Divine Mercy Sunday
Fr. Joseph Levine; April 11, 2021
Readings: Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 118:2-4,13-15,22-24; 1 Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20:19-31
The victory that conquers the world is our faith.
It is not just any old ‘faith’ that conquers the world, but our Catholic faith that believes that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified and risen from the dead, and seated at the right hand of the Father, who will come again to judge the living and the dead. This faith opens us to the life of grace we received in baptism, the life of those who are truly children of God, because they have been begotten by God, love him, and keep his commandments.
This faith conquers the world of sin, the world of human society that, refusing to listen to and believe in Jesus Christ, orders human life about a lie, even if it is presented as a ‘noble lie’, and so inevitably, despite the best intentions, falls into corruption and sin. The life of the world effectively denies Jesus Christ and together with him the supernatural reality of grace and eternal life.
Faith conquers the world not because it takes control politically of nations, but because it refuses to accept or live by the world’s lies. Faith conquers the world by remaining true to Jesus Christ, even to the point of a man giving up his own life in this world rather than deny Christ in word or deed.
Faith leads us to another world, another kingdom, the kingdom of God, a kingdom, which though it is visibly present in this world through the Catholic Church, transcends this world and attains its perfection in the world to come, in the new and eternal Jerusalem. Faith conquers the world because the world has no power over the new and eternal Jerusalem.
Those who belong to the kingdom of God, not just through bodily membership in the Church, but through the life of grace in the Holy Spirit, are of one mind and one heart. They are of one mind because of their common faith in Jesus Christ that shapes their thinking, their acting and their desiring; they are of one heart in their hope in eternal life and their seeking above all things to do the will of God.
This world loves the propaganda of unity. One of the greatest sins, in the eyes of the world, is the sin of being ‘divisive’. Nevertheless, except for a few politically correct and meaningless slogans, the world is never very clear about what we are supposed to be uniting around; really these undefined calls for unity are nothing more than manipulative propaganda asking that we submit ourselves with blind trust to the supposed ‘authorities’ and ‘experts’, or rather to those who are really pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Clearly none of this, even when it appears in the Church, as it too often does, has anything to do with being of one in mind and heart in the Tradition that comes to us from the Apostles of Jesus Christ.
Nevertheless, in this present time the life of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church has been wounded, as I have mentioned before, by the heresy of modernism.
If tomorrow I suddenly found myself transferred to St. Felicity Catholic Church in Fogville, USA I would have no idea what to expect. I would not know if any of the parish staff actually believed what the Catholic Church has always held and taught. I might very well find a parish “Mission Statement” that would leave me scratching my head wondering what it had to do with the Catholic faith. I would not know what grave liturgical abuses, what painful sacrileges, I might encounter.
Modernism, where it has had its way, has repurposed the visible institutions of the Church to serve the agenda of this world, while leaving some of the trappings and language of faith, emptied of their content. It is even possible to find the rainbow replacing the Cross, all in the name not of Jesus Christ, but of ‘inclusion and diversity’.
Today is ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’ but modernism also empties the mercy of God of its content. What need for God’s mercy when there is no sin? What need for God’s mercy, when there is no eternal life? Mercy is reduced to being nothing more than human healing and reconciliation – a worldly peace that Christ did not come to bring. (cf. Mt 10:34)
These days, instead of man standing in need of God’s mercy, the modernist God it seems stands in need of our mercy. Now, we want him to stand at the door and beg for readmittance on our terms. No more law and commandments. No more doing his will. Rather, he must agree to do our will. He must rid the world of poverty, suffering, war, and disease; then we will believe in him. The world of today and the modernist Christian who belongs to the world, echoes the taunt of the high priests who put Jesus on the Cross: Let the Christ … come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe. (Mk 15:32)
So, to all of you who doubt: what would you do if Jesus himself, risen from the dead, were to come and stand before you, show you the nail marks in his hands and the wound in his side and say: Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side and do not be unbelieving, but believe?
That is the very solid reality of Jesus’ resurrection. That is the very solid reality of the one who has conquered the world because he has conquered sin and death. That is the solid reality that underlies our faith. That is the solid reality that is hidden in the Holy Eucharist. Instead of the nail marks and the wound in the side, Jesus’ death is displayed by the separate consecration of his Body and Blood. Nevertheless, it is no corpse that we are given in communion, but the living and life-giving Body of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, present in the Holy Eucharist is the solid reality of the world to come, continually breaking in upon this vanishing and dying world.
Do you want to see? Isn’t the vision of Thomas enough for you? Aren’t the words of Jesus, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe, enough for you?
The mercy of God is given to us not that we might remain in sin and death, but that we might be delivered from the power of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of the Son of God. (cf. Col 1:13) The mercy of God assures us that even though we may have fallen out of that Kingdom through our own fault, the door of return, the door of the confessional, always remains open for us. The mercy of God would even heal and forgive the unbelief of modernism, were one only to repent, believe, and confess, My Lord and my God.
As for those who live in the grace of God, but are fearful because of their past sins, or their venial sins, or their repeated falls, or the weakness of their flesh, the mercy of God teaches us to say, Jesus, I trust in you.