Homily, Eastertide Sunday 2B
The Apostles had failed. On Good Friday, all of them, besides John, had run away and abandoned Jesus. Judas had betrayed him. Three times, Peter had denied any knowledge of him. In the hour of His greatest need, these chosen men who had left everything to follow him, they finally abandoned their Lord and Savior to public execution by the Romans on the wood of the Cross. Maybe one of the reasons why the Apostles didn’t want to believe that Jesus had really risen from the dead, was because they were afraid of what he would say or do to them after what they had done, or failed to do, for him on Good Friday. Desertion is a serious crime.
Now imagine if you were Jesus, and these Twelve whom you had chosen and invested in for three years had all turned tail and fled when you needed them most. What would be your first words to them, the next time you see them? But what are the first words of Jesus to His Apostles that we hear in today’s Gospel? Instead of scolding them or asking them where they were while He was being handed over to death, His first words to them are, “Peace be with you.” And when He had shown them His hands and His side to let them know that it was really Him, Jesus even says to them a second time, “Peace be with you.” He not only tries to comfort them after they had so miserably failed to support Him, Jesus even goes on to entrust to them His own sacred mission. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And He breathed upon them the Holy Spirit, the very life of God.
This is the Divine Mercy that we celebrate today, the infinite mercy of God. Jesus never gives up on us. Even when we have abandoned Him, and denied Him so many times in so many ways through our words and actions, through our sins, His invitation always remains. His peace is always ready to console us and even to entrust to us His own mission in the world today. Now the incomplete, counterfeit version of mercy and love that the world tends to talk about today is merely tolerance, or even indifference. But God doesn’t just put up with us or look the other way. No. The truly amazing thing about a God who really loves us is that Jesus wants to see us actually turn away from our sins and start to do the same things that He Himself did. And God breathes upon us His own Holy Spirit, not just to cover us over with the snow of His righteous, but to really transform our minds and hearts, to redirect our desires and give us that strength to carry out the mission of Christ in our daily lives.
And what is the mission of Christ? Nothing less than to reconcile the world to God. The Holy Spirit gives each of us the strength to challenge ourselves and to look for opportunities with those we interact with on a daily basis, to challenge everyone we meet to take more seriously our relationship with God. Even if it’s not popular today to talk about or to be serious about religion, the Holy Spirit helps us to share with others our relationship with Jesus Christ, to invite others back to Mass and to Confession, to invite non-Catholics to become Catholic, to join the one Church that Jesus Himself founded.
I guarantee that it was not culturally acceptable for Peter and the Apostles after Pentecost to tell the crowds, “You crucified the Son of God. Now be baptized, every one of you, into His Name, because there is no salvation, there is no true life for any of us except through the Name and in relationship with Jesus Christ.” What Peter and the Apostles told the Jewish crowds was not culturally acceptable, but this was not a concern for them, and it should not be a concern for any disciple of Jesus. If we are truly grateful for the Divine Mercy that we have received from almighty God, why are we so hesitant to share that with others, to invite others to experience that same mercy, the only life that’s worth living, in relationship with God? And when we know that our sins cannot satisfy us, why do we hesitate to leave them behind, once and for all, to finally allow the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and minds, to set us free from the mere tolerance or indifference that world offers?
Receive the Holy Spirit. As the Father sent Jesus into the world, so now Jesus sends each of you, to proclaim the Gospel and to reconcile sinners into relationship with God. No one else is going to do it for you. The mission of Christ is now our mission, Christ Himself working through us. Why do we still hesitate? There is no other work during the course of our entire lives that is going to matter more once we reach the end. Receive the Holy Spirit, and become instruments of God’s infinite mercy.