From the Gospel of St. John, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is the second Sunday in Eastertide, and as it is the 8th day of Easter, it is known as the Octave. The eight-day feast coincides with Passover this year, which ended at Nightfall last night. On this Second Sunday in Eastertide, in the year 2000, Pope John Paul II designated this day as Divine Mercy Sunday, in recognition of St. Faustina’s visions and conversations with Jesus.
It is sometimes called Low Sunday by Anglicans, because of the Low Mass usually celebrated on this day, not for the low number of attendees that we usually see. The 20th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John begins with the story of Mary Magdalene going to the tomb on the first day of the week. We know this day as Sunday, which in early Roman culture, was the day of the Sun god. The Romans loved to greet the sunrise on that day, as they prayed.
In the creation story of Genesis chapter one, the first day is the day Light is created. Gensis 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
Early Christian churches faced the East as well, in anticipation of the Lord’s return. Sunday has since been linked to the Resurrection of Jesus ever since that day. By the third century, it was the established day of worship for Christians, and became the new Sabbath, a day of rest and respite, free from the concerns of work.
Let us remember those who do work this day for our protection, the first responders in every community. We heard from the Revelation to St. John that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. He heard behind him a loud voice, “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches,” then they are listed. Sunday is a day of revelation.
It was on the evening of that first Sunday of the Resurrection when Jesus appeared to his disciples who were hiding in fear from persecution. Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you.” He calms their nerves with his words, then he shows them his wounds.
Then he tells them something very important:
“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
The first sentence is their commission. Up until this point, they have been disciples, from the Latin word discipuli (de-ship’-ully) which means students, of Jesus. This is their graduation ceremony. They are now Apostles, a word that comes from the Greek that means “To be sent.” Then he bestows on them the Holy Spirit with his breath, to give them the authority of their commission.
Notice now the words from our prayer after communion every Sunday: And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.
We are asking the Lord to make us apostles, too, and that we know what our work is, to love and serve him, and to be faithful witness of Jesus Christ.
We are asking that we will be witnesses to his resurrection to all whom we meet. There are many out there who need Jesus, and they may not even know it.
We are asking the Father to make us a witness of Jesus to that person in their time of need. If a person needs prayers, don’t just say, “I’ll pray for you.” Pray with them right there, wherever you are. Don’t be afraid of what others think, because you have the Holy Spirit of God on your side. You are authorized!
Don’t know what to say? Keep it simple, some thing like: “Dear Father, this person needs your help. Give them your grace. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”
It’s that simple. There is no need to be as sublime and elaborate as our Sunday worship prayers. If that person tells you they have sinned, then tell them that the Father forgives all who repent and turn to him. Tell that person that all they need to do is to look to the East, toward the rising sun, the direction from which we look for Jesus to come into our hearts. Tell them that he wants to love and forgive them.
Tell them that he offers hope in a world rocked by despair, poverty and terrorism. Tell them that he is the only way to the Father and to have eternal life and peace. Tell them that Jesus wants to say to them, “Peace be with you.” Amen.