040513, while most people in Coolidge, AZ were probably enjoying their friday night off, el Grupo de Jovenes, whose reenactment of via cruz headlined in this week’s issue of Coolidge Examiner, gave rite of the washing of the feet (mandatum), at last night’s weekly gathering, a different meaning and language, forgiveness. At first, I had trouble getting it. It’s Easter, let’s have fun and rejoice. I watched from a distance and let the music hit me. In the middle of the rite, just about to absorb it, one of them approached me and asked if he could wash my hands. I initially turned it down. I hesitated. I refused. Holy Thursday’s over and let’s do it next year. I said, you don’t have to. You’re not going to wash my hands. That’s ridiculous. I figured there was no need as he was always nice to me. I’m just going to sit here in the chair until it ends. And yet, he insisted. But I want to Padre. Por favor? I replied back, por que, diga me…I want to ask forgiveness from you for speaking bad about you… all the time? (italics mine, unspoken). The spirit was at work, unstoppable. It was diffusive. I left my comfortable chair, joined the line and waited for a moment in a group of shedding tears mostly girls who just a few minutes prior, were giggling. And suddenly, they began crossing the line, out and about of their comfort zones, throwing their arms at almost everybody, begging for forgiveness and hugging each other, leaving a river of tears. When it was my turn, he poured water into my hands in a basin and said, sorry father. Yo le dijo, de nada…It was touching, something I haven’t experienced for a long time.
Welcome to the Second Sunday of Easter, a day designated by Blessed John Paul II as Divine Mercy Sunday stressing the unconditional love of God, the fount of Christ’s mercy, the depths of his tenderness even towards our seemingly unforgivable sins. Everyone deserves a second chance. That’s for sure. The one who knows better regardless whose fault initiates the encounter. Change seems impossible unless the absolute comes in and interferes in our affairs. It was through the revelation of Christ to Sr. Faustina as written in her Diary that JPII announced this much needed devotion. Pardon me but I’ve always thought that the reason (apart from the reflections of Sr. Faustina) why the first sunday after Easter was given such a name was because only a third of those who came to the church last week will, if experience gives us any indication, be coming back this weekend. Calling it Divine Mercy would thus perfectly fit at a time when only the regular churchgoers are in. Entonces, we ask the same question, what happened then to the “I Do’s” at the renewal of baptismal promises? Did it have any impact? Was it just purely going through the motions? But if we claim to be a community, then none of us should ever feel bad at the lack of participation, when pews are vacant. We get their share of God’s grace, the better part.
Perhaps, it might be a little off but a priest friend of mine once said to me that he loved doing the adlib “The Mass is ended, Go in peace and will see you next year” after the Easter dismissal (this was before the New Edition of the Roman Missal). I’m not sure if he still does it knowing that no one can add or omit anything in GIRM.
The Gospel proclaimed (John 20:19-31), dramatically recounted the surprising yet powerful double appearance of Jesus to his terrified disciples hiding behind closed door (probably in the upper room, same place where last supper was held), afraid they might be next in line. Suddenly, Jesus breaks in through the locked door and says, “Peace be with you and showed them his hands and his side (Jn 20: 19-20).” They were thrilled. He’s back! For the second time, he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you (Jn 20: 21).” He breathed on them and continued, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained (Jn 20: 23).”
These words left by Jesus gave the Apostles an all-important reason for the church’s mission. He needs us to tell that frightening yet saving experience at the upper room. He counts on us…so much…I hope at the end of each confession, we’ll be proud to say same as the Apostles, “We have seen the Lord! (Jn 20:25)”
St. James has a strong devotion to the Divine Mercy evidently seen in the sanctuary. The 9 day novena will be concluded tomorrow at 3:00pm. Amen.