Our first reading describes the first Christian community, “of one heart and one mind, holding everything in common.” This kind of community is the aspiration and joy of every faithful Catholic, or at least it should be. Parish priests often spend the Easter Octave in community, and that is what I did last week. Six of us from different parishes and three different dioceses spent four days in a parishioner family's beach house--God reward our benefactors! The six of us priests have been good friends for many years, some of us for close to 40 years. We rested after the labors of Holy Week, swapping funny stories from parish life, praying our breviaries and rosaries and offering Mass together, biking and kayaking, and otherwise rejoicing in Christ Jesus our Risen Lord. How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
Over the seven years I’ve been at Star of the Sea, I’ve seen our parish growing in community too. We’ve fought many battles together, especially this past year, struggles that have united us in mind and heart. “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection….” This great power is God’s, but shines through us, his servants, who believe in His resurrection, testifying to freedom in Christ. Our Lord has protected this parish and provided for us this past year: more people are coming to our Masses than before the pandemic, and giving more of themselves in time, talent, and treasure. How is it possible that our offertory has increased 40%, that six of our young adults will enter into marriage this year, that this small parish is building a Catholic hospital in Africa and a Catholic family clinic in San Francisco, that three different groups have spontaneously begun feeding and clothing the poor on our streets, that one of our young men will become a priest himself in two months and many others are in the seminary, and that in all ways we are caring for each other? Our community is a miracle of God’s grace, for which we, always beggars at the throne of grace, praise and thank Him. We must persevere in one heart—genuine and reverent prayer to God—and in one mind—religious submission of intellect to the full teachings of the Bible and the Church. God will be with us if we are with Him.
In the Gospel, Jesus returns to his community on the evening of the same day he rose from the dead. His eleven remaining apostles are cowering behind locked doors, but he strides through their fears and says “peace be with you.” He says it three times, and the Church has been repeating these words in her liturgies since then: “Grace and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Pax vobis; et cum spiritu tuo. He shows them his wounds. He is not bitter towards his executioners, nor towards his apostles who abandoned him, nor toward Thomas who refused to believe in Him. “Peace be with you.” His peace, his joy, springs precisely from the deadly violence men have done to Him, because his peace has overcomes every violence. Christ’s peace in us has greater stamina than any darkness or fear. This past year has been dark and fearful for many, but for believing communities it has been a year of peace and joy.
3. Water and Blood
In the Great Jubilee, the Year 2000, Pope John Paul II named this day Mercy Sunday. Indeed, the collect for this Mass prays to the God of everlasting mercy. “Increase your grace in us, that we may rightly understand in what font we have been washed, by whose blood we have been redeemed.” In 1931 a poor polish nun received a vision of the Risen Christ, which she described in her diary:“In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was touching his garment at the breast from which came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale.” One hand raised in mercy, the other hand pointing to His heart slashed open, the price of that mercy.
This poor nun, Sr. Faustina, grew up in southern Poland just after the Great War of 1914-18. Nations had turned on each other like wolves, and Europe had been so traumatized that when Germany began arming itself for the next war, no one had the strength to resist. In our own time, too, few have the strength to resist. In the end, there is no political solution to our fears and hatreds. Only God can bring His children to true community. Only God’s water (holy baptism) and His blood (the Eucharist) brings about true fellowship. “O my Jesus,” Sister Faustina wrote in her diary, “despite the deep night that is all around me and the dark clouds on the horizon, I know that the sun never goes out. I trust in your mercy.”