From the Pastor's Desk
Devine Merciy Sunday
The readings for this Sunday are about God’s mercy, the necessity for trusting Faith, and our need for the forgiveness of our sins. The opening prayer addresses the Father as "God of everlasting Mercy."
In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 118), we repeat several times, “His mercy endures forever!” God revealed His mercy, first and foremost, in sending His only-begotten Son to become our Savior and Lord through His suffering, death and Resurrection. Divine Mercy is given to us also in each celebration of the Sacraments, instituted to sanctify us.
The first reading, taken from Acts, stresses the corporal acts of mercy practiced by the early Christian community before the Jews and the Romans started persecuting them. Practicing the sharing love, compassion and the mercy of God as Jesus taught, this witnessing community derived its strength from community prayer, “the Breaking of the Bread” and the apostles’ teaching read at the worship service.
The second reading: taken from John’s first Letter, deals with practicing both corporal and spiritual works of mercy by obeying God’s Old Testament commandments and focusing on Jesus’ commandment of loving others as He loves us, with selfless, sacrificial, agape love. Loving others as Jesus loves us also demands that we treat others with God’s mercy and compassion.
Today’s Gospel vividly reminds us of how Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a sacrament of Divine Mercy. The Risen Lord gave his apostles the power to forgive sins with the words, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" (Jn 20:19-23). Presenting the doubting Thomas’ famous profession of Faith, “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28), the Gospel illustrates how Jesus showed Divine mercy to the doubting apostle and emphasizes the importance of Faith.
1) We need to accept God's invitation to celebrate and practice mercy in our Christian lives: One way the Church celebrates God’s mercy throughout the year is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Finding time for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is another good way to receive and give thanks for Divine Mercy. But it is mainly through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that we practice mercy in our daily lives and become eligible for God’s merciful judgment.
2) Let us ask God for the Faith that culminates in self-surrender to God and that leads us to serve those we encounter with love. Living Faith enables us to see the risen Lord in everyone and gives us the willingness to render to each one our loving service. The spiritual Fathers prescribe the following traditional means to grow in the living and dynamic faith of St. Thomas the Apostle:
a) First, we must come to know Jesus personally and intimately by our daily and meditative reading of the Bible.
b) Next, we must strengthen our Faith through our personal and community prayer.
c) Third, we must share in the Divine Life of Jesus by frequenting the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) presents it this way: “If we pray, we will believe; if we believe, we will love; if we love, we will serve. Only then we put our love of God into action.”
St. Faustina and the Image of the Divine Mercy:
St. Faustina of Poland is the well-known apostle of Divine Mercy. On the 30th of April 2000, at 10:00 AM, on the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday, the Feast requested by Jesus in His communications with St. Faustina), His Holiness Pope St. John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist in Saint Peter’s Square and proceeded to the canonization of Blessed Sister Faustina. [John Paul himself would be canonized on this same Feast Day – April 27 in 2014 – by Pope Francis.] At the canonization of St. Faustina, Saint John Paul II said, “Believing in the love of God means believing in His mercy.” Saint Faustina invites us by the witness of her life to keep our Faith and Hope fixed on God the Father, rich in mercy, Who saved us by the precious Blood of His Son. During her short life, the Lord Jesus assigned to St. Faustina three basic tasks: 1. to pray for souls, entrusting them to God's incomprehensible Mercy; 2. to tell the world about God's generous Mercy; 3. to start a new movement in the Church focusing on God's Mercy. At the canonization of St. Faustina, Pope St. John Paul II said: “The cross, even after the Resurrection of the Son of God, speaks, and never ceases to speak, of God the Father, Who is absolutely faithful to His eternal love for man. ... Believing in this love means believing in mercy." “The Lord of Divine Mercy,” a drawing of Jesus based on the vision given to St. Faustina, shows Jesus raising his right hand in a gesture of blessing, with His left hand on his heart from which gush forth two rays, one red and one white. The picture contains the message, "Jesus, I trust in You!" (Jezu ufam Tobie). The rays streaming out have symbolic meaning: red for the Blood of Jesus, which is the life of souls and white for the Baptismal water which justifies souls. The whole image is symbolic of the mercy, forgiveness and love of God.
Mercy during tragedy: The news is filled with illustrations of mercy—or the need for mercy—in our world. One of the most moving stories came to us on October 6, 2006, when an armed man entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He chased out the little boys and lined up the 10 little girls in front of the blackboard. He shot all of them and then killed himself. Five of the girls died. After the medics and police left, the families of the fallen came and carried their slain children home. They removed their bloody clothes and washed the bodies. They sat for a time and mourned their beloved children. After a while they walked to the home of the man who killed their children. They told his widow they forgave her husband for what he had done, and they consoled her for the loss of her spouse. They buried their anger before they buried their children. Amish Christians teach us that forgiveness is central. They believe in a real sense that God’s forgiveness of themselves depends on their extending forgiveness to other people. That’s what the mercy of God is all about. That mercy is why we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday