1. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained”(Jn20:19-23). Taken from today’s Mercy Sunday gospel.
2. The resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week instead of the Sabbath day, the last day of the week was no accident. By that very fact Jesus clearly announced a paradigm shift: a new era has dawned, the most holy day of the week is no longer the Sabbath day but Sunday, the day of resurrection, the day the world was redeemed. The apostles were still locked in the fear of the old tradition, locked in a room because of the fear of the Jews. Jesus burst their fear by appearing in their midst when everywhere is locked. In this way he taught them that physical elements can no longer stand against the resurrected body. The risen Christ is metaphysical. With the metaphysical body he announced peace to the frightened disciples, peace that drives away fear, peace that restores confidence.
3. But peace is not enough to carry on the message of the resurrection. There is need for power. Jesus therefore officially empowered and commissioned his followers telling them that just as God the Father sent him, so also was he sending them to bear witness in the world. In this way he assured them that his victory over death would also be their. Yea, as the Father supported his mission so will theirs also be sustained. To further affirm this he breathed on them and gave them power, the dunamis, the Spirit. With the Spirit they became fully empowered to carry out the mission.
4. The very first mission entrusted to them was the mission of God’s mercy. He gave them power to forgive and retain people’s sins. Officiating in the forgiveness of sins has always been among the duties of priests in the Old Testament (see Lev 5:5-14). Christ did not abolish this but transferred it to his apostles, the ministers of the New Testament. By giving this power to the apostles as their first mission Christ highlights the fact of God’s mercy. God is ever eager to forgive, so eager that he entrusts the service of forgiveness to mere mortals, guaranteeing that he will always validate their decisions on this matter. The apostles, today, represented in the Catholic Church by the bishops, and by participation, the priests, became by divine mandate the agents of God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation, in spite of their own struggles with sin.
5. If God is ever willing to be reconciled with sinners, he, by that singular attitude invites all sinners, in this case, all persons on earth, to cultivate the attitude of forgiveness towards fellow humans. This message is the heart of the Mercy Sunday that is celebrated today. He who is willing to receive forgiveness from God must be willing to give the same to others because the measure we give is the measure with which we shall receive. Being people of mercy implies not only forgiving others, it equally demands doing deeds of mercy. Deeds of mercy characterized the first Christian community. Nobody kept for himself his personal property. They put everything in common such that all in need saw their problems solved by the community of love. Seeing their life the nonchristians said that they were like Christ and called them Christians.
6. You are certainly an agent of God’s mercy and reconciliation. You may not have received the apostolic power of absolving sins in the name of Jesus Christ but you too have a mission of showing mercy and forgiving offenses against you. Being merciful is not a weakness. It being like your Father in heaven. It is making yourself fit for God’s mercy. Be an apostle of mercy: forgive, reconcile and give alms in mercy today and always.