Divine Mercy Sunday | April 19, 2020

Gazing over the morning’s headlines with heavy eyelids, a New York Times article caught what little attention I had to give. It read, “The News Is Making People Anxious. You’ll Never Believe What They’re Reading Instead.” Designed to be clickbaity, my thumb innately tapped the text on the screen.

The short piece had a simple premise: People are looking for good news right now.

Overwhelmed by a dominant news story that is inescapable in scope, folks are driven to scouring sites and social media solely dedicated to highlighting the good in our world. The drive to consume such narratives in earnest almost feels instinctual. Communities cheering on healthcare workers, birthdays celebrated by way of neighborhood parade, or, as my dad jokingly sent me, a video of a groundhog eating a slice of pizza. These stories, meant to lift us up, range from deeply admirable to the random and absurd.

But as one person interviewed for the article put it, people want more than just a distraction right now. “They want a genuine sense of hopefulness.” This phrasing suggests that most people desire something more than the next viral meme or video. Instead of pointing me to new reading material, the article left me wondering: What does hope look like to most of us and is it sustaining? Do we have a responsibility to bolster this hope for the good of others, and, if so, how?

“People are looking for good news right now.”

Our readings for this Divine Mercy Sunday offer some guidance on hope, but also faith and love.

This week, our Gospel retells the story of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in the upper room sans Thomas, a man of faith obscured by fear and drenched in doubt, but still possessing undoubted love for Jesus. He reflects a reality each of us has confronted before in varied ways. Faith is a positive mystery, the kind that is unsolvable, inexhaustible, and ever deepening. It is questioning but also brimming with grace.

The disciples are also seeking genuine hope in uncertain times. Following his Crucifixion, Jesus’ followers remain hidden from their community. All they had known at that time was what they had witnessed with their own eyes: Jesus was dead. They had yet to meet the Risen Lord, to live the fullness of the Good News.

When Jesus does appear to them in the upper room, he says, “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” Then he breathes on them and says, “‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” The first gift of the resurrected Christ is one of peace through his words and his presence. He then assures them that the Word will always be with them in the gift of the Holy Spirit. Hope is found in this fulfillment of the Easter promise and finds direction in Jesus’ command to go forth and love as he did.

“Hope is found in this fulfillment of the Easter promise and finds direction in Jesus’ command to go forth and love as he did.”

The story of the early Church and its beginnings, as told in the Acts of the Apostles, offers us a road map for action chosen in the light of Truth. In our first reading, we discover that the community of Jesus’ followers “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” They met together, broke bread together, and gave of what they had to those in need. They found a way to participate in the ongoing inbreaking of the kingdom of God.

Jesus’ command in John’s Gospel, “As the Father has sent me, now I send you,” jump starts the movements of the disciples, and now it is intended for us as well. In our own time of uncertainty, it’s important that we ask ourselves the question: what can we do that builds the kingdom, even if the location of our creation is our own homes? The answer will look different for each one of us, but collectively reflects the good news of Easter Sunday. Through the grace of God, our actions can speak Love and Justice and Mercy.

It might mean choosing patience with that family member you haven’t lived with in a while or setting aside time to thank God each day for the gift of life. It might also mean walking with people in their struggles each day, regardless of what they might be. Newness begs adjustment, whether it’s welcome or not. I imagine many of us are discovering how to navigate our present day, sometimes encountering new problems and hopefully unexpected graces as well. Through it all, we have to believe that our prayers and actions are impactful despite distance.

“They met together, broke bread together, and gave of what they had to those in need. They found a way to participate in the ongoing inbreaking of the kingdom of God. “

No one has ever accused our family of being too ‘Type A,’ but we are deeply committed to our bedtime routine. Once Connor is in bed, my husband and I both spend time with Lucy. The first thing we do is assess the day. What was your favorite moment? When did you feel loved? Did you love others well? It’s like a mini-Examen that brings moments of grace to the surface of our day.

The next step is reciting something called ‘I am.’ Lucy recites characteristics she sees in herself and what we see in her, too. “I am strong. I am brave. I am beautiful. I am loved.” We constructed this poem so long ago I can’t even remember when it started. “I am smart. I am kind. I am funny.” She always goes in the same order of adjectives. “I am curious. I am creative. I work hard. I don’t give up. I believe in me.”

She immediately streams into a Hail Mary, and then we ask each other who we’re thinking about tonight, who we want to pray for. If Lucy wants to stretch her time before sleeping, there’s no better way. This is just one way we’ve created to keep Jesus at the center of our lives right now, especially when we cannot be together. It keeps me focused on the good, on genuine hope.

Meg Costantini, M.Div. | Campus Minister at Aquinas House