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WOW! Honestly, that’s the word that came to me as I was trying to begin writing this homily.

WOW, for all that Holy Mother Church is offered to us during this octave of Easter, these eight days from Easter to today, Divine Mercy Sunday. Each day this past week we have heard different appearance accounts of Jesus after his death and resurrection.

We’ve encountered the faithful women who went to anoint the body of Jesus and found the tomb empty. 

We’ve encountered angels dressed in white telling the women, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?”

We’ve encountered Peter in the beloved disciple running to the tomb, bending down and looking in.

We’ve encountered downcast disciples on the way to Emmaus meeting Jesus walking along the same road yet not recognizing him until he breaks the bread with them.

Over and over again the gospel writers present the unbelievable, the impossible dead Jesus, alive! He is risen. He is risen indeed. That is what Holy Mother Church wants us to recognize once again as we gather on this first day of the week, which is where we find the disciples in today’s gospel.

One of the resources that I use to deepen my own prayer life is this small monthly pamphlet entitled, “The Word Among Us.” It has reflections on the daily readings as well as other articles to help deepen one’s life of faith.

One of the articles is entitled, “Make the most of these 50 days of grace.” One of the suggestions was to “ponder” the words of the risen Christ. 

I looked up the definition of ponder this is what I found: “to consider something deeply and thoroughly; to meditate upon; to weigh carefully in the mind; to consider thoughtfully; to turn over again and again.”

I realized that that was a great definition for prayer as well. Therefore, I want to invite you to ponder what you might need to experience this Octave, this Second Sunday of Easter, this Divine Mercy Sunday, this First Holy Communion Sunday.

Take what resonates with you and ponder it.

“The doors were locked for fear.” Is this where you find yourself in your relationship with your spouse, your children, your parents, your neighbors, your classmates, your coworkers or with God? Allow Jesus to come to you and unlock your heart, your thinking and free you from your fears.

“Jesus stood in their midst.” How often during the day do I recognize the presence of Jesus in the other standing right there before me — my spouse, my kids, my parents, just to name a few?

“Peace be with you.” What kind of distress, anxiety and chaos may you be experiencing in your life? When you pray for the peace that Jesus offers, it is not the peace of the world, but a peace whose source is the cross of Christ. It is a peace rooted in forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation. It is a peace found in the wounds of Christ.

“Jesus showed them his hands and his side.” Jesus reveals himself through his wounds, the signs of his sufferings. What about us? Do we hide our wounds, our hurts, our brokenness? Are we afraid of what others might think of us because of our wounds? For Jesus and for the early church, Jesus’ wounds are the marks of victory, not of defeat.

“He breathed on them and said, receive the Holy Spirit.” What an intimate encounter. When was the last time someone breathed on you, were so close to you that you could feel their breath? This is such a sensitive, sensual and intimate moment. Ponder it, Jesus breathing on you.

Its purpose is for Jesus to give his disciples, and hence us, the gift of his Holy Spirit. Jesus wants us to share in the very life of the holy Trinity and to be empowered by God’s divine life so that we can offer and receive forgiveness and thereby bring about reconciliation.

That happened on that first day of the week, the first Easter. It didn’t happen for Thomas. He wasn’t there. 

If you ponder that fact, you may realize how very important it is not only to have a personal relationship with Jesus, but also a communal relationship. It absolutely makes a difference when we do not attend Mass on Sunday. The Body of Christ is not complete if we are not present.

“We have seen the Lord!” How do I share my faith? Am I excited to do so? Do I look for ways to engage others in conversation about Jesus?

“Unless I see… I will not believe.” How often do I think that? How often do I demand that Jesus, or his Church, show or do for me exactly what I want to see and have done?

“Put your finger here and see…and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” How do I respond to Jesus’ personal invitation to encounter him, through prayer, through reading sacred Scripture, through a small faith sharing group, through ministry, through the poor, through those who are different from me or disagree with me?

In a very special way as we celebrate with our children their first Holy Communion, can we ponder more deeply the experience of Jesus offering himself to us, his Body and his Blood, his Soul and his Divinity when we receive Holy Communion? 

This is such a profound reality, almost beyond our ability to believe. We would be unable to do so without Jesus having first breathed on us his Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.

There is so much more that we could ponder, but enough for now. Two things in today’s SMPnews, our bulletin that I want to bring to your attention for you to ponder. On page 8 the wonderful article on the Divine mercy devotion. Please take some time to read it and ponder it.

Secondly, take some time this week to ponder the cover of the SMPnews. It is a beautiful painting based on today’s gospel by the famous painter Caravaggio. It is stunning, evocative and beautiful for prayer.

I close with these words from St. John Vianney, “Our sins are nothing but a grain of sand alongside the great mountain of the mercy of God.” Let’s ponder this week.