong place,” and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them. The woman said to herself, “Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?” She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. She became so involved in ministering to other people’s grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her life. (Brian Cavanaugh in The Sower’s Seeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
16) Hope for the Flowers: A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then, it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could. So the man decided to help, he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly. What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. — Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been. We could never fly! So God in His mercy, challenges us, giving obstacles in life. (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
17) “Don’t be crying! It’s Ok! He is alive!” I remember one occasion when I led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One of the young men in the group was mentally quite limited, although his grasp of God, of Jesus, and the events of the Gospel were uncanny. We arrived at the tomb of the basilica, and we joined the long line, waiting our turn to enter. One lady came out of the tomb, and was obviously deeply touched by the experience of her visit to such a sacred spot. She sat down outside the entrance, took out a tissue, and began wiping her tears. My friend, who was back in the line, spotted what was happening, and responded instantly. He ran straight up to her, put his hand on her shoulder and said, “Don’t be crying, it’s OK! He’s alive; don’t you know that?” The whole thing was so spontaneous and genuine that the woman stood up, and gave him a warm hug. The simple fact was that he could not understand how anybody could be crying at this tomb, of all the tombs in the world. — Jesus thanked the Father for giving a message that was so simple and straightforward that the intellectual and the worldly-wise would fail to grasp it, and yet it could be fully accepted by someone with the mind of a child. Happy are they who have not seen, yet believe. (Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
18) President’s mercy: Years after the death of President Calvin Coolidge, this story came to light. In the early days of his presidency, Coolidge awoke one morning in his hotel room to find a cat burglar going through his pockets. Coolidge spoke up, asking the burglar not to take his watch chain because it contained an engraved charm he wanted to keep. Coolidge then engaged the thief in quiet conversation and discovered he was a college student who had no money to pay his hotel bill or buy a ticket back to campus. Coolidge counted $32 out of his wallet — which he had also persuaded the dazed young man to give back! — declared it to be a loan, and advised the young man to leave the way he had come so as to avoid the Secret Service! (Yes, the loan was paid back.) [Today in the Word (October 8, 1992); quoted by Fr. Kayala.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
19) The story of Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson: One of the stories of the “Forgiveness Project” that caught my attention was the story of Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson. Oshea had shot and killed Mary’s son – a boy Oshea didn’t even know. There was no way Oshea could pay Mary back for what he had taken from her. And Mary owed him nothing. It’s not an easy story. As Mary said, “I hated everyone for a while.” But over time Mary came to forgive Oshea. She visited him in prison. She helped him when he was released. In the process they both changed. Mary gave Oshea the one gift he needed to begin his healing: total forgiveness. Mercy doesn’t undercut justice but surprises it! It is the linchpin that supports forgiveness and compassion. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope. We might think of mercy as the grace for conversion. (Stories Seldom Heard; quoted by Sr. Patricia). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
20) Everything was held in common (First reading): The earliest Christians, says the Acts of the Apostles, were “of one heart and one mind.” They shared their possessions with each other, so that none would be in need. Some even sold their belongings and set up a fund to provide for all. This great spirit of Easter charity did not last very long, but in later years those who founded religious orders revived common ownership as a part of their religious rules. Thus, when St. Benedict wrote a rule for his monks in the sixth century, he ordered, “Let all things be common to all.” Human beings are naturally possessive. Not all of Abbot Benedict’s monks lived up to the ideal of personal poverty. Once a monk of his monastery gave a spiritual talk at a nearby convent of nuns. To express their thanks, the nuns gave him a few handkerchiefs. Although the rule said that no monk should use anything he had not received through the Abbot, this monk decided he would keep the little gift as his own without mentioning it to his superior. He simply tucked the handkerchiefs in his habit. He did not get away with it. When he returned to the monastery, Benedict scolded him: “How is it that evil has found its way into your heart?” The monk was puzzled, for he had already forgotten the handkerchiefs. But the misdeed had been revealed to Benedict. “Was I not present, he said, when you accepted those handkerchiefs?” The wayward monk at once knelt before the saint, begged his forgiveness, and handed over the compromising gift. — Holy Communion as practiced in the earliest Church and in the religious orders was not something commanded by God; it was something embraced by loving choice. Is there indeed a better way of showing love for neighbor? Or of showing total trust that God our Father will provide? “…The community of believers were of one — Today’s first reading. Father Robert F. McNamara. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
21) St. Thomas’ way of experiencing God: Fr. Mark Link, SJ in his homily book, Illustrated Sunday Homilies Year B, offers a scenario: “You are called up to the lectern and blindfolded and a bucket full of water is placed in front of you; then, you are asked if the bucket is empty or full.” Then he asks a question: “What are the ways you can learn the answer such inquiry without removing the blindfold?” Fr. Link said that there are three ways we can learn to answer such question: One way is to reach into the bucket and feel if there is water in it. In other words, you can experience firsthand if the bucket is full or empty. This way of learning is called experiencing; it is knowledge that our senses give us. The second way of learning if the bucket has water or has none is to drop an object like a coin, into it. If the object hits the bottom of the bucket with a loud or ringing sound, you know the bucket is empty. On the other hand, if the object hits with a slurp or a splash, you know the bucket contains water. This way of acquiring knowledge is called reasoning. A third way to learn if the bucket contains water is to ask someone you trust. The person could look into the bucket and tell you if it has water in it. This way of learning is called believing. It’s knowledge that we acquire by Faith. But of the three ways of acquiring knowledge, that is, by experiencing, reasoning and believing, by which way do we obtain most of our knowledge? Is it by experiencing, by reasoning or by believing? If we said believing, then you and I are correct, according to some experts, who estimate that we acquire as much as 80 percent of our knowledge in this way. For example, Fr. Link continued, few of us have travelled around the world. The only way we know about most countries is by what others tells us. We are told in today’s words; we trust the people who have been there. If they tell us there is a country called China and that its people do this or do that, we believe them. — Today’s Gospel describes how St. Thomas the apostle chose the way of experiencing the Risen Lord by touching him. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.
22) Was the early Church a “Potemkin village?” During the reign of Empress Catherine II, Gregory Aleksandrovich Potemkin was the Commander-in-Chief and Governor General of “New Russia“ (the southern Ukraine). After he had successfully defended Russia’s southern borders against the Turks and colonized the Ukrainian steppes, Potemkin conducted the Empress on a grand victory tour. His policy of disguising all the weak points in his administration and camouflaging his failures gave rise to the apocryphal tale that he had erected artificial villages to be seen by the empress in passing. Hence the term “Potemkin village” came to denote any pretentious façade designed to cover up a shabby or undesirable condition. — But Luke’s portrait of the early Church’s harmony, agape love and sharing was a reality, the effect of the believers’ trusting in the Divine Mercy of the Risen Lord on their behavior. The early Church’s mutual sharing and care for the needy also reflectedc the Deuteronomist who promised, “When the Lord God blesses you in your land, there will be no needy person among you” (Dt 15:4). (Adapted from Sanchez Files). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.(L-21)