Breathing Mercy

Sunday 2 in Easter – Sunday of Divine Mercy

This year, during this season of Easter, we will be working our way through this first letter of Saint Peter. We don’t really know when it was written, there were no markers to kind of indicate when that happened. Peter used a secretary called Sylvanas to actually do the writing, and perhaps Sylvanas polished up the Greek as he went. And Peter tells us at the end of the letter that he’s writing this from Babylon, which seems strange to us because we know that Peter was actually in Rome, but they often used Babylon, as we see also in the Book of Revelation, that Rome is often called Babylon because it’s the centre point of the empire and all the persecution. Against the faithful, Christians seems to have come from Rome. After his experience with Cornelius the Roman Centurion that we read about in the book of Acts. He’s changed and transformed, and it’s almost as amazing as the transformation that happened on the day of Pentecost, which we’ll read about in six weeks’ time on Pentecost Sunday. In Acts 2, there’s this extraordinary transformation of Peter.

But then he’s changed and transformed to see that even the pagans, even those that were so far outside of the Kingdom and the mercy of God. They’re being included. They’re also part of this new life, and even though most of his ministry is with the Jewish converse people, who now believe that Jesus is the Messiah. It seems that when he began to to travel, we don’t have the story of how that unfolded. But it seems he’s gone to Asia Minor on his way into Rome and there in Tokyo, as we would know it now, he sets up these communities, or perhaps that his communities that he knows about, perhaps that he’s never met, we don’t know the details of that. So he writes. This circular letter not addressed to one particular community, but to a whole bunch of different communities, and they all share in common the fact that none of them have seen the Lord either. They’re like us, they’re pagans. They’re foreigners. They’re not part of the Jewish Covenant community. And yet he addresses them as if they were. The first 2 verses that we don’t have in our reading today because of the you were chosen, you were called, you were incorporated into this new life. And that’s us too.

Through our baptism through the gift of God’s grace, we have been incorporated. We have been included into this family of God’s. And we hear a little bit about what this family was like in our first reading today from Acts 2. When we get this very stylized, very beautiful description, and most scholars kind of think that Saint Luke, when he was writing this description, was kind of embellishing the details, making it sound a little bit better. Then perhaps it was. Most of our communities are more like what we see in our gospel today. This community of people who, even after the resurrection of Jesus, even after some of the women had met him in the morning, even after Peter and John had come back from the tomb and seen the emptiness seen that he wasn’t there anymore.

Where are they? They’re in this upper room. The doors are all closed, bolted, locked. The fear of the leaders because they don’t want the same thing that happened to Jesus. To happen to them. And so they’re full of fear and doubt and confusion and sorrow and grief. A lot like us. A lot like us when we’re struggling to make sense of things when we have these questions, when we’re trying to make sense of things, when we’re trying to work out why did that person die? What happened that that, that relationship broke down? How come I can’t be in friendship with this family member or, you know, all of the things that happen? In our ordinary lives. And they’re there, locked away, and suddenly Jesus himself is there, standing in their midst, and the first word that he has to this community. Shalom. Peace be with you. We hear it three times in the gospel today. Peace be with you – because apparently we need to keep hearing this message of peace again and again and again.

The Lord is wanting to invite us into that experience and encounter with. His peace and his mercy. And then we’re told that Jesus breathes on the disciples. And as I was pondering and praying through this passage during the week. It’s it struck me that, you know, I doubt that he just stood at the front of the Assembly and justice kind of did this general peace be with you and breathing on them from the front. I think it’s much more likely that he began to walk around the room. I think it’s much more likely that he went to each person 1 by 1. Peace be with you. He’s be with you that he breathed on them mouth to mouth. Not very COVID friendly. Not very safe. And yet there’s this intimacy that Jesus wants to have with this community. With this people and everything that prevents us from experiencing his love, anything that might get in the way of that goodness of God. Jesus wants to set it aside. And so he says that just as the father sent me. So I’m sending you. Because we have met individually, the Lord always encounters us not as a group, not as a mass. But one on one he comes to us one on one. He pulls out his love and his life to us.

But it’s to shape us and form us as a people, as a community. It’s only as a community that we can do this. I can’t be a Christian by ourselves. As the old saying, Solis Christianus Nulis christianus to be a Christian by yourself means that you cannot be a Christian. We have to be in community. And if we’re in community, then we need to hear the next part. Those who sins you forgive. They are forgiven. Those who sins, you retain they are retained and note there’s not just the 12 who are there in the upper room, it’s the whole community. Men and women, young and old, everyone is there. And so he’s addressing. This commandment to all of the church, the whole community that is met individually, the peace be with you, with the breath of God’s life, and then the transforming love of mercy. And note. That when Thomas wasn’t there, it’s the first mistake that Thomas made not to be part of this community because he can only encounter God’s love when we gather together.

When we come as the community of God’s people. But when he is there the next week. When he makes up for that. Know when Jesus meets him and encounters him. There’s no shame Jesus doesn’t rebuke Thomas for having questions for having doubts. There’s nothing that puts shame upon Thomas for for questions. Jesus seems quite happy to accept those questions. Thomas quick, come look here. My hands. Here are the wounds that define me and mark me because we’re always shaped and marked by our wounds. It’s never when we’re whole and complete. And God everything together that we’re able to stand before God. Just as Jesus demonstrates, it’s in our wounds that we’re identified, it’s in our wounds that we find each other and it’s in our wounds that Jesus invites Thomas to find his life. Put your fingers here. Put your hand in my side. We don’t know whether Thomas actually did it. There’s no mention in the text of what happened next, but Thomas is then changed. Thomas is transformed and he falls on his knees and makes that absolute declaration of faith and belief in Jesus, My Lord and my God, the two great words from the Hebrew scriptures, from the Old Testament. Declaring belief in God. The Thomas makes those declarations.

So just as this community is being called and shaped and formed, invited to be part of God’s family, invited to be the very presence of God, as Peter reminds the community that they haven’t seen Jesus, they weren’t there to originally see all of these things with their own eyes. But that hasn’t stopped them encountering him. That hasn’t stopped them experiencing the grace and the mercy and the peace of our God. And nor should it stop us. So let’s let allow God to individually minister his mercy to us. But let’s allow that then to shape and form us as the community of God’s people. So that we can also go and share that love to go and to be the ministers of God’s grace into the world, to be that sign of God’s love in our families.

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, we’re meant to share the gospel of goodness, the message of mercy to those in our families, our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues, whatever we meet today, wherever whoever we meet over the course of the next week, let’s be mindful that we can be ministers of God’s mercy because we’ve received that mercy. And we get to share with such a privilege to be able to speak words of mercy into the lives of others. So it’s indeed be changed and transformed by God’s mercy as we allow the breath of God to bring us his hope to bring us his joy, and to speak that joy and hope into the world today.

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