Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The reflection and greetings Benedict XVI addressed to the pilgrims in St Peter's Square in today's Regina Caeli were full references to Divine Mercy and the Blessed John Paul II. Since 2000, by will of the Polish pope, the second Sunday after Easter is the "feast of the Divine Mercy", following a revelation Jesus made to Saint Faustina Kowalska, who was canonised in 2000. Equally significant, John Paul II died during the first vespers of the feast of the Divine Mercy in 2005.
Speaking about today's Gospel (John, 20, 19-31) and Jesus' appearance to the disciples, the pope said, "What the Gospel says is very important, namely that Jesus, in his two appearances to Apostles in the cenacle, repeated several times the greeting 'Peace be with you' (John, 20, 19:21.26). The traditional greeting with which shalom, peace, is wished for becomes something new. It becomes the gift of peace that only Jesus can give because it is the fruit of the radical victory over evil. The 'peace' Jesus offers his friends is the fruit of God's love that led him to die on the cross, and spill all of his blood, like a meek and humble lam 'full of grace and truth' (John, 1:14). This is why the Blessed John Paul II dedicated the Sunday after Easter to Divine Mercy with a specific icon, that of pierced side of Christ, from which blood and water flowed, according to the eyewitness account of the Apostle John (cf John, 19:34-37).
But Jesus rose, and from him, living, comes the Easter Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. Whoever approaches them with faith shall receive the gift of eternal life.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us welcome the gift of peace that the Risen Jesus offers us; let our hearts be filled with his mercy! This way, with the power of the Holy Spirit, the spirit that resurrected Christ from the dead, we too can deliver these Easter gifts to others."
During the multilingual greetings that followed the Marian prayer, the pontiff had special greetings for "the pilgrims who took part in the Holy Mass celebrated by Cardinal Vicar Agostino Vallini in the Church of the Santo Spirito in Sassia (Holy Spirit in Saxony), near St Peter' Basilica, a privileged place of worship of the Divine Mercy, where Saint Faustina Kowalska and the Blessed John Paul II are especially venerated. I hope all of you can be witnesses of Christ's merciful love. Thank you for your presence."
In Polish, the pope greeted pilgrims from the Sanctuary of Our Lord's Mercy in Łagiewniki, built where Saint Faustina Kowalska lived and died, calling on them to be "witnesses of Divine Mercy".
"There, ten years ago, the Blessed John Paul II said, 'This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God, the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness! I entrust this task to [. . .] all the votaries of Divine Mercy.' Faithful to this exhortation, let us announce to the world the message of the Merciful Jesus. 'May you be witnesses to mercy'!"
In his reflection, Benedict XVI spoke about the time when Jesus appeared on "the first day of the week" and a "week later" (John, 20, 19.26). "That day, later called 'Sunday', is the day of the assembly, when the Christian community gets together to worship, i.e. the Eucharist, a form of worship that is new and distinct from the Jewish Sabbath. In fact, the celebration of the Day of the Lord is strong evidence of Christ's Resurrection because only and extraordinary and amazing event could induce the first Christians to start worshipping differently from the Jewish Sabbath."
Then as now, the Christian form of worship is not only the commemoration of past events. It is also not simply a particular inner and mystical experience. It is an essential a meeting with the Risen Lord, who lives in God's dimension, beyond time and space, and yet is truly present in the community, speaking to us through the Holy Scriptures, breaking the bread of eternal life for us. Through these signs, we experienced what the disciples experienced, i.e. the chance of seeing Jesus and yet not recognising him, touching his body, a real body, yet one that is free from earthly ties."
Four days from now, Benedict XVI will mark the seventh anniversary of his pontificate. The pope spoke about it in his greetings to French pilgrims. "For next Thursday, the seventh anniversary of my election to the See of Peter, I call upon you to pray for me so that the Lord may give me the strength to fulfil the mission he assigned to me. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of believers, help us live in the joy of Easter."