16 Apr — Divine Mercy Sunday
The Congregation for Divine Worship decreed in 2003 that “throughout the world, the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difference and trials that humankind will experience in the years to come”. Devotion to the Divine Mercy was promoted by St. Faustina Kowalski, canonized 30 Apr 2000 by Pope John Paul II.
1 Pet 1:3-9
My Lord and my God!
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. The readings for today speak of new things, of new beginnings, of how Jesus’ resurrection gives new hope and strength. And then the Gospel spoke about Thomas, who had his eyes opened to seeing Christ, whom he then acknowledged. To me, this change in Thomas tells of God’s Mercy. Thomas doubted, and possibly feared. But then Jesus came to him, and by this, Thomas recognised his true Lord and God. Thomas is so relatable because of his doubts — let’s face it, a lot of us doubt and fear, but Thomas’ revelation should give us hope that we too can change.
2023 is a year of change. It is the most normal year we have had since the 3 years of living under a pandemic. As we readjust and attempt to claw back normalcy for our lives, we also have to grapple with changes around us, in the larger world, that will inevitably affect us, perhaps negatively too. And so, we worry. In the midst of these adjustments and concerns, do we still have time and energy to nurture our faith? Are we still keeping up with spiritual nourishment? How was Lent for us, and how was Holy Week? I must admit, both kinda flew by me very quickly as I was busy calibrating back to ‘normal’. However, the silver lining is catching myself backsliding. And I do believe that it is through our struggles, our slipping away, our weaknesses, that we can find the opening to stop and turn back.
The moment Thomas saw Jesus and recognised him was a moment of metanoia. The moment of change. The moment by which the Before and After are so starkly different. Most of us would have had such a moment. Maybe even several such moments, where we awake and realise where we are, and also realise just how boundless God’s mercy for us is. And this is the message of the Divine Mercy. That God’s mercy is greater than our sin.
Thinking about metanoia reminds me of CS Lewis’ book The Silver Chair, one of the Narnia Chronicles. Prince Rilian was abducted and placed under an enchantment and for many years was held captive by a witch with no one able to save him, even though many have tried. Enter 2 children and a marshwiggle — Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum — who had to journey through treacherous terrain, fight off evil, and risk their necks in order to free Prince Rilian. So too are we caught in our worldly ways, trapped by our worries and fears. We seem unable to break free and unable to turn back to God. And the more we drag this out, the harder it becomes to get out of these snares.
So how was Prince Rilian saved? Jill, Eustace and Puddleglum tried, and they flubbed it several times before they got to the prince. Even then, they had to work blindly without knowing for sure how to break the enchantment. Eventually, a very clear sign came through when the prince, in a moment of lucidity, called upon the name of Aslan (who we all know is meant to be a Christ-like figure). Still doubting, the rescue team nonetheless trusted their hearts and freed the prince from his bounds. There are usually people around us who care enough to try and rescue us from the unending merry-go-round we have gotten ourselves stuck on — family, friends, priests will prompt us, pray for us, drag us to church, nudge us to listen to God’s voice. Eventually, someone, sent by God, will get through to us.
It is worth noting that after he had been loosened from his chains, Prince Rilian took up a sword and smashed the silver chair to which he had been bound — his prison. Even as other people help to free us from our bonds, we are the only ones who can truly make the change in our own selves. We are the only ones who can choose to turn back, to recognise God, and to say “my Lord and my God”. As the other apostles spoke about the resurrected Jesus, Thomas did not believe them, until he saw Jesus with his own eyes. Others can help us to get to this point, but the choice remains with us to shake off the things that snare us, and to humbly receive God’s infinite mercy (and yes it can be exasperating if you are the one trying to convince a stubborn person to turn back, but remember, it is not us but God who can change hearts).
Effecting such a change in ourselves is no easy feat, however, and it gets harder because we are weak, and used to our old, easy, worldly ways and can easily be snared again. The book addresses this too, and suggests that one way to keep your bearings is to always keep the one true God in mind. And this reminds me of insects flying in circles around artificial light. It is a theory that insects navigate by the light of the moon by keeping its light at a constant angle to them. However, the presence of artificial lighting tricks them, and they end up flying in circles around a street lamp instead. This is such an apt representation of how we get distracted by false gods and end up trapped in circles. We need to look further, and to see the true God.
Jesus has conquered Death, and His resurrection has given us new hope and strength. On our part, we need to get rid of the fetters that have been loosened, and walk away from whatever was holding us back. Granted it is not easy, and there is an apprehension about whether or not our sins can be forgiven. We always feel this way, no matter how many times we have been told. So here it is again, a reminder to myself as well: God’s mercy is greater than our sins. Our God is a God of mercy and love, and we need to seek and know the face of God so we can also say, “My Lord and my God.”
(Today’s OXYGEN by Felicia Zou)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that our eyes will be opened so we can see You. We pray for the humility to reach out for the mercy and grace You are showing us. We pray that we will always understand and find solace in how Your mercy is always greater than our sins.
Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, we thank You for the mercy that You have shown us. We thank you for never giving up on us.
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