Deacon Cornellís Homily


Acts 5:12-16 Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19
John 20:19-31


April 10-11, 2010 -Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy) - Cycle C

Back 10 years ago, Pope John Paul II declared the Second Sunday of Easter Divine Mercy Sunday. The Pope invited us to reflect in a special way on the Mercy of God on this Sunday. The season of Easter in general and today's Gospel story in particular help us to remember that God is merciful.

I have a new metaphor that helps me celebrate God's mercy. Back in January, Deacon Bob and I were car-pooling to a Western Region Deacon Meeting in Newton. Bob has a GPS system in his car, and when we got to 128 on 117, the GPS was telling us to make the loop around to 20 to get on 128 south. But as we crossed over the highway we saw that the southbound lanes were at a complete standstill. So instead of making the GPS suggested right turn at 20, we turned left and headed towards Newton on 20. Now up until I got my latest phone, I have not had a GPS, so when we blatantly ignored this female voice telling us to turn right, and went left instead, I have to admit I held my breath in anticipation her saying something like, "Hey stupid, didn't I say turn right?" But without a hint of annoyance or condescension or disappointment, in the same even tempered voice, Bob's GPS simply said, "Recalculating." And then she proceeded to suggest how we might get to our destination the way we were headed.

Some weeks later Betsy and I met old friends of ours up in Lawrence for dinner on a Saturday night. On the way home, I must have missed the entrance to the highway and ended up going too far on the street that the restaurant was on. I had not used the GPS on my phone so I didn't want to stop and take the time to figure out how to have it give me turn by turn directions but I did bring up the map and have it show me where I was. Once I knew that it was simple to go the right way to get back on the highway.

To me, the important things that a GPS does are: first, it always knows where I am, and second, it always knows where I should be going. Less importantly to me is that it can suggest ways of getting from where I am to where I should be going. When I get off track or take a wrong turn, it doesn't pout or take it personally; it simply reminds me where I am in relationship to where I should be going, and it always, always knows how to get from here to there. To me that is God's brand of mercy. God, of course, always knows where I should be going. Pretty simple actually, because my destination is always God. Or at least it should be. I'm pretty good at remembering that. The thing I have trouble with sometimes is knowing where I really am. Oh I always think I know but the truth is, all too often, I missed a turn, or the landmark I was looking for was torn down a while back and replaced by a Dunkin' Donuts so I keep going when I should have stopped. By the time I realize that I am not where I thought I was, I have no idea where I am. So the first step in any conversion, radical or ongoing, is getting an accurate picture of where I really am.

In today's Gospel, Jesus stands before the disciples with the marks of the nails and the spear evident on his body. He doesn't chastise the disciples by saying, "look at how your fear and lack of courage in running away and locking yourself up in this room have hurt me." Even with Thomas he does not say, "oh look at the pain your sins have cost me." No, Jesus in his mercy fills them with his Spirit and re-orients them to the task ahead: go and preach the gospel, start building the kingdom by being agents of Christ's forgiveness.

God's mercy is not about making us feel bad or lowly; it is not focused on excessive breast beating or bowing and scraping. And it most certainly is not intended to make me feel helpless or unable to work towards salvation. God's mercy is always directed at making us aware of where we are and where we should be headed. God's mercy is not to be confused with God's forgiveness. God's forgiveness is focused on our past failings. God's mercy is focused on our continued conversion, our continued turning towards God, our continued building of the kingdom of God here on earth by the forgiveness of sins. And God's mercy is not just the resurrection; it is about the cross as well. God's mercy does shield us from suffering; but it does help us keep on even keel in the midst of suffering, and to navigate through the suffering along the path that leads to salvation. Just as the best GPS does not exempt us from keeping our car in good shape, filling it with gas, and driving with attention and skill, God's mercy does not exempt us from praying, reading scripture, celebrating liturgy, and deepening our understanding of our faith.

So I would suggest that we celebrate this feast of the Divine Mercy of God, not by wallowing in our sinfulness, or morbid looking back at how bad we have been, and certainly not by worrying about getting the exact right combinations of prayers or formulas so that we can obtain God's forgiveness and the cancellation of any punishment due us, but by focusing on what Jesus focused on, the mission the Father sent him to accomplish. The kingdom of God is at hand; believe and turn yourself around and head towards God. I would suggest we simply consult our God Positioning System to remind ourselves where we really are, where we should be going, and start out in that direction. And if you are anything like me, be prepared to hear over and over again, in God's mercy, "Recalculating."

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