Saturday, April 02, 2016

Locations of Mercy

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

Picture: cc Kent Chen

Sisters and brothers, imagine for a moment that you want to buy an Apple computer. How would you go about it? Where to go? What to do? Do you know? Of course you do, right? For example, even though Apple has its headquarters somewhere in California. You know that you don’t have to fly all the way to the US to get your hands on a brand new Mac. You know that all you have to do is to visit any one of the many authorised Apple dealers right here in Singapore. Alternatively, you can also buy a Mac off the internet. Just go online. Key in your credit card number and delivery address. And your new computer will be delivered to your doorstep in no time at all. So simple!

And this applies not just to computers. It’s true of many other things as well. From clothes and books. To furniture and groceries. Conveniently located branch and online stores make shopping more convenient than ever. You don’t have to go far. All you need is to know what you want. And to have the money to pay for it. This is something that we all know very well. For we are expert shoppers. Consummate consumers. We know exactly where and how to buy what we want.

But what if what we want is not something that can be bought and sold? What if what we want is love and compassion? Or forgiveness and mercy? Things that money cannot buy. Do we know where to go to get them? Do we know what to do?

This, my dear friends, is exactly the kind of knowledge we are praying for at this Mass. Actually, this is what we prayed for in that beautiful opening prayer that we offered just now. We asked the God of everlasting mercy to increase the grace… bestowed on us. So that all may grasp and rightly understand in what font they have been washed, by whose Spirit they have been reborn, by whose Blood they have been redeemed. My dear friends, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, what we are praying for is the knowledge of where and how to obtain mercy.

And the words that we used in the opening prayer already indicate to us where to find what we are looking for. The principal location where God’s mercy is offered to us. Can you guess where? The prayer speaks of a fountain of water that washes us. A flow of Blood that redeems us. And an outpouring of the Spirit that gives us new birth. Where, my dear friends, do we find these three things together? It is a place that we visited only recently. During the Easter Triduum. Do you remember?

Water and Blood and Spirit. These are the three things that flow from the side of Christ the Lord. As he hangs dead on the Cross. And is pierced by a lance. The Pierced Side of the Crucified Christ. This is where forgiveness is found. This is where mercy is dispensed. Just as Apple has its main office in California. So too does mercy have its headquarters on the Cross.

But isn’t this a problem for us? Aren’t we separated from the Cross by a great distance? Not just in space, but also in time? The Crucifixion took place not just many kilometres away from here. But also many hundreds of years ago from now. How are we to go there to obtain mercy? Thankfully, we don’t have to. At least not physically. For just as you can buy a computer at a branch or online store. So too can you gain access to the mercy of the Cross, without actually going back in time and space. Mercy is accessible in many different locations. Isn’t this what we find in our Mass readings today? Different locations where people experience mercy and its wonderful effects.

In the gospel, the disciples have locked themselves up in an upper room. Earlier, most of them had run away when Jesus was arrested. But even though they deserted him. Jesus does not abandon them. He enters the locked room. And shows them his scarred hands and pierced side. Not just to prove to them that he is really who he says he is. But perhaps also to show them that he bears no grudges. That he yearns only for their friendship.

The Lord then transforms their fear and guilt into joy and peace. Their doubt and discouragement into faith and trust. Counselling the doubtful. Bearing wrongs. Forgiving offences. These are spiritual works of mercy that the Lord performs for his disciples. And he does it all in a locked room.

It is then from this same locked room that the disciples go out. To many other locations. To share what they themselves have received. To do for others what the Lord has done for them. In the first reading, we find them bearing witness to the faith so powerfully, that the numbers of men and women who came to believe in the Lord increased steadily. Not only do they instruct the ignorant. A spiritual work of mercy. The disciples also heal the sick. A corporal work of mercy. And they do it not just in rooms and houses. But even out in the streets.

The second reading goes even further. Here, not only is mercy found in the success of the streets. It is experienced even in the suffering of exile. The apostle John finds himself banished to the island of Patmos, for having preached God’s word and witnessed for Jesus. But, in his painful isolation, John is blessed with a powerful experience of mercy. The Crucified and Risen One appears to him and encourages him. Even gives him a new mission. I fell in a dead faint at his feet, but he touched me with his right hand and said, “Do not be afraid… Now write down all that you see…”

Comforting the afflicted. A spiritual work of mercy. This is what the Risen Christ does for John. And this is also what the Lord asks John to do for others. Through the written word. A written word that continues to encourage us today. So that even from a deserted island, mercy begets mercy. Even from a painful exile, the Good News of God’s love continues to ring out down through the ages. And all around the world.

From the cruel Cross to a locked room. From the streets of success to an island of suffering. In all of these places and more, God continues to offer people, to offer us, an experience of mercy. Inviting us to share with others what we ourselves have received. And this should be a great consolation to us. For in our own lives too, don’t we have our cruel crosses and locked rooms? Our streets of success and islands of suffering? The good news is that no matter where we find may ourselves, God’s mercy is still accessible to us. 

But what must we do to access it? We can buy a computer with money. What do we need to obtain mercy. Nothing more than desire and memory, prayer and praise. We must first want to experience mercy. We must also remember the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. And then we need to pray for what we want. Giving praise to God for all that God has done and continues to do for us. Desire and memory. Prayer and praise. This is the currency by which mercy is obtained.

Sisters and brothers, we all know where to go and what to do to shop for what we want. But where must we go, and what must we do, to receive and to show mercy today?

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