When he was about 8 years old, the thing Jerry wanted most for Christmas was a Chemistry set. He’d seen it on one of those commercials during the Saturday morning cartoons and immediately fell in love with it.
Mom’s response was – “you’re too young for that!.” So, Jerry moped around for a week then sorta forgot about it. But on Christmas day, to his great surprise, the last package he opened was his chemistry set! He was beyond excited. Dad was quick to sit him down and explained that this was not a toy – it was potentially dangerous, so he should never work with it unless he or Mom was around.
That night, in his bedroom after everyone went to bed, Jerry locked the bedroom door and pulled out his chemistry set – “just to look at it”. The metal box was smooth and cool to the touch – it was awesome – it made him feel like an adult! He opened it up and looked at some of the chemicals in there – most of which he couldn’t even read. Then he saw the test-tubes – the little glass tubes in which he saw them mixing chemicals on the commercial.
He pulled out one chemical and carefully filled half the tube – then he randomly grabbed another chemical and filled the tube to the top. To his surprise, the tube started getting hot – it was having a chemical reaction which created heat… so much heat that it started to burn his hand, and he dropped the tube into the waste basket. He hurriedly put away the chemistry set and shoved it back under his bed and crawled into bed, pulling the covers over his eyes. Then he smelled something… and glanced at the waste can, where smoke was billowing. He tried to blow on it but that actually made a flame jump up – Jerry jumped back – scared to death – what was Dad going to do to him?!? He ran and hid in the closet. All he could think was, “Dad’s gonna kill me when he finds out!”
A couple minutes later, the smoke alarm in the hall went off and he heard the rest of the family shouting over the noise. Somebody came to his bedroom door and he heard them pounding, telling him to unlock it – but he couldn’t let them in – what would Dad do to me?! The flames were licking the ceiling now and the room was filled with smoke – then there was a loud slam and the sound of splintering wood. His dad rushed into the room feeling in the bed for Jerry – under the bed – behind the bed – then he opened the closet door and grabbed Jerry – running out of the house… Jerry had stopped breathing, so as soon as they hit fresh air, Dad laid him on the sidewalk and stooped down to the ground to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation – forcing fresh air into Jerry’s lungs…bringing him back from the edge of death. He coughed and sputtered and immediately started crying. Jerry’s dad gave him to his mother and rushed back into the house with an extinguisher stopping the fire – but not before it had destroyed Jerry’s room and filled the whole house with smoke damage.
As Jerry sat in his Mom’s arms crying – he was praying that Dad would make it back out safely – and at the same time thinking, what’s Dad going to do to me?!
Dad came out coughing and rubbing his eyes – “Fire’s out” – was all he could say as he caught his breath. Walking over to the family, he started crying himself to see all the damage that had been done…but mainly crying tears of joy that nobody got hurt.
He had a stern look on his face as he approached, and Jerry thought – this is it – the fire didn’t kill me, but Dad is about to! But instead of spanking him or lecturing him, his Dad just motioned for him to come to him – and he picked him up and hugged him so hard – and said – don’t worry about it Jerry. I forgive you.
But Dad – I did what you told me not to! Don’t worry about it Jerry, I forgive you.
But Dad – I was bad – you should punish me! Don’t worry about it Jerry, I forgive you. Listen: when I thought you were dead, I realized that none of this matters… I love you so much, that I cannot IMAGINE going through life without you.
I think this is what the apostles were experiencing in the Gospel. They had blown it with Jesus – every one of them had run away when the going got tough. There were embarrassed – and this morning they’d heard from Mary Magdalene that Jesus had risen, they were SURE he was going to hunt them down and make them pay for their mistakes. While we might think they had the doors locked because they were hiding from the Jews, one could argue that they locked it because they were afraid of Jesus… especially Peter… He could just picture Jesus storming through the door and saying “I’m Baaack… and this time it’s personal!” – and heads would roll. He could picture Jesus shouting – “I told you so – I told you that you’d deny me – you measly poor excuse of an apostle”. He could hear Jesus yelling – WHERE WERE YOU GUYS?! You abandoned me! You failed as my apostles – so I’m getting new ones. Jesus was indeed back…back for revenge – starting with the men who were supposed to be his friends. Heads would roll.
Jesus suddenly appeared – and they all cringed – falling to the floor – scared to death – their hearts racing – this is it – heads will roll.
Instead, Jesus says ‘Shalom’ – Peace. Realizing who it was, they couldn’t help but feel joy that it was TRUE – He really HAD risen. But they still had that lingering doubt – they were SO sure he was coming back to get revenge on them that the word didn’t even reach their brains…so He said again: Shalom – Peace.
Their fear had paralyzed them – at that moment, the Church Jesus was trying to start was dead – lifeless – locked in a closet of fear - but pay attention to the next verse: he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”
Like a firefighter breathing life back into a seemingly lifeless victim, Our Redeemer stoops down to the earth to breathe His life into the Apostles – into His Church – bringing the dead to life. He didn’t seek revenge – He showed Mercy. He didn’t even seek JUSTICE – instead he dispensed his Grace. Jesus says – I’m Back – and this time it’s personal. No more religion based on rules and regulations and trying to earn salvation, Jesus offers every one of us a personal relationship – and through that relationship, we come to know God personally.
This is Divine Mercy – which we celebrate today. Every one of us has done something to deserve the Justice of God – if God treated us as we deserve, Heads would roll. Instead God gives us what we DON’T deserve…
Now by definition, Mercy is to forgo punishment that is deserved. So in the old law, you poke my eye out, I could lawfully poke your eye out. If I DON’T poke your eye out, that is mercy. However, Divine Mercy goes a step further… instead of giving us what we deserve, God gives us His Grace. Grace is a free, unmerited gift of God - we don’t earn it – in fact, we deserve the exact opposite. When God could lawfully have wiped us from the face of the earth, instead He gave us His Spirit – he breathed His life into us to allow us to live a totally new life.
That is a big deal – and hard to comprehend this quickly – but let it sink in: We deserved death – we have all gone against the will of God – but in His Divine Mercy, He has given us the opposite of what we deserve. Instead of giving us death we deserved – he gives us eternal life.
Why? Because our Father loves you so much, that He cannot IMAGINE spending eternity without you.
He will seek you out behind locked doors – He will run through the fire for you – He would give up His own life to save yours… The God of the universe would stoop down to the earth to breath His very Life into you.