2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)
Reflections by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama, given at the Twelve Apostles Church, Abuja, 19.04.2020
Greetings from the Twelve Apostles’ Church, Central Area, Abuja, to the few of you here present and those watching us through live-streaming, with every hope that you are keeping well. Since I celebrated Mass elsewhere last Sunday, I now have the opportunity to say to you, Happy Easter!
You may ask what is happy about the Easter, considering what we are all going through as a global community. I give you three reasons: You are alive. Jesus died and rose. God has given us mercy. Today is Divine Mercy Sunday during which the Church reminds us of God’s Mercy shown you us in different ways, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you want to qualify for God’s mercy, like Thomas, just say with deep faith and sincerity: “My Lord and my God”.
In the life time of many of you perhaps this year was the first time you had a very “subdued” Easter. Our primary school teacher used to say, “Christmas without happiness is like tea without sugar”. Easter without a vibrant joy is like having pounded yam without the correct soup: whether it is nyam toho, ofe oha or ofe onugbu or edikayikong. All the same, we still had a great Easter even without the normal communal holy week activities and the infectious joy to celebrate the resurrection in our own African fashion. Why do I say so? The ravaging corona virus even though brought the whole world to its knees, is not powerful enough to infect or bury our faith; the social distancing is not enough to disorganize our Church and take away our sense of caring for one another as the Christians of the early Christian community did in today’s first reading in Acts 2:42-47. The early Church grew every day because of the acts of mercy shown by its members sharing genuine love.
Coronavirus or no coronavirus, our faith and our Church de kangpke! You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Please keep the Church going in your hearts. The Church is not just a physical building. If anything, this tragedy is a kairos, a time God has set aside for all of humanity to know that He alone is the Lord. “I am the Lord your God, you shall not serve any other God but me”. You may be physically separated from one another, but please be spiritually bonded, in communion. We thank the Twelve Apostles parish for the live streaming of Masses and the spiritual exercises that go on here which shows that your parish community is still dynamic and functional even without gathering physically.
That a tiny virus even though can make the world super powers tremble, cause economic stagnation and make science and technology seem impotent, God remains Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. He can, with the blow of air, cause the virus to cease to exist. As if to respond to our worrisome situation, St. Peter in the second reading (1 Peter 1:3-9) urges that even though we may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold, which is corruptible even though it bears testing by fire – and then you will have praise and glory and honour.
Jesus in Matthew 28:20 assures us, “I am with you always, even to the end of time.” Jesus is alive. As he appeared to his followers and ate with the Apostles after the resurrection and spent quality time together with them so we have to invite Jesus to come and spend quality time with us. We can feel Jesus in the Eucharist; in the Blessed Sacrament and in one another. He is present in our neighbour, because he said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me….”
This time is a very special and providential period for all of humanity. It is an opportunity to start loving and caring again more than ever before. Perhaps we have travelled for too long presumptive of our might, intelligence and skills. It is time to feel what the two disciples on the way to Emmaus felt. They felt something in their hearts. Were not our hearts burning? Is your heart burning with the love of God and neighbour?
This is time to practise and develop the culture of silence, a time to develop a deeper interior life, a time to read the word of God more and make it our daily bread; a time for intense prayer, a time to love without boundaries and to take our religion to a higher level; not just a superficial, external worship but the concrete application of what Jesus taught us about love, peace, service, forgiveness, etc.
Like the Apostles, allow Jesus to meet you even in your locked room as he met them in the room locked for fear of the Jewish authorities. Jesus will say to you as he told them, “Peace be with you”. Jesus’ peace is true peace. Even when your faith is shaky and unstable like that of Thomas, Jesus will strengthen your faith because he is God and has the power to forgive you your doubts, failings and sins. Jesus stands at the door and knocks (cf. Rev. 3:20). Open the door of your heart.
The risen Lord gave his Apostles the power to forgive sins with the words, “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain, they are retained” (Jn 20:19-23). Take the sacrament of confession more seriously. I am very aware of the fact that many of you have not had access to the sacrament of Penance since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. And many are also wondering what to do in this circumstance when confession in person to a priest is not easy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says two things in this circumstance: first, do a perfect act of contrition; and secondly, have a firm resolve to go to sacramental confession as soon as it is possible to find a priest to hear your confession. Contrition is perfect when it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else. The Church believes and teaches that perfect contrition “remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness for mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.” So do not be afraid to talk to God as your Father and to ask Him forgiveness for your sins. Make the most out of this era of corona virus. Consider it a prolonged retreat and encounter God the best way possible, quietly and trustfully.
The Archdiocese of Abuja has provided the opportunity for spiritual and pastoral support by giving dedicated telephone lines to ten priests and sisters who can support you during these trying moments. Please, call them and share with them what you are going through. Keep your faith alive. Social distancing because of corona virus should not cause spiritual distance but create a spiritual bond.
With the prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic necessitating the lockdown of some States and restriction of free movements among other measures that have been taken to combat the spread of the virus, many Nigerians are in dire need of food and drink, and many more may soon exhaust their meagre resources that sustain them. The number of those who need material support and palliatives are on the rise. This is a moment to complement the efforts of Government and other generous groups to come to the aid of these needy brothers and sisters of ours. We need to identity and unite with our suffering brothers and sisters. We have asked those who are able to donate into the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja Emergency Account opened to support those infected or affected by the pandemic, through a committee headed by St. Vincent de Paul.
St. Faustina invites us by the witness of her life to keep our faith and hope fixed on God the Father, rich in mercy, who saved us by the precious blood of his Son. We should radiate God’s mercy to others by our corporal and spiritual works of mercy, by our kind and supportive words, and by our prayers for all our brothers and sisters. By virtue of your baptism, you are missionaries of mercy.
This is the right time to ask God for mercy and to also show mercy.
Peace be with you all.