Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Divine Mercy Homily

This is the Sunday with many names: Low Sunday, Thomas Sunday, Sunday in the Easter Octave, Sunday ending Bright Week. Pope John Paul II said we might also call the Sunday after Easter Divine Mercy Sunday. What is it about?

The Hebrew word Chesed refers to God's Mercy. Appearing dozens of times in the bible, Chesed declares that God is kind - lovingly kind. Some Christians think "God's Mercy" suggests God is a soft touch, preferring the blow up God who annihilates enemies. 

Having tried everything to win us back to himself, God turned to face us squarely, looking upon our world most tenderly and kindly through the human face of Jesus Christ. We see this especially in the Gospel of St. Mark, where Jesus often takes people by the hand, lifting them up from their sickness and frailty (Mark 1:31, 1:41, 5:41, 8:23, 9:27). In Christ, God, ever so kindly lifts up humanity out of our folly, stupidity and brashness.  

In today's Gospel, Thomas is absent  when the others meet the risen Jesus. Notice Jesus doesn't say, "Well, too bad for you Thomas, you missed it." But Jesus appears a second time when Thomas is present, and invites him to take a closer look. 

On Easter morning, discouraged Peter returned to his former life as a fisherman where Jesus met him on the beach for breakfast (John 21:12). It seems in Christ, God tailors himself to the needs of our inner world.

And we're supposed to learn from this: not only how God is with us, but how we might be with others. 

I received an email the other day from a young man who graduated high school about five years ago. After graduation he became down and out, repeatedly dropping  out of college and eventually losing his funding. He cheated death a number of times in bad living and found himself hungry and almost homeless. Landing a job in a sheet metal factory, he developed asthma from the chemicals.  

One Sunday he stumbled into an Eastern Orthodox church and stayed for the liturgy. Having professed atheism most of his adult life, the visit prompted him to start searching in Catholic churches and even Buddhist temples, while periodically returning to the Orthodox community. 

It was there that the parishioners rallied around him. Even though he knew they had problems of their own, these folks saw to it that he had food and a couple of bucks in his pocket. And when he took a job that required a daily commute, the priest's mother made him lunch and gave him money for the bus everyday.

So he was baptized last week at the Easter Liturgy. It wasn't dogma, great liturgy or a charismatic preacher that won him, but the kindness of the parishioners. 

Mercy, which is loving kindness, whether God's or ours, begins with noticing: Jesus noticing dejected Peter. Jesus noticing Thomas wasn't there. The parishioners noticing the young fellow's dilemma. 

Mercy begins with noticing.


  1. Noticing! So simple but it brings energy to the soul. Its God tapping you on the shoulder to show mercy. It can make me feel uncomfortable if I don't respond but I have to remember all the mercy shown to me and how it saved me. Can we show mercy with prayer?

  2. I think prayer can reveal mercy. I'm often asked if prayer "works"? That can reveal magical thinking. For me, what matters in prayer - especially intercessory prayer - is that my heart is sensitized, expanded and made more aware. That's "not for nothing" these days and in this world.

  3. This idea of noticing should be stressed more often. Every time I hear of a person who commits suicide, I wonder if someone noticed them. When I walk down the street and see a homeless person, I wonder if someone noticed them as they lost their job and their home. When I see a person come to church week after week and sit alone, I wonder if someone notices them. We have to notice and then take action. One step before the other and soon we will all walk together in our mission.

  4. Amen, Amen and Amen again. I knew a college aged boy who went to Mass everyday - daily Mass. After a year and a half he stopped going. He told me, "In all that time no one ever came over to me and said, hello or who are you?" A 20 year old going to daily Mass and no one said, "hello." That's a problem. "Hello" means you're noticed.

  5. People with good hearts expect good things from others. You have a good heart Father Stephen and always look for us to do the right thing. I try to think of this when I see someone who needs that "hello" or kind word.

  6. I'm grateful to have had a good mother. She was hospitable and generous with the little she had. I want to be like that.

    1. Your mother must have modeled kindness well, for your kindness shows through your words here again and again. We are all grateful to her that she taught you to share your gifts with the world

    2. Her name was Grace. Isn't that lovely? She was a seamstress with a sometimes difficult clientele. She bore no malice or prejudice. I remember one day, when I was 7 or 8, we drove past a house that looked poor. She turned the car around and went home where she filled brown bags with food from our freezer. We drove back and she left the grocery bags on the front steps. She never told me what she was doing - she just did it.

  7. I remember that your have written about what mercy is several time before. I suggest that everyone look back for those posts as they are the best explanations of what having mercy really should be to us. You transform a simple word into something meaningful and life affirming.