As exciting as Christ's resurrection was to the apostles on Easter Sunday morning, what happens on Easter Sunday evening is even more exciting.
On Easter Sunday morning, the apostles were very excited that Jesus rose from the dead. This knowledge brought joy to their hearts, because they were looking forward to reconnecting with Him.
However, Jesus realized on Easter Sunday morning His work was not completed, so He revisited them in the evening when the doors were locked. What they experienced that night they couldn't fully appreciate until the Feast of Pentecost.
Only with Pentecost did they understand how explosive Christ's words on Easter Sunday night really were. Twice He said to them, "Peace be with you." Then came the explosive, heart-shattering, mind-shattering words: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men's sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound."
On Pentecost, when they experienced the transformative power of these words, their world was changed. Suddenly, they were infused with a love they had never before experienced. The transforming power of God's love enabled them to feel a new kind of power overtaking their minds and hearts.
Until now, they were locked into confining and often self-recriminating relationships. Suddenly, shackles were lifted. Now, they suddenly loved others with a power of love that came directly from God. They had a need to share this love with others.
This was too good to keep inside. As they shared it, they saw that others were transformed. At the bottom of this new joy and freedom was nothing less than God's love shattering sin. God's love crowded out sin, energized those who received it and gave them the privilege of sharing this freeing power with others.
This is exactly what the Acts of the Apostles describes in the first reading for Divine Mercy Sunday: "The brethren devoted themselves to the apostles' instruction and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." Instead of quarrelling with each other, they now share the instructions of the apostles, which are laden with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
"Those who believed shared all things in common; they would sell their property and goods, dividing everything on the basis of each one's need." They recognized they were being bathed in God's love, which they hadn't yet experienced. Sharing with others what they owned only increased their joy of sharing. God's love was unlimited, why not relish it and share it?
"With exultant and sincere hearts they took their meals in common, praising God and winning the approval of all people." We might say that the infection of God's love was a contagion that spread rapidly throughout the community, transforming lives and relationships.
They gradually realized that beneath these inexplicable behavioral changes was an outbreak of God's mercy, as Jesus promised on Easter Night. The explosion of God's love freed them from the shackles of sin. With those shackles broken, love flowed freely throughout the community.
St. Peter underlines this in the second reading. "Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He who in His great mercy gave us new birth; a birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead ..." The new birth of hope the community experiences flows from the mercy that Christ and the Father chose to offer by sharing their common love, the Holy Spirit. He states that this birth is "a birth to an imperishable inheritance incapable of fading or defilement, which is kept in heaven for those who are guarded with God's power through faith."
In other words, God's forgiveness of sin in our lives begets an expectation that someday we will live totally without sin for all eternity. The joy that comes from this newfound freedom from sin is only a seed that will sprout into an unending and eternal joy.
He says even though we may have to suffer "the distress of many trials," this distress also gives birth to a lasting joy as we embrace with faith each trial as it comes along.
Knowing that God's love always surrounds us with the power of transforming us only reminds us that we are moving forward more deeply into the heart of a God who loves us and will never cease loving us. Even if we slip and fall, we know that the mercy that has brought us this far will not abandon us.
The mercy that we experience in our hearts we want to share with others so that God can take them by surprise. When others discover in us changed behavior, they will sit up and take notice. They want to be assured that there is mercy also available to them, and hopefully it can flow through us. They want to be freed from the shackles of their restricting and often self-condemning behaviors. The joy we receive through the Holy Spirit is to be shared with them in changed behavior.
It isn't necessary that we preach to them with words, but instead with changed behavior. Joy is contagious. So also is the receiving and sharing of mercy. "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give" (Matthew 10:8). RELATED ARTICLE(S):