I would like to begin by briefly introducing this Sunday to you. Today is a Sunday with many titles:

(i) Today is the Second Sunday of Easter. This name is easy to understand. Last Sunday was Easter Sunday, and this is the Sunday that immediately follows.

(ii) Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. Divine Mercy is one of the newer feasts on the Liturgical Calendar of the Church. It was established on April 30, 2000, when Pope John Paul II canonized St. Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

(iii) Today is Low Sunday. This name does not mean that today is inferior to the rest of the Sundays of the year. It is called Low Sunday in comparison to Easter Sunday. Before Easter Sunday, we had the Holy Week, culminating in the Triduum, but that is not the case with this Sunday.

(iv) Today is Domenica in Albis Depositis. This name is the Sunday of the laying aside of the white garment. It refers to the newly baptized who traditionally are expected to keep wearing the white garment they got on Easter Night until today.

Today’s Gospel passage presents us with two post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples. Jesus appeared to his disciples, not only to tell them that he is alive but also to tell them that they are alive. At the first appearance, the disciples locked themselves up in the room out of fear; then, Jesus came and stood in their midst. It reminds us of when our first parents, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. They were scared; they were ashamed and went to hide from God because they realized they were naked (cf. Genesis 3: 8-12). To cover their nakedness, “they sewed fig leaves together to make themselves loin-clothes” (Genesis 3: 7). But the fig leaves would soon dry up, and so there was the need for something that would last longer. “God made clothes out of skins for the man and his wife, and they put them on” (Genesis 3: 21). To get the skin of an animal required killing the animal. That was the beginning of the killing of animals for religious purposes. The animal is killed to cover the shame of human beings and to appease God. Even though the skin lasted longer than the fig-leaves, it was still not permanent. In the New Testament, we received the permanent solution when the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, was sacrificed on Good Friday. So Jesus came to announce to them that there was no need for fear, and no need for shame because the Lamb of God has been sacrificed to cover their shame and take away their fears forever.

Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit…” In doing this, he was adding a new layer to what happened in the book of Genesis. God took ordinary sand/clay/mud/dirt/dust, molded it, and breathed into it, and it became a human being (cf. Genesis 2:7). Now Jesus breathes into human beings to make them divine. He breathes on them and gives them the power to do what only God could do, that is to forgive sins (cf. Mark 2: 7). He says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” So, the journey has been, from dust – to human – to divine.  

The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus begin with the words: “Peace be with you.” He had earlier told them he was giving them the kind of peace that the world could not provide them (cf. John 14: 27). After speaking of peace, he treats the subject on which peace rests, namely, His death and Resurrection. At each point, he says “peace be with you,” he opens his palms to show the wounds made by the nails. The message behind the gesture is that peace does not come free of charge. It must be bought. The peace he offers is the peace he purchased with his blood. The price he paid can also be called “foolishness,” which is according to earthly standard. St Therese of Lisieux called Jesus a fool and a blind lover. It takes a “Foolish God” (according to the standard of this world) to hang on the cross the way Christ has done. That is the price he has paid for our vertical and horizontal reconciliations. That is the price he has paid for God to be reconciled with humanity and for humanity to have interpersonal and intrapersonal reconciliations.

My dear people of the resurrection, do you want peace to reign in your family? You must be ready to pay for it. The price to pay is “foolishness.” You must be “foolish” enough to apologize, you must be “foolish” enough to forgive. If you find a couple that is living in peace and harmony, go and investigate: it is either one of them is permanently foolish, or the two of them alternate foolishness. In a case where both insist on being “wise” (according to the standard of this world) at the same time, the result will be a lack of peace and harmony.

The one who apologizes is the stronger one (it is easier not to apologize than to swallow your pride and say you are sorry); the one who forgives is the stronger one (it is easier to revenge than to forgive). As the saying goes, “I apologize not necessarily because I was wrong, but because I value our relationship/peace more than my ego.” Forgiveness is a gift Jesus has given us, and he wants us to share with others. Forgiveness is a gift that when we give others, we realize that we had first offered it to ourselves. When we forgive, it is like releasing a prisoner and later realizing that we were the prisoner. As we celebrate the mercy of God on this Divine Mercy Sunday, let us pray that God may forgive us our sins and help us to forgive those who sin against us, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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