Sunday, April 15, 2012

Divine Mercy

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 John 5:1-6
John 20:19-31

From 1931 until her death in 1938, Sister Faustina Kowalska, a humble nun in a convent in Poland received a number of visions of Our Lord, who spoke to her of His great mercy. To her He gave a chaplet of Divine Mercy to pray for an outpouring of mercy upon the world and described the image of Divine Mercy that is now so famous. But I think most important of all are the revelations that He gave, which are recorded in her diary, now compiled as a book entitled Diary: Divine Mercy in my Soul. One of those revelations is quite beautiful and worth sharing:

My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy (Diary, 699).

It was in light of this and many other revelations Saint Faustina received that Blessed John Paul II named the Second Sunday after Easter the ‘Sunday of Divine Mercy’. This change in the liturgical name was a difficult pill for some to swallow. As I noted at the beginning of Mass, we are in the last day of the Octave of Easter – a string of eight solemn feast days. There is no higher feast than a solemnity and so many think that to emphasize the Divine Mercy is a downgrade of the celebration of Easter. In reality, though, this feast of Mercy does not trump Easter but is actually the key to unlocking the meaning of Easter..

When we think about mercy, it often comes with a negative connotation of sin and shame from which we must be cleansed. That part is one element, the more important part is the reality that Mercy is the manifestation of God’s love. The Latin word for Mercy, Misericordia, comes from the phrase ‘troubled heart’ or ‘wretched heart’. Mercy, then, is nothing other than the outpouring of God’s love for us because His heart is troubled when we lack peace. He knows that we were created for Heaven and that in this life we are called not to live in sorrow or distress but to dwell in His peace. As the last line of our Gospel points out today – these stories are conveyed that we might believe and have life in His name. And so great is the tenderness of His heart that He will go to great lengths to bring us that peace for which we long. We see this clearly in our readings today, most especially the Gospel.

When the Risen Lord appears to the Apostles for the first time, we hear that rather than come in tossing tables and ranting about how they had abandoned Him in the Passion, He comes and gently says, “Peace be with you.” He shows them His wounds as if to say ‘and this is the cost of that peace and the depth of my love.’ He then repeats Himself, “Peace be with you.” And then, because He doesn’t just want the disciples to have peace, but rather all humanity, he continues by breathing upon then and giving the Church the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we too might be able to come to know the peace of Christ in the same way that the disciples did in that first encounter with the Risen Lord. He seeks for all of us to have peace and gives us the means to attain it.

The Incredulity of Thomas by Caravaggio
As we gather here tonight on the Octave of Easter, the same night when Saint Thomas was so profoundly changed, I think it fitting to turn to that great Apostle and make His experience our own because we all have our own trials, doubts, and struggles as the apostles did in the wake of the Lord’s death and Resurrection. Saint Thomas was so saddened that he refused to believe until he put His hand into the wounds of Christ. And when Christ comes to Him and reveals those same wounds, Saint Thomas’ heart is transformed by the Mercy that pours out from them and in a moment he moves from obstinate unbelief to crying out “My Lord and my God!” In the same way the Christ appeared to Saint Thomas, He does so tonight. Let us see in the elevation of the Sacred Host and Precious Chalice not the appearance but the reality of Christ present with us and cry out “My Lord and My God!” that we too might know the transforming peace that Our Lord longs to pour out upon us and which our souls so greatly desire to receive.