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Divine Mercy Sunday: marks of mercy

When engaging our parish grade-school children in a conversation about the Resurrection, I solicited a volunteer. Eight-year-old Francis excitedly raised his hand and quickly climbed the steps to the altar area. “So, Francis, if Jesus came walking down the street today, how would you recognize him?” Without skipping a beat Francis remarked, “By the marks on his hands.” I was astonished.

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In this Sunday’s Gospel, we read of the early disciples’ first encounter with the risen Lord. Their last memory was of Jesus’ stiff, pale body, wrapped in burial cloth. Now, on the first day, upon hearing his voice and viewing the fresh marks on his hands and side, they testify to the risen Lord, “We have seen the Lord!” Jesus carries forever the marks of his sacrifice—the marks of mercy. On this Sunday, we celebrate God’s infinite mercy shown on the cross, alleviating the sin and suffering of humanity. When others witness God’s mercy working in us, through large and small acts, they too will exclaim, “We have seen the Lord!”

A soldier lunges in front of an explosion to save the life of her comrade, losing a hand or arm—forever marked with a battle scar.

A man donates his kidney to save the life of a friend or stranger—forever marked with a surgical scar.

A young man screeches his car to a halt, intercepting a possible kidnapping, only to be shot in the side—forever marked with a bullet wound.

Each carries the mark of mercy. More often, Christians bear marks of mercy by laying down their lives in ordinary ways: the coal miner risking life to bring home a paycheck; the spouse forgiving the cutting remark; the adult child caring for his aging parent; a family forgoing a vacation to serve the poor. Children recognize the presence of the risen Lord when they see the marks of mercy in their parents/grandparents.

My mother’s hands were gnarled through arthritis, her knuckles often swollen like knots in a tree. Though I sometimes caught her massaging her aching fingers, she never complained as she continued to gather family and friends around the table—her hands marked with mercy.

Battle scars, surgical marks, bullets wounds—all marks of mercy. When a Christian sacrifices for another, the marks of the Spirit, “imperishable, undefiled and unfading,” usher in peace. When I serve as a eucharistic minister, the beauty of the weathered, worn and warped hands raised to receive our risen Lord, Jesus Christ, overwhelms me with gratitude.

I’m not the least bit surprised by Francis’ answer, as his mother’s hands bear the marks of mercy from feeding her large brood, washing her elderly father’s feet and delivering meals on wheels. Barb’s side bears a mark of mercy as she slept at the foot of her sick daughter’s crib for an entire year. To know Barb is to see the risen Lord, for she bears his marks of mercy. When we carry marks of mercy into the world, others will be able to see Christ and proclaim, “My Lord and my God.” Now, that’s good news!

Who do you know who bears a mark of mercy?

How do you bear witness to the risen Lord in your home?

Mary Pedersen reflects on the Gospel through the lens of a parent/grandparent. For more insights: