Updated: Apr 23, 2020
Fr. Don Giuseppe Berardelli, 72, was the archpriest of the parish of San Giovanni Battista, in Casnigo, Italy. He was an Italian priest who contracted coronavirus at the height of this global pandemic. While he was confined at the hospital, a generous parishioner donated for him a respirator which is a necessity for a patient in order to fight and survive. This gentle priest noticed the scarcity of that particular medical equipment; he saw the helplessness of hospital workers giving the best care they could give to the crowd of patients; he saw people who are dying because of the severity of the invincible virus decided to give up his ventilator so that a younger patient could use the medical device. According to local media reports, the priest died between March 15 and 16.
This Second Sunday of Easter, we are celebrating the Feast of the Divine Mercy. According to Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa who is the recent Papal Preacher, in the bible, the word mercy has two fundamental meanings. The first indicates the attitude of a stronger party towards the weaker party and is usually expressed by forgiveness for unfaithfulness and sins. The second meaning indicates the attitude towards the need and suffering of the other and is expressed in what we call works of mercy. In Jesus, both of these forms of mercy shine forth because the gospel writers say of Him “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases. The first is the mercy of the heart. The first reading which is taken from the first letter of Peter states that “by Jesus great mercy he has given us new birth into the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead”. The Lord’s mercy was both manifested in His pity on our situation after our first parents sinned, lived a miserable life away from the home of the Father. Man was lost and severed from his relationship to the Father who is the source of life and therefore dead. The death of Jesus is to be united with our death so that out of that situation He may give new life and brings us back to the home of the Father. Mercy here speaks of God’s forgiveness which means that He gave up His life so that He can give us new life once again and restore our filial relationship with the Father.
The response of Thomas in the gospel when he said: “my Lord and my God” is extremely necessary. After Jesus had forgiven him because he doubted the truth of His resurrection and see for himself that Jesus has risen from the dead, Thomas had surrendered himself totally to the Lord. What Jesus did once in for all has no meaning at all if we do not imitate this skeptical apostle after that confession and conversion. We have to make Jesus our Lord and our Saviour which means that from now on, we will be totally obedient to the will of the Father even at the expense of my dear life. This is how to receive the mercy as forgiveness of the Lord. To be forgiven is to make Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
The second is the mercy of the hand. We see in the Acts of the Apostles from the first reading the two essential parts of their community life which is the breaking of the bread and communal charity towards the poor and the needy. Their having a heart for the oppressed and depressed is not only a dictate of human reason but it is firmly founded in the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist which they constantly experience and receive the compassion of God which command from the heart tells them they must show generosity by sharing God’s blessings for others. Mercy here refers to compassion.
The message of the life of Fr. Don is clear, it is not a heroic act but it is an act of holiness. He is a priest who grabbed the opportunity to radiate the life of Christ. He died for others because he experienced forgiveness and compassion of God. May this divine mercy Sunday enlighten us about the beauty of Christian life, our homecoming to God’s kingdom which is forgiveness and to share our gifts to others which is compassion because we belong to one family of God.