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Dear friends in Christ,

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday in Easter, which Saint John Paul designated Divine Mercy Sunday, as revealed by Jesus to Saint Faustina Kowlaska. The Diary of Saint Faustina  makes for great spiritual reading. Today is the great Sunday of mercy showered down throughout the whole world. During these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are in need of God’s special grace, favor and love. Mercy is love’s second name, as John Paul once wrote. Just as Jesus gave his life freely on the cross, and even from the Cross forgave the repentant sinner, so too our good Lord is ready to forgive those who bear their hearts to him.

We are self-isolating, sticking to the basics, not travelling but spending much more time at home. On my occasional bike rides, I have seen how much Spring cleaning and gardening has been going on. Our time at home has meant lots of beautification projects, more cooking and perhaps baking. If anyone has a new-found talent for cutting hair while keeping six feet away, let me know!

While our houses and yards get much attention, are we taking the time to beautify our hearts, minds and souls? These are harder to clean, order and purge. Ultimately, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the best method of cleansing our hearts. I am available by appointment and with appropriate distance. In the meantime, however, we can put our lives in order and ensure that nothing is present that does not aid us on the path to holiness.

In the Gospel today we encounter the disciples locked in the upper room. They have returned to the cenaculum, the place of the Last Supper. There they huddle together... kinda self-quarantined. And they are afraid! Has any fear been plaguing you during these days, despite the comforts of familiar surroundings?

And Jesus steps right into the midst of their fear, panic and doubt with the gift of PEACE. Thrice Jesus repeats: “Peace be with you,” the familiar greeting. Seems to me that they needed to hear his words; nay, they needed to receive into their hearts the gift he is offering, but which has not yet penetrated their hearts: PEACE.

Once received, the gift of peace becomes a mission for his followers, a mission of forgiveness. On the first day of the week, that is Sunday, the men who failed to be faithful to Christ in his greatest hour of need, receive the gift of peace and the power to forgive sin. Christ forgives them and associates their forgiveness with the mission to forgive others: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Now they have to go out into the world and bring that forgiveness to others. They cannot stay in the upper room. They cannot let fear rule them.

Saint Peter, writing years after this powerful moment, reminds his community that “Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” we receive, “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” At the same time, while we rejoice, “[we] may have to suffer through various trials.” These words echo the logic that trials are meant for our growth, that the process may purify us of what does not belong to Him.

It reminds us of a the Proverb that the author from Hebrews quotes, “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges,” (Prov 3:12; Heb 12:6). We need to look no further than the Cross that the innocent Son endured for the salvation of the world. And each cross in our lives is an invitation to grow and mature, that the dross of our lives may be removed. Oftentimes it seems that those capable of making an offering are asked to suffer and endure more than their “fair share,” just like our divine Lord. Perhaps just like Christ, their hearts are more capable of making a pleasing offering to our Father.

During this time when nothing is normal, or when we are getting used to a “new normal,” what new thing is the Lord accomplishing in our lives? To what is God inviting us? I am a firm believer that God is ceaselessly at work. How is He at work in our lives and hearts during these days?

To have the courage to leave the security of what is familiar, our “upper rooms” - I offer again the beautiful prayer of Blessed Charles de Foucauld:

Prayer of Abandonment

Father, I abandon myself into your hands / do with me what you will. / Whatever you may do, I thank you: / I am ready for all, I accept all./ Let only your will be done in me, / and in all your creatures. / I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul: / I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, / for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, / to surrender myself into your hands without reserve, / and with boundless confidence, / for you are my Father.

May God bless you now and always!

Fr. Joel Wilson

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