Each year, when the Easter festivities arrive, we welcome with joy the end of our Lenten fasting, and in welcoming the Lord’s Resurrection, we welcome back all the things we had given up. It’s certainly an annual relief, but it can be followed by a strange sort of torpor and listlessness in our spiritual lives, an Easter doldrums. Part of this comes from the fact that while we have plenty of experience living a worldly, human life, surrounded by weakness, sin, and difficulty, we have no experience yet of living the Lord’s own risen life; Easter is an essentially unfamiliar reality for us. Part of the Easter doldrums comes from the fact that it also doesn’t carry the same programmatic discipline that Lent does. We know that we are to fast and give things up during Lent, but how do we observe the Easter season once Easter Mass and dinner is finished? We understand the penitential season, but have trouble with the joyful one. This year, by carefully reading the Gospels the Church gives us during this
season, let’s ask Christ to instruct us in how we are to live these holiest days.
This first Sunday after Easter, the second of the season we read as Christ appears to His disciples as a group for the first time since the Resurrection. In fact, for all but Peter and John, this is the first time the Apostles have seen Jesus since Holy Thursday night in the Garden of Gethsemane. Knowing that they had betrayed their friend and master on that painful night, the Apostles could have expected anger, a chastisement, a scolding from the Lord, but instead, He offers them peace. He enters the room, says “peace be with you,” and gives them the power to forgive sins. In this moment, not only does Jesus refuse to chastise His disciples for their failings, not only does He forgive them, but He gives them the power, and therefore the mission, of forgiving the sins of others. Jesus demonstrates here that nothing can change the love He has for His disciples, a love that is now seen to be stronger than death itself.
It is this act of mercy that makes the second Sunday of Easter well-suited to be, as Pope St. John Paul II declared it, Divine Mercy Sunday. It teaches us that there is no sin so grave, no fall so far, as to be beyond Christ’s ability to heal and restore. On this day, we pray in particular for those who need this truth the most: grave sinners, the lukewarm, the despairing,
the troubled. We offer these people to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that He might enlighten and embrace them, and so that all of us together might praise the infinite compassion of our God. Christ has conquered death and sin by His resurrection, so now, no darkness can conquer the hearts of those who reach out to Him.
This then, is our first Easter practice: to ask forgiveness for our sins, and forgive the sins of others. This season, let’s begin our intentional observance by receiving the gift of the Lord’s risen life by seeking His mercy, and then passing it on to those in need around us. Doing so not only heals our own souls, but makes it possible for us to imitate the Lord mostly closely, and spread His victory and its consequences further into a world that needs that great gift.