Divine Mercy Sunday
by Rev. Jack Peterson YA
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (Jesus) said to them again. "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and he said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
Divine Mercy is God's gift of infinite love, overflowing from heaven and spilling over onto a broken, frail and sinful humanity. When His mercy lands upon us, it washes us clean, bestows bounteous life, and sends us out to bring the transforming love and truth of Christ into the darkness and suffering of our world.
Mercy is a gift for every season of the church's liturgical year, not just Advent or Lent. Easter is a season of mercy. Imagine how hard it must have been for Peter to recover after having denied Jesus three times and, correspondingly, how powerful it must have been for the fisherman to encounter Jesus, and gaze into His eyes as He asks Peter three times if he loves Him; then asks him to feed His lambs, and tend and feed His sheep.
Additionally, imagine the newness of life that filled the hearts of the two disciples who encountered the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus and recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. Finally, picture the surge of faith that poured into the soul of Thomas as he placed his hand into the pierced side of our Lord eight days after the Resurrection.
The Resurrection is a totally unexpected gift from God the Father, a resounding confirmation of everything Jesus said and did during the years that He walked this earth. The Resurrection screams "Forgiveness, healing and new life are real."
Pope Francis said that "The privileged place of encounter (with Jesus) is the caress of Jesus' mercy regarding my sin." Every genuine encounter with Christ involves a new and deeper experience of His healing and transforming mercy.
On Easter Sunday evening, Jesus commissioned the church, particularly through her bishops and priests, with the privileged task of offering forgiveness in the Father's name: "'As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them (the Apostles), 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained'" (Jn 20:21-23). The task of extending the forgiveness of sins through Confession is one of the most awesome gifts given to priests.
At the same time, it is the mission of the whole church and of every member of the church to be ambassadors of mercy - to proclaim and celebrate this most wonderful gift and to invite others to experience it.
Some saints have stood out over the past 2,000 years as ambassadors of God's mercy. One of them is St. Faustina Kowalska, an unassuming Polish nun to whom the Lord appeared in a long series of private conversations, many of which she published in a diary. The Lord asked her to help the church proclaim more loudly and clearly the message of God's tender mercy poured out from His pierced side.
Our Lord spoke powerful and tender words to St. Faustina to share with the world. "'The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy." "Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion."
Divine Mercy is an invitation to trust in Jesus: "I have opened My heart as a living fountain of mercy. Let all souls draw life from it. Let them approach this sea of mercy with great trust."
At the same time, the Lord calls us to extend mercy to others: "If a soul does not exercise mercy in some way, it will not obtain mercy on the day of judgment."
Jesus encouraged St. Faustina to spread devotion to His Divine Mercy by three principle means: the image of Divine Mercy, the Feast of Divine Mercy and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. St. John Paul II was inspired greatly by the message and task given to St. Faustina and made God's mercy a significant theme of his papacy. He declared the Second Sunday of Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday.
Concluding with one more quote from St. Faustina's diary, "My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire 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 Font of My mercy . . . Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sin 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."
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