Listed below last week's homily are copies of Father Alex Ekka's homily from past weekend masses. Click on the file to download and read his message.
The second Sunday after Easter is very special to some groups of Christians in India who call themselves St. Thomas Christians. Because main hero of today’s Gospel is St. Thomas. It is believed that after having the resurrection experience as described in today’s Gospel, this doubting Thomas became so strong in Faith that he travelled all the way to India and spread the message of Christ and eventually got martyred. Present Cathedral of Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore is built over his tomb. I had the privilege of visiting his tomb.
There are many legends and stories connected with St. Thomas. One of them is very fitting for this divine Mercy Sunday. When Thomas arrived in India, he was introduced to one south Indian king as a builder, carpenter and a physician. So, the king gave him a large sum of money to build a palace for him. St. Thomas distributed the money among the poor. After due time when the king inquired about the Palace, then St. Thomas told him that the Palace is ready. King asked St. Thomas, where? St. Thomas said in heaven and is not visible. King got so furious that Thomas was thrown into boiling oil. During this time, the king's brother died. In heaven he saw various palaces but one of them was more magnificent than others. Due to a miracle worked by St. Thomas, the king's brother came to life and told his brother king that he saw a magnificent palace in heaven which is meant for the king. So, thorough the corporal acts of mercy, St. Thomas was able to build a palace in heaven.
But the Apostle Thomas was different before this historic and heroic trip to India and before he had the Resurrection experience. Thomas was a doubter. He was perhaps a loner too. When Jesus appeared on Easter Sunday, Thomas was absent. Perhaps he was out looking for a job or applying for unemployment or getting drunk. When his fellow apostles reported they had seen the risen Lord, he assumed they were drunk or gone out of their minds. This doubting Thomas He said, “Unless I see the mark of nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and my hand into his side, I will not believe” (Jn.20: 25).
A week later Thomas was in the right place at the right time for Jesus’ return visit. The appearance of the risen Jesus dispelled Thomas’ doubt and enabled him to profess his Easter faith: “My Lord, and my God!” Thomas’ profession of faith is the strongest evidence we have of the Resurrection of Jesus. 2) Thomas’ faith culminated in his self-surrender to Jesus, his heroic missionary expedition to India in A.D. 52, his fearless preaching, and the powerful testimony given by his martyrdom in A.D. 72.
On this second Sunday of Easter, we also celebrate the ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’ Remembering the incidents when Our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Sr. Faustina in the 1930’s and promised that he would bestow his Divine Mercy to any sinner that totally repents his/her sins, no matter how grave and our Lord would not refuse any soul that seeks his mercy.
The readings for this Sunday are about God’s mercy, and forgiveness. The first reading explains how the early church continued to show his Divine Mercy to the sick through the healing and preaching ministry of his apostles. The first reading, taken from Acts, stresses the corporal acts of mercy practiced by the early Christian community before the Jews and the Romans started persecuting them. The early Christians were so filled with the Holy Spirit that, “no one claimed any of his possessions as his own.” Rather, they “distributed to each according to his need.” This was a community which practiced the sharing love, compassion, and mercy taught by Jesus. It was a witnessing community of “one heart and one mind,” bearing witness to the continued presence of the Risen Lord in their hearts and lives by holding everything in common and distributing to each one according to his or her needs.
In today’s Gospel we see a clear example of Divine mercy when the Lord instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a Sacrament of Divine Mercy. We heard, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
With these words Jesus gives authority to his disciples to forgive sins saying, this is a Divine power given to his disciples and handed down to his Church and to popes, bishops and priests. But it is God who really gives forgiveness. The priest - who takes the place of the ‘disciples ’ of Jesus today - absolves in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This passage is very clear proof why Catholic church asks to go to a priest for reconciliation or confession because the priests have the same power which was given to the Apostles.
Just like St. Thomas we all are messengers of the Divine Mercy of the Risen Christ. We may not have to go to India like St. Thomas. Most of us can be messengers of Divine Mercy around us, in our families, neighborhoods and communities. If anyone still wants to show God’s mercy in a faraway country like, India you can do so though me when I go home by the end of this month.
Maybe through your corporal acts of mercy you may be able to get, if not a magnificent palace but at least a place in heaven.