Homily for April 12

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Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

So, Jesus is risen from the dead only a matter of hours
(not even a whole day)
and here he is appearing to his unfaithful friends,
the very ones who deserted him when he needed them the most.
And his first words to this motley crew are
words of forgiveness, words of peace, words of mercy.
No judgment.  No condemnation.

Huddled in fear in this locked room are these friends of Jesus
who, after the Last Supper,
could not stay awake one hour to pray with him,
and who ran away when the Roman guards came to arrest him;
friends who spoke not a word in his defense at his trial
- except for Peter who three times denied he even knew Jesus.
Here are the closest disciples of Christ
who were nowhere to be found
when Jesus needed help carrying his cross.
They were counted among the absent at the foot of the cross.
They were afraid to go with the women to the tomb on Easter morning.
And to such as these
Jesus offers words of forgiveness, peace and mercy.
Not a word of judgment. 
Not a word of condemnation.

We speak of the “mystery” of God’s mercy
but I’m not sure there’s much mystery to God’s mercy at all!
God is God!  God is love!
God is the fullness of all things bright and beautiful;
all things just and true;  all things sweet and pure.
That the risen Jesus would find it in his divine heart of hearts
to forgive this unfaithful bunch doesn’t surprise me at all.
What does mystify me, however, is how
Jesus invites,  Jesus asks, Jesus even commands us
to forgive one another as fully and freely
as he forgave the unfaithful apostles,
and as fully and freely as he forgives each of us.

Sometimes we might think and act as if God’s forgiveness
is kept in a big “mercy bank” in heaven
and that when you or I tell God, “I’m sorry for such and such...”
God goes to the mercy bank,
withdraws a sufficient amount of forgiveness
and deposits it in our salvation savings account.


God is mercy!
God is a river, an infinite ocean of mercy.
The heart of Jesus is an eternal fountain of forgiveness
that never stops pumping, flowing, gushing forth with mercy,
mercy that has no end.
The font of Jesus’ mercy is never turned OFF
by the vagaries of our repentance - or lack of it.

Nor do our sins (small, medium, large or extra large!)
nor do our sins act like a faucet regulating the flow of God’s mercy.
The image we really want here is Niagara Falls
or at least a fire hydrant,
opened, gushing and flooding a city street on a hot summer’s day!
Not even the greatest of our sins is powerful enough to build a dam
that might hold back the waves of divine mercy
pounding on the shores of our souls.
God’s mercy precedes our sins.
God knows that we will sin
and is ready to forgive our sins
long before we even think of sinning.

Parents do this all the time.
Why not God?
A mother and father look on their newborn infant in all its innocence
and even though they know their child will make mistakes,
even some big ones,
even though they know their child may one day hurt them deeply,
they build no wall of protection between themselves and their baby.
Their love, like God’s love, stands ready ahead of time,
ready to forgive whatever hurt their child might bring them,
even before the hurt comes.

So is God with us!

That sin I find so hard to acknowledge?
to bring to speech? to confess?
God’s mercy was there to wash away, to forgive, to erase that sin        
long before I did what I did, 
long before I failed to do what I should have done.

God only waits for me to claim the mercy already prepared for me     
and offered to me in prayer and in the sacrament of reconciliation,
that I might be set free of what burdens and haunts my heart.
God has mercy to spare:
eternal springs and rivers and oceans of mercy to spare.

Many of us spend a good part of our lives struggling to believe
that God’s mercy and love are truly meant for us.
And many of us spend a good part of our lives struggling to forgive
someone who has hurt us deeply.
Sometimes the only way we can forgive those who have hurt us
is to entrust them to the mercy of God,
God who has so generously forgiven us
who find it so difficult to forgive one another.

This weekend, Pope Francis is announcing a Year of Mercy
which will begin in December 2015.
The mercy of God is a frequent topic in the pope’s writings and talks
and in fact it’s his focus on mercy, I believe,
which has drawn so many to respect and love him.

In writing of the Year of Mercy this weekend Francis said:
The Lord asks us above all not to judge and not to condemn.
If anyone wishes to avoid God’s judgment,
he should not make himself the judge of his brother or sister.
Human beings, whenever they judge,
look no farther than the surface,
whereas God looks into the very depths of the soul.
(No. 14, Misericordiae Vultus)

We’ll need to see what the Year of Mercy will bring
for the Church and the world.
For now, we go to the Lord’s table to celebrate his supper,
the very meal he shared on the night before he died with those who,
only hours later, would betray, deny and abandon him.
But he broke bread with them,  he shared his cup with them,
he gave them at that table, that night, the gift of his life,
precisely because his mercy was there for them
before they failed him
and he knew that one day, through his grace,
they would claim that mercy, gushing forth from his heart.
And the same Lord waits at this table, this morning,
for US to come and to claim our share of the that mercy divine
which the heart of the risen Jesus has in abundance 
for each of us, and for all of us.


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1 comment:

  1. An excellent homily. Wish you hadn't had competition from the peanut gallery. I was trying to be merciful, but was gnashing my teeth!



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