April 5, 2024

Christ the Cornerstone

God’s love is everlasting, his mercy endures forever

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

Let those who fear the Lord say, “His mercy endures forever” (Ps 118:4).

The Second Sunday of Easter, which concludes the Easter Octave, is known as Divine Mercy Sunday. Pope St. John Paul II established this liturgical feast on April 30, 2000, when he canonized Polish Sister Faustina Kowalska, who was a strong advocate for devotion to God’s mercy.

On April 22, 2001, one year after establishing Divine Mercy Sunday, St. John Paul II re-emphasized its message in the resurrection context of Easter:

“Jesus said to St. Faustina one day: ‘Humanity will never find peace until it turns with trust to Divine Mercy.’ Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity.”

Pope John Paul II, who died in April 2005 on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, was himself beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday—May 1, 2011—by his successor Pope Benedict XVI, and was canonized together with Pope John XXIII on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014, by Pope Francis.

Given our current state of constant warfare—in Ukraine, in the Holy Land and in many other parts of the world—devotion to Divine Mercy is sorely needed now.

The responsorial psalm for Divine Mercy Sunday (Ps 118) affirms that God’s love is everlasting, and that divine mercy endures forever:

The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it. (Ps 118:22-24)

“Christ the Cornerstone” is my episcopal motto. It affirms that God loves us so much that he sent his only Son to save us in the greatest act of mercy ever known—the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. Our Church is built on this firm foundation. As a community of faith, we are grounded in the merciful love of God that endures forever in the face of all obstacles.

The Gospel reading for this Sunday (Jn 20:19-31) tells the familiar story of the “doubting Thomas,” the Apostle who refused to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, saying: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:25). Like many of us, Thomas was skeptical; he couldn’t accept what he was unable to touch with his own hands or see with his own eyes.

St. John tells us that, a week later, Jesus allowed Thomas to encounter him in his post-resurrection, glorified humanity, but he praised those who “see” Jesus with only the eyes of faith:

Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (Jn 20:26-29)

The Divine Mercy extends to all—even atheists, agnostics and those whose faith is weak. But for those who believe, the fullness of God’s love is revealed in encounters with the risen Lord during prayer, the sacraments and service to others, especially those who are most in need. This is why we have to practice our faith. Unless we continually encounter Jesus, he becomes just a vague idea or a distant memory. For our faith to be vibrant, we must “see” Jesus frequently (every day, if we can) with the eyes of an active and experiential faith.

In the first reading for Divine Mercy Sunday (Acts 4:32-35), we learn that “with great power the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all” (Acts 4:33). The “favor” accorded to the members of the early Church was their ability to live together in harmony, sharing everything in common. This is divine mercy in action, the love of Christ that fills our hearts and allows us to live together in peace.

As we continue our celebration of this Easter season, let’s thank God for his endless mercy and for all the gifts he gives us so generously. Let’s practice our faith in Jesus by renewing our commitment to encounter him in our prayers, in sacred Scripture, in the holy Eucharist and all the sacraments, and in service to “the least of these,” his brothers and sisters.

May this Easter time deepen our faith and lead us to the joy of Christ’s presence. Alleluia! †

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