HOMILY FOR 2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR C (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)
THEME: THE STORY OF CHRISTOPHER AND VANESSA
BY: FR. ANTHONY O. EZEAPUTA, MA.
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY APRIL 24 2022
Vanessa sobbed as she narrated her stories. She stated that she met Christopher during her graduate studies in New York City at a gym. They became one another’s physical fitness motivation, best friends, and eventually lovers. They agreed that they did not want a long-distance relationship and that she should seek employment in New York City rather than return to her home state. Their prayers were answered, and she was able to get a job in New York City following her studies. She eventually moved in with him and the two married.
She recalled her first inkling that something was wrong with Christopher when he persuaded her to have a private wedding with only three guests. She agreed, however, because she genuinely loved him and didn’t want to lose him. Their wedding took place in a recreational park with only three guests, one of whom was a friend of Christopher’s who officiated, and two former classmates of Vanessa. Their relatives were neither invited nor informed about the wedding.
Vanessa becomes increasingly concerned when Christopher refuses to talk about his family and refuses to let her meet them. She said she assumed that he had abusive parents or a dysfunctional home and preferred to mind his business. Occasionally, she brings up discussions about Christopher’s family, and he ends up becoming very angry.
Things took a turn for the worse when Vanessa insisted on taking him to see her parents. After a lot of deliberation and argument, he finally agreed. Despite their dissatisfaction with the fact that they were not invited to or even informed of their daughter’s wedding, Vanessa’s parents accepted them and were grateful that they came to see them.
When Vanessa’s parents inquired about Christopher’s family, he gave an unsatisfactory and suspicious response. Moreover, Vanessa had informed her parents of her findings both before and after their wedding: he was the one who persuaded her to look for a job in New York City; he was the one who persuaded her not to invite them to their wedding; he did not talk about his family; and he did not want them to visit them.
Consequently, they hired a private investigator to investigate Christopher. Christopher was discovered to be a fugitive from justice by the investigator. He killed his parents in his home state and fled to New York City, where he took a new name and pretended to be someone else.
When Christopher was arrested, Vanessa was devastated, as one might expect. She recalled that Christopher’s worst word to her was “Forgive and forget,” she said.
I believe that most of us have heard that phrase at some point in our lives: “Forgive and forget.” It is, as we all know, easier said than done. Vanessa cannot simply “forgive and forget” or act as if the incident never happened. Obviously, she will have to deal with it for a long time.
But have you ever stopped and thought about what it really means to “forgive and forget”? Most likely, you think it means, “Move on and get over it” or “Don’t be so sensitive.” Well, I have good news for you. Forgive and forget doesn’t mean that your disappointments, betrayals, pains, offenses, and hurt never happened. Instead, it reveals the truth of our weakened human nature and our ministry as dispensers of divine mercy.
The Church teaches that in the beginning, Adam and Eve were created in an original state of holiness and justice, that is, they were free from an inclination or concupiscence to sin (Catechism, 375, 376, 377, 398). Through their sin, however, they lost this original state. Sadly, not only for themselves, but for us too (Catechism, 416). “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Not only has Adam transmitted to the entire human race the death of the body, which is the punishment for sin, but also the death of the soul, which is sin. The death of the soul is the loss of sanctifying grace—the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)., which is the principle of supernatural life, just as death is the deprivation of life.
By baptism, on the other hand, the original sin and the eternal punishment due to it are forgiven. The baptized are incorporated into the church, the door of the Kingdom of God is opened, and the gift of eternal life is received by the baptized. Notwithstanding, the baptized carry the wound or the inclination to sin inherited from Adam and Eve. The effect of this wound is our weakened human nature, or human frailties (Catechism, 1263–1264).
Interestingly, God has perfect knowledge of us, especially our fallen human nature. Therefore, God isn’t amazed by our sins and shortcomings. With this perfect knowledge of us comes divine mercy. The Evangelist John (3:16) puts it so beautifully, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus Christ is the face of Divine Mercy.
In fact, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). The name of God is “mercy.” Mercy is the face of God revealed in the Old Testament and completely revealed in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became a man to exemplify for us how to be merciful in the same way that our heavenly Father is merciful. So, there is still hope for us.
Besides, the season of Easter is a reminder of this hope. Through the Risen Christ (Philippians 4:13), we are capable of so much good. Because Jesus Christ is the personification of divine hope and divine mercy, He is the Divine Mercy in his words, his actions, and his entire person, says Pope Francis. By imitating him, we become ministers of Divine Mercy.
To become a minister of Divine Mercy is to first know that we are all weak and imperfect and still decide to forgive and forget one another’s failings. The phrase “forgive and forget” is, then, an invitation to be Christlike. It means imitating Christ, who knows that we are sinners and decides to make peace with us. It is the acceptance of what we can’t change. We are inclined to sin, and we are imperfect. We can’t change the reality of our fallen human nature.
After so many years of suffering and crying, Vanessa made the decision to follow Christopher’s final words. She accepted the truth that she had fallen in love with and married a criminal. She realized she couldn’t undo the past, but she could make the future better. She visited her husband in prison, who was serving a life sentence, and forgave him.
To forgive and forget is to make peace with our true human nature. It is in our nature to betray, hurt, and disappoint one another. When you witness acts of love and kindness from others, thank God for his grace (1 Corinthians 15:10). We are only able to do good through the grace of God (Philippians 4:13). This knowledge must bring us peace and lead us to make peace with our past offenses and hurt. None of us is perfect. We are works in progress with the goal of perfection.
After Jesus’ resurrection, and as the apostolic mission was about to begin, Jesus entrusted the ministry of divine mercy to his Apostles. He empowers them to forgive and reconcile repentant sinners (John 20:21–23). Surprisingly, Jesus shows them the wounds of the Passion before entrusting them with this ministry. Because it is from these wounds that our wounded and fallen human natures are healed.
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church reminds us that we are all ministers of Jesus, the Divine Mercy. Through the grace of his resurrection, may we liberate ourselves from our past offenses, hurts, betrayals, and disappointments. In this way, we can truly forgive and forget our neighbor’s shortcomings.
Divine Mercy also shines forth through the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of reconciliation, as well as through corporal and spiritual works of mercy done by both the community and individuals. May Saint Faustina and Saint John Paul II pray for us.