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Homily for 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, 7 April 2024 - Deacon Jim Curtain

So the risen Jesus enters the upper room, and offers his disciples peace. When we now read the New  Testament, the  gospel accounts of Jesus after the resurrection, the stories of the early church in Acts, the letters of Paul, John, and  others to the early churches, what we see is how this peace was worked out, how it was made real in the lives of people who tried to follow Jesus.

And what we read is how imperfect they were, how often they got it wrong. The first reading today, the reading from Acts, presents a beautiful, idealised picture of the early church. I’ve no doubt that it reflects some aspects of their life. But I’ve also no doubt, and the book of Acts and the letters to the early churches confirms this, that things weren’t always so perfect! As well as courageous and loving, generous and selfless communities, there are accounts of arguments between Christians, of Christians being selfish and scared, greedy and snobbish, lazy and even sinful.

In the middle of this, this mixture of peace and conflict, of love and distrust , of courageously following Christ and fearfully hiding away from his enemies, the Lord enters and gives strength to continue, strength to spread the good news that death is not the end, that oppression, greed and hate don’t have the final word. The good news that we are loved by God, and that God calls us to love each other, that fear and hatred can be overcome.

Fear and hatred. In every war we see fear and hatred at work. In Gaza, we see how those who fight convince themselves that their enemies are not human, are wicked, evil, and that therefore anything I do to them is justified. The taking and killing of hostages, the killing of children, combatants hiding in hospitals, killing aid workers - all this becomes possible when you convince yourself that your enemies are not human as you are. In every war we see this spirit of hate at work, the desire to destroy others so that my group are in control.

Yet the good news is that we are, all of us, of whatever nation, religious faith or race, loved by God, and called by God to love each other.

We call Jesus the Prince of Peace, and peace is what he offers. Yet when we look at the presence of war and hate in our world it is difficult to see where that offer of peace is being taken up! We might doubt, as Thomas did, that the risen Christ exists. How can we, as followers of Christ, help bring peace to the world?

Few of us are called to work for aid organisations, or in politics or diplomacy or peacekeeping, but we are called to treat all our brothers and sisters as God’s creations, loved by God, human beings for whom Jesus died to save from the power of sin and despair. If when we hear about of some atrocity or crime we feel hatred for others rise in our hearts, we should pray for the perpetrators, whoever they are, that they can repent and seek God’s mercy.

Today, the second Sunday of Easter, was in the past also called Low Sunday - a recognition that after the drama, sorrow and joys of Holy Week and Easter, today could be a bit flat! However in recent years, in our church today is also called Divine Mercy Sunday. As Christians we’re called to be agents of that mercy. The Polish nun, St Faustina, who inspired this devotion, wrote ‘God’s mercy is stronger than our misery.’ When we look at the misery in the world, whether in Gaza or Ukraine, Myanmar or even on our own streets, we can be tempted to despair of that mercy. Our faith tells us however that mercy is always freely offered, that no crime is unforgivable, that no person, let alone nation or race or religion, should be regarded as beyond the reach of God’s love.

‘God’s mercy is stronger than our misery.’ As the apostle Paul tells us ‘Nothing can separate us from the love of God, made visible in Christ Jesus.’ Let’s pray that the peace that Jesus offers will live in our hearts, and that we can in whatever way is open to us be peacemakers.

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