We may need to add the Apostle Paul to the list of advocates for positive thinking. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,” Paul writes in today’s first reading, “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.”

Seek and think about what is above. Paul suggests that if we think about Christ and the life that he has given us, we will rise with our thoughts. If we focus on what is physically present around us, then that is where our lives and our spirits will reside. 

Easter calls us to focus on what is above like no other celebration. The language of Easter is about rising — rising from the dead after we die and rising from the deadness we can feel and experience while we live. We are called to focus on the goodness and love of God that can overcome all darkness.

If you’re like me, your focus is usually on what’s wrong. I think about what I don’t have, the bad things that might happen, what I’ve lost and how I hurt. I don’t dwell often enough on what I have, and what I love and enjoy and treasure. I don’t dwell on how good God has been to me and how much God loves me and all people.

There is so much negativity before us in our world. Much of it is very real. There are wars, disasters and unbelievable suffering beamed into our homes and onto our desktops every day. And many of us are still struggling to overcome the financial crisis that has destroyed jobs, savings and home ownership.

While we need to consider these realities with compassion and commitment to be sources of change, we do not need to let them erode our confidence in the love of God. We don’t need to let them destroy our joy.

Our real lives are hidden with Christ, but they are not invisible. We need to think of what is above, not what is on earth. When we find our lives with Christ, we truly live.

Jesus rises. He takes all the suffering the world can deliver and shows us that God’s love is bigger. This is, in the end, the heart of the good news of the Gospel. God’s love is deeper, wider and higher than anything pain and difficulty we might experience. He is risen. He is above.

If we can keep our focus on that truth, and remind ourselves we will experience more than positive thinking. We will experience the glory of God.

Divine Mercy Sunday

There have been a few times in my life when I knew I was in big trouble. Once in grade school, my friends and I went off on our own during a school field trip. We were supposed to be on a hike, but my friends and I decided to circle back to the bottom of the trail. The teachers and chaperones were looking for us for quite some time. We were taken to the principal’s office and given detention.

Our real lives are hidden with Christ, but they are not invisible. We need to think of what is above, not what is on earth. When we find our lives with Christ, we truly live.

But I knew I was in big trouble when I called home and my mom said that my dad would be picking me up. My dad never picked us up from school. I was much more afraid of facing my father than I was of facing the principal.

On May 1 we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. Fortunately for all of us, divine mercy is different than human mercy. Divine mercy is limitless. Divine mercy is warm and generous. We don’t need to be afraid of God when we turn to him for help.

In today’s Gospel story, the risen Christ interrupts the disciples, who are hiding in fear after the events surrounding his death and resurrection. “Peace be with you,” he tells them. Peace is in short supply, as they fear the same type of persecution that ended Jesus’ physical life.

Thomas, who was not there for Jesus’ appearance, famously doubts that it happened, claiming, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Jesus arrives again and does as Thomas asks, showing his wounds, and stunning Thomas into worship. “My Lord and my God,” Thomas responds.

Divine mercy does not seek to punish us for our lack of faith. Certainly there are consequences to our poor choices. We hurt ourselves and others. We are not promised by God that we will be relieved of the pain that our transgressions generate. We are promised, though, that we need not fear vengeance from God. God is pure love, drawing out the very best in us, longing for us to embrace and experience that love more fully and more deeply.

As is the case with Thomas, God’s mercy often surprises us. In the case of Thomas, he may think he’s in big trouble. He may expect a scolding from Jesus, or for Jesus to reject him for his lack of faith. But neither takes place. Jesus takes Thomas at his word, meets his request, and Thomas responds in kind.

The beautiful truth about God’s mercy is that God wants to forgive us, not punish us. God wants us to experience all of the unconditional, unlimited love and generosity and compassion that we can, and to live from that foundation of acceptance. God is not like the school principal or the angry parent, enforcing a system of rewards and punishments in order to accomplish their own agendas. God is trying to convince us to accept the gift of love, faith and joy.

Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected].