This Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, we hear the Gospel story of Jesus coming to the apostles, who are hiding behind locked doors, on the evening after His Resurrection, and then returning to them a week later once Thomas is again present. On both of these days, Jesus greets the apostles with the phrase, “Peace be with you.” Not, “Listen, we need to talk. Where were you last Friday?” But, to the very men who had deserted Him in His hour of need, “Peace be with you.” And breathing upon them, He bestows on them the Holy Spirit, the fruit of whose presence is that peace.
Like my students at their confirmation, I have noticed that in moments of great grace in my life — applying to enter the convent, receiving the habit, professing my religious vows — the strongest sentiment I have experienced is a deep, calm peace. I know that this strong sense of peace has come from a profound confidence that what I am doing at that moment is the will of God Himself. It is His clear and intimate presence that brings such peace.
The peace that the Risen Christ offers the apostles goes hand in hand with His mercy toward them — and through them, toward the world. Not only does Christ offer them a restoration of peace in place of condemnation, but He also sends them out to forgive the sins of others, thereby restoring to them the peace that comes from resting in the will of God. When we receive God’s mercy in the sacraments of His Church and then go out to be vessels of that mercy to others, we receive and share an abiding peace, which witnesses to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Pope Francis has told us, in preparation for this Year of Mercy, that, “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 1). This Jesus, who stands before us revealing the wounds in His hands and side for which our sins are responsible; this Jesus, who speaks to us words of peace and forgiveness; this Jesus, who has been glorified because He has poured Himself out completely for the glory of the Father and for our salvation; this Jesus shows us what it means to be “merciful like the Father.” It means receiving God’s freely given love, which brings peace as He restores us to life in Him, and then giving of ourselves completely in sharing that love and mercy with others. It is the self-gift of merciful love, lavishly bestowed upon us through the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives, that brings us peace.
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.