What does it mean to be resurrected people? It means to have mercy, divine mercy for all God's creation, including the immigrant.
Preaching for Divine Mercy Sunday, Cycle A, based on John 20:19-31, by Br. John Paul Peterson, OP
Text of the Preaching:
Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter or Mercy Sunday, in which the Lord after his resurrection showed himself to his disciples. Getting into the gospel reading allows us to see how the word of God can inform our attitude of Faith, Hope and Mercy for others and ourselves.
When Jesus appeared to the disciples, He said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
When Thomas did arrive, the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” At this news, Thomas did not have an attitude of openness to the possibility that the Christ had risen. When Jesus came the second time, he stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Looking to Thomas, Jesus said, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas was discovering the mercy of God in flesh and blood before him.
The story of Thomas is intriguing in that Christ did not abandon Thomas for his lack of faith and hope. Instead, Jesus showed Thomas mercy. This merciful love of Jesus invited Thomas to a deeper conversion, which is the most concrete expression of the presence of mercy. The measure of God’s mercy, it seems, is only limited by our unwillingness to show mercy to others. This brings us to the core mercy values of our Christian Catholic faith which I like to identify as dignity, respect, integrity, justice, compassion, accompaniment.
Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, a day in which we remember the mercy of God to all of us. How do we show mercy to the immigrant? When it comes to immigration mercy matters: It matters because we all need compassion. Mercy also matters because it is what can join us together despite our differences so that we can share equally so that each has enough.
Many in this country today are two, three or perhaps six generations removed from those of our ancestors. We are the heirs of their trials and risks and sacrifices. We are obligated to give thoughtful discernment to today’s challenges. The laws of our nation must be respected. Yet we are a country like no other and offer opportunities and freedoms granted to us by God, who only asks for our love in return.
And so we ask, how do we experience and show mercy to the stranger in our midst, especially the immigrant? The USCCB text on immigration, “Welcome the Stranger among US,” challenges us to look at the common good of all persons, with their inherent dignity as Children of God. There are different reasons why people come to the US. I voluntarily came to the US, not to seek a better life but to explore religious life. However, some came seeking a better life due to challenges in their homeland.
Nonetheless, in the call for us, perhaps most significantly for Christians, Jesus shows us what it means to be merciful: to the sick, the orphan, the widow and the stranger.
Unity in diversity is firmly grounded in the Church's social teaching, particularly in Justice and Peace. Understanding Catholic social teaching helps us to put our faith into action, giving us the opportunities to better understand and practice what our faith teaches.
Christ ceaselessly calls us, through the work of the Church, to help those who have been forced out of their homeland due to war, civil unrest, and natural disaster. As you see immigrants today, what core mercy values draw you or me to work and minister to the immigrant, is it the dignity of the person, respect for their personhood, justice, service, compassion, and accompaniment? Although I am a nonimmigrant, as a religious missionary to the US, in the service of a religious function, and working with immigrants from other countries, I saw first-hand the suffering immigrants’ experience, from the lack of food, adequate shelter and resources needed to live adequately. Immigrants always face the challenges of cultural differences of language, food customs, and behaviors. They feel unwelcome, and an attitude and behavior of indifference makes it difficult for immigrants to share their experiences. This forces me to work harder for their well-being and a successful outcome.
For consideration, we can ask what are our Mercy Value(s) when working with immigrants? When I take the time to learn and understand the stories of the immigrants and refugees that I work with, I am practicing compassion. When I advocate for the rights of all people to live in this country regardless of origin, race and socioeconomic status just like the many European immigrants who came before, I am practicing compassion and service to others. I acknowledge that just like my ancestors were shown compassion, I need to do the same. I am understanding personal responsibility.
I encourage others to take the time to learn more about immigration by talking to immigrants themselves and accompanying them on their journey to wholeness and wellness. Get involved, volunteer, ask questions, be compassionate, and most of all put a human face to the debate. Be merciful by walking in the shoes of immigrants and try to understand their struggles and challenges. Mercy values drive me to walk with the stranger. “If you want peace, work for justice.”