Sunday of Divine Mercy
14 Apr 2020
Marian Diaz, DMin

First Reading: Acts 2: 42-47
Responsorial Psalm 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Second Reading: 1 Peter 1: 3-9
Gospel: John 20: 19-31

Peace be with you.

Growing up in a post-Vatican II church, I loved the part of mass when our parish priest would raise up his arms following the Lord’s Prayer and give to the assembly the gift that Jesus gave his disciples after his resurrection, the gift of peace. “Peace I leave you. My peace I give you.” At this moment I would breathe, receive this peace and let it sink deeply into me. Then I was prepared to offer it honestly to others around me with hugs, kisses and handshakes. Along with this sacramental moment in the Eucharist, today’s Gospel reading recounting Jesus’ gifts of peace and the Spirit to his disciples has meant more to me than any other reading over the years. This account affirms the presence of God’s Spirit within each particular child of God and within our ecclesial body. This gift of peace delivers God’s compassion and mercy to each of us. This gift of peace prepares us to receive and to be the body of Christ in the world. Peace paves the way for love.

Sometimes in the last few years, my struggles with the experience of being Catholic at this particular time have led me to abstain from receiving Eucharist during Lent. I would still attend liturgies, but I would not receive Eucharist. This past Lent, I had not felt called to make that offering, but I did have to laugh at God’s sense of humor when Lenten masses were cancelled in mid-March and I knew that I would not be the only one not receiving Eucharist again for a while. As I first sat down to reflect on today’s readings, however, I felt the swift and forceful pain of the liturgical loss of not receiving and granting others the gift of peace in person during these Lenten and Easter seasons. I had never given up that liturgical gift for Lent. Now, it is from solitude in my home that I tell you, “Peace be with you.”

The first reading today describes the gatherings of the community in Acts after Jesus’ ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit. At this time, we find ourselves unable to meet one body in our churches and homes. We meet virtually and we continue to pray with meaning and emotion while remaining physically separated. We watch live-streamed or recorded liturgies to hear the word proclaimed as we watch our ordained ministers partake of the Eucharist. Today we find ourselves closer to the experience of the disciples in the Gospel reading just after Jesus’ crucifixion. We are largely “locked up” in our own homes.

Three times in today’s Gospel, during two different visits to the place in which the disciples hid, Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you.” The disciples were in a place with locked doors, hidden away with fear. They rightly feared ridicule and persecution for having followed Jesus. Fear froze them and prevented them from taking action. The disciples have no idea what the next steps might be for them as a community.

Thankfully, Jesus passes through into our locked spaces. Jesus comes into our homes and souls where we hide away physically and spiritually. Many of us are still literally locked away in our homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we engage in physical distancing to protect ourselves and others. Do we have peace in this moment? Has Jesus entered into our spaces, exposed himself to whatever illnesses and sins we might carry and brought us the gift of peace?

Have we received that gift? We need the peace of the hope of the resurrection now more than ever. We need the peace of the Holy Spirit to carry us through this pandemic despite the unknowing of what our new lives will be like when the fear of suffering and death subsides and resurrection and new life become a reality once again for our world.

Marian Diaz, DMin
Director of Continuing Education, Summer@CTU