1 John 5:1-6
In 1931, entertainers: James Dean and Leonard Nemoy were born. So too were Raul Castor, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays. The Star-Spangled Banner was adopted as the National Anthem, Alka Seltzer was introduced and began to be distributed. Spain’s monarchy was overthrown and a republic put in place. Austria’s largest bank failed, signaling the financial collapse of central Europe during the Great Depression. The 1st cartoon of Donald Duck was show and rear-projected movies began to be shown. The Scottsboro Case in Alabama exposed the injustices present in the American legal system and Jane Addams won the Nobel Peace Prize, the first American woman to do so. Also that year, Al Capone was indicted on 5000 counts of perjury and prohibition. 5000; that’s just impressive.
In the midst of those and many other events in 1931 there is one that has probably an even greater effect upon the world as we know it today, though many are unaware of the fact. That event took place on February 22 in Poland, when a simple religious sister, Sr. Faustina, was spending her regular time before the Blessed Sacrament in the convent chapel. Though the time in prayer was a well-established part of her routine, this day was unique in that during her time of prayer the Lord Jesus appeared to her in a vision. He stood before her with a hand raised in blessing, the other pointing to His heart, which was not hidden but plainly visible. From his heart shown forth two rays, one red and one white. Seeing this vision, the Lord Jesus then spoke to Sr. Faustina, saying: “Paint an image according to the model you see, with the motto below: Jesus I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul that venerates this image will not perish.”
That image, as you may recognize, hangs prominently in our church – as it does in many churches these days – a sign that the desire of the Lord Jesus has been fulfilled to some extent. The image that began in the little chapel has made itself known in churches all across the world, but this is not the main point. The message of Jesus to Sr. Faustina was not simply for people to come honor an image, but ultimately to receive what the image shows: Divine Mercy. The two rays, Jesus later explained, symbolized the complete washing away of sin (white ray) and the life of Christ that comes to live in us (red ray). The simple invitation that Jesus desired was that Sr. Faustina spread the good news of the immensity of the Mercy of God and the desire of God to pour it out upon us.
In a later vision, as they lasted in all for 7 years, Jesus would also express a desire for a feast of Mercy. He told her: “I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and a shelter for all souls, especially poor sinners. On that day, the very depths of My tender mercy will be opened. I will pour out an entire ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My Mercy. The soul that goes to Confession and receives Holy Communion will obtain complete forgiveness of sins and a remission of all punishment. (...) Let no soul fear to approach Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. (...) Humanity will not enjoy peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.”
Humanity will not enjoy peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy. In the Gospel we just heard, the Lord shows us where the Fount of Mercy is: His glorious wounds. When He appears to the Apostles they are filled with fear, anxiety, and surely many other things in their hearts. And coming to them, He shows them His hands and feet and says, “Peace be with you.” The wounds themselves bring peace because they are the sure signs that Christ, who had been crucified, has been raised up. They are signs to the Apostles that the most terrible thing that life brings at us is trampled underfoot by their Lord. They need not worry about sin or death, but simply trust in the Lord. Thomas misses this first appearance and, upon seeing and touching the wounds of Jesus, is also granted the gift of peace and the certainty of knowing Christ’s victory. In witnessing the wounds of Christ, the disciples are then sent out to proclaim the Good News, they go out to proclaim the Mercy of God for humanity, calling all to seek forgiveness of sins and be baptized in Christ Jesus. They are even given the gift of forgiving sins themselves when the Lord breathed upon them the gift of the Spirit. Peace begins with the encounter with the Resurrected Lord, but then it must necessarily go out to others, that they too might experience peace.
So we stand here on this Divine Mercy Sunday, the feast desired by the Lord, and hear the invitation to come seek peace in Him. Come to confession. Come experience the peace that the wounds of Jesus won for us. And receiving that peace, show it to others.
Here, I think, is an important point. Mercy doesn’t just come to me and stop. It requires that I show it to others. Two instances this week really gave me pause about how I do that. We all know that the Boston Marathon Bomber was found guilty on all 30 charges this past week. What struck me was looking at facebook later only to find that many people who are ‘strong, traditional Catholics’ were calling for his death, posting how he needs to get what’s coming to him, and all sorts of mean-spirited reactions. And the first thought in my mind was ‘What about mercy?’ In no way am I defending his actions, but what in us causes the occasional joy of seeing someone else suffer? Why not pray for conversion of heart and a powerful witness to the Gospel, much like St. Paul and many others? Another thing, much more practical and of lesser importance, was as I was walking into the market. I overheard someone saying ‘why are you putting the buggy behind that person’s car?’ to which the other person said, ‘It’s not my car. I’m not gonna hit it.’ This little thing also spoke to me of the need to show mercy to others, as I had bad thoughts come to mind myself, but also the question of how are we showing mercy and love to others? How are we manifesting God’s concern for us by showing concern for others? They are necessarily connected, as Jesus reminds us in the scriptures.
To these events we can also add the events last night in Rome, as Pope Francis officially announced a Jubilee Year of Mercy for the Church starting in December on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mercy, he says, is what the world needs most right now and we must spend a special time to focus upon it. Let’s not wait until December, though. Let it begin today in our hearts as we come to honor this feast of Divine Mercy. Let us turn to the Lord and find peace.
Jesus, I Trust In You.