Homily for the Octave of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, Aril 11, 2021. Gospel of St. John 20:19-31. Theme: The ABCs of Mercy
In our Catholic Faith, many prayers and devotions have come to us through the spiritual experiences of the saints. But few, very few, ever reach the highest level of actually entering into our liturgy and being promoted by a pope. However, on May 5, 2000, Pope St. John Paul II declared that the Second Sunday of Easter was to be forever celebrated as “Divine Mercy Sunday”, which was requested by Jesus through the spiritual experiences of St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun and mystic of the 20th century.
Our Lord had chosen her to help reawaken in his Church a new awareness of and appreciation for his mercy, because so many had forgotten about the tenderness of God’s love. Jesus told her that he was saddened over the fact that so many people found it difficult to draw near to him because of the way in which he was being presented by the ministers of his Church. You see, much of the preaching and teaching of the time made people think that because of human weaknesses and sinfulness they were unworthy of an intimate relationship with Christ.
But Jesus told St. Faustina that the opposite is actually true. He said that the greater a sinner a person is, the greater is that person’s right to claim his mercy. He said that he is drawn to wounded and struggling hearts the way iron shavings are attracted to a magnet. He said that he longs to have a deep and meaningful relationship with every person who desires it. How very different and hopeful that all sounded when compared to what people were usually hearing at church!
To help us remember and celebrate his love for us, Jesus asked that Mercy Sunday be observed as the closing day of the great Easter feast. He also requested that a special image of himself be painted and blessed, with copies of it hung in churches and homes so that we could remember his mercy every day. In this image, Jesus gazes at us with a look of deep compassion. One hand is raised in blessing us while the other touches his chest. From the region of his heart two rays shine forth - a pale one and a red one - symbolizing the two Sacraments that establish us in an intimate relationship with him: Baptism and Eucharist. His posture is shown as if he is walking towards us, symbolizing that he wants to come to us spiritually though this image of Divine Mercy. Christ said that every artist signs his picture, and so he wanted the words, “Jesus, I trust in you” to be inscribed on every copy of this image as his personal signature.
And along with this image, he also gave us two new short and simple forms of prayer that he hopes we will pray every day. The first is called the “Chaplet of Mercy”. When praying it, we invoke the Passion of Jesus repeatedly, asking God the Father to have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. Christ promised that through this chaplet he would grant whatever we ask so long it is according to his plan for us. And he said that this chaplet should be prayed especially for the dying because it would open their hearts to ask for his mercy as they prepare to leave this world. The second form of prayer is called the “Hour of Mercy”, which is 3PM, the time at which he died upon the cross. He asked that every day we pause, even if just for a moment, to recall how he loved us to the end and to praise his mercy in doing so. There are no specific words for this because it is meant to be a personal prayer arising from our hearts.
Jesus gave us the devotion to Divine Mercy to help us live and act as people of mercy. He wants us to know that we can confidently call upon Him with trust, receive his mercy for ourselves, and then let it flow through us to others. This is how we make Mercy Sunday something meaningful and effective in our lives and not allow this gift from Christ to remain just something that we celebrate once a year. The message and mission of mercy to which he calls each one of us is literally as simple and easy for us to remember as A, B and C.
A — Ask for His mercy. In his Gospel, Jesus says, "Ask and you will receive". And so, with great confidence we ask for His Mercy upon ourselves, our family and friends, upon our nation and the whole world! We can do this so easily by praying the Chaplet of Mercy and the Hour of Mercy daily. Even when prayed thoughtfully, the chaplet only take about 5 minutes.
B — Be merciful to others. Jesus wants to remember and live the Scriptures that say, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy,” and, “If you forgive the sins of others, then God will forgive you yours.” So, you see, we ourselves set the bar as to how much we want God to have mercy on us and to forgive us by how much we do the same for others! Jesus said to St. Faustina: “There are three ways to show mercy: the first — by your actions, the second — by your words, and the third — by your prayers.” So, it’s within the grasp of all of us to be merciful to everyone in one way or another. And finally,
C — Completely trust in Jesus. This is the heart of the message of Divine Mercy, just as it is the very heart of the Gospel. This is why the Image of Divine Mercy bears the words, "Jesus, I trust in You." What this means is that no matter who we are, no matter what choices we may have made, we can always turn to Christ for pardon and peace. We must never lose sight of the truth that Jesus is concerned for, interested in, and walking with each one of us, and that nothing whatsoever can lessen his love for us. This should encourage us to always trust in Jesus no matter what happens in our lives.
As we prepare to receive Christ in Holy Communion this morning, let’s recall the experience of the Apostle Thomas whom we encountered in the today’s Gospel. Like him, let’s reach out our hands to touch the Risen Lord and praise his great mercy in coming to us. Let’s make with him an act of deep personal faith and say, “Jesus, I believe. Jesus, I trust in you!”