This Sunday, the Universal Church celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday. For the past 17 years, the Catholic Church has celebrated this feast on the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Pope St. John Paul II extended this devotion to Catholics throughout the world on the occasion of canonizing St. Faustina Kowalska, who had received a series of private revelations from Jesus on the subject of His Divine Mercy, one of which was His desire for the establishment of a Feast of Mercy to be celebrated on this particular day. Speaking of this feast day, Our Lord told St. Faustina: “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.”
These words of invitation by Our Lord to experience the profound depths of love and mercy are extremely appealing and have been embraced with enthusiasm by the faithful throughout the Church. Much attention is given to the remarkable benefits received by those who devoutly participate in the devotional practices connected with Divine Mercy Sunday, benefits which draw us into a deeper union with Our Risen Lord at the conclusion of this Octave of Easter. While we do indeed rejoice in the powerful gift that is made available to us on this day, the Church has never ceased to insist on making sure we know that we must live the graces received by practicing mercy. In his homily for the canonization of St. Faustina, the first saint canonized in the Great Jubilee Year beginning this 3rd Millennium of Christianity, Pope St. John Paul said: “It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’.”
In the various readings, the liturgy seems to indicate the path of mercy which, while re-establishing the relationship of each person with God, also creates new relations of fraternal solidarity among human beings. Christ has taught us that “man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but also is called ‘to practice mercy’ towards others: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Mt 5: 7).” (Dives in Misericordia, # 14). He showed us the many paths of mercy, which not only forgives sins but reaches out to all human needs. Jesus bent over every kind of human poverty, material and spiritual.
This rest of the story of Divine Mercy, that of practicing mercy, is explicitly mentioned by Our Lord in His revelations to St. Faustina, as He told her: “…The first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from this.”
Our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, continues to drive this message home, particularly during a recent Jubilee Year of Mercy. He ardently insists on the importance of not just seeking mercy, but also sharing it, encouraging the Church to reflect on and practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Speaking about these works of mercy, particularly as they are presented in the Gospel of St. Matthew (chapter 25), the Pope reminds us that “we cannot escape the Lord’s words to us, and they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged.”
These two sides of the story of Divine Mercy are complementary to one another, for the graces that we receive free us from the attachments to our own selfish ways of living, so that we can better serve the needs of our brothers and sisters. Let us be mindful of this as we continue our celebration on this day dedicated to the message of Divine Mercy. May our hearts be open to receive the graces that Christ and His Church offer to us today, and may we then live those graces with greater intensity as we spread the light of this message to the world around us through works of mercy rooted in our love of God and our neighbor. ******************************************************************
I am especially grateful to all those participants in the Easter Sunday Masses last weekend who took time to use the special “combined 2nd Collection” envelope, and checked off the particular areas of charities to which they wanted to contribute. I sometimes feel, as many of you do, that we get bombarded with so many requests for various causes to help people in need that we cannot fulfill them all. The Pastoral Council gave me some sage advice last year to combine several of those diocesan-mandated 2nd collections, thereby reducing the number of frequent requests that we have to answer.
Also, several of you complained about the 2-page “rant” that was clandestinely placed on some of your cars that were parked in our lot last week during Mass. The poorly-reasoned manifesto was done without my knowledge or permission. It happens once in a while, especially, it seems, when there is a full moon out. Let’s pray for those, misguided souls.
Let’s also not be fooled by the phony appeals for money that a sad-looking “family” begs for on our premises (complete with pre-printed signs – again without my knowledge or permission). I’m grateful to the concerned parishioners who inform me of this so that the ushers and I can chase them off the property and watch them drive off in their shiny new sedan. We have been informed they are sent here by a non-denominational “church.”