Homily for April 8, 2018 (2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy)
Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31

No one wants to have bad breath.  Here in the United States, we spend billions of dollars every year on mouthwash, toothpaste, chewing gum and mints.  We avoid foods like garlic and onions.  We brush our teeth and even our tongues!

The truth is, bad breath isn’t just a physical problem.  We can also have spiritual forms of bad breath:  gossip, slander, swearing, using God’s name in vain.  These can also drive people away and complicate our relationships.

On this Divine Mercy Sunday we celebrate God’s good breath:  the Holy Spirit!  In our gospel passage, Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection.  They had placed so much hope in him.  They had left everything to follow him.  Then he was crucified and buried.  They were afraid that what happened to him would happen to them.

Jesus greeted his disciples with the words we repeat just before communion:  “Peace be with you.”  Then he did something that may seem strange to us:  he breathed on them!  It probably didn’t seem so strange to them as Jews who knew the Scriptures. In the second creation story in the Book of Genesis, God breathed life into the first human he created from the clay of the earth.  The prophet Ezekiel likewise had a vision in which God told him to call forth the winds to put new life into a valley of dry bones.  In the same way, Jesus breathed new life into his disciples.

But he did not want that breath to remain only with them.  He told them, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.”  Jesus wants us to share the breath of new life that we have received through his grace. St. John teaches us in our second reading that this life-giving breath is most clearly manifested in our love for God and our love for others.

That love isn’t just an individual thing.  Notice that when Jesus blew the breath of the Holy Spirit into his disciples, he didn’t do it to them individually.  He breathed on them as a group.  Our reading from the Acts of the Apostles recalls how the love of Jesus was manifested in the community of disciples, the early church.  They were united in heart and mind.  They prayed together.  The apostles boldly preached and inspired others with their testimony.  With generosity and trust they shared what they had with each other. 

Jesus told a doubting St. Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  Faith is the gift that enables us to believe without seeing.  But many people today don’t have that faith.  In order to believe they need to see the love and mercy of Jesus living in his people and his church.

We are those people.  We are that church.  +