30 Mar – Divine Mercy Sunday – Knock Shrine
We are gathered here, at Our Lady’s Shrine, to celebrate the Feast of
Divine Mercy. That is the mercy which God the Father bestows on each
one of us through Jesus Christ – Son of God and Son of Mary.
Today we take time to think about the Passion, Death and Resurrection
of Our Lord as the greatest revelation of God’s mercy for us. It is
the Risen Christ who brings us the great message of God’s mercy. He
did so when he appeared and said to the apostles:
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me – so I also send
you….Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any – they
Today’s feast is meant to be a refuge and a shelter for all – but
especially for poor sinners. There is only one way of drawing graces
from the well-spring of God’s mercy. That one way is the way of trust
‘The stone which the builders rejected, has become the corner stone.’
My sisters and brothers in God’s mercy,
These words, taken from today’s psalm, take us to the very heart of the Easter mystery. Jesus whom the world thought irrelevant and contemptible has become the very source of our hope. Jesus, rejected and condemned has risen victorious over death. He is the cornerstone of a new creation. Each of us, through our baptism, is called to be part of that new creation. We are called to be living stones bearing witness to God’s love by what we say and what we do.
Love is the foundation of our lives. Love is what gives the deepest meaning to our lives. By love we are healed. By love we are strengthened. By love we are made whole. The wonderful truth we celebrate today is that God’s love for us endures for ever. Mercy is sometimes called love’s second name, that is, love understood in its deepest and most tender aspect.
In the words of St. Paul, ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus’. This is why He is the cornerstone. The cross he bore, the death he endured, the wounds he continues to bear in his risen body, these are the eternal reminder to us that ‘though we are sinners’, we can ‘trust in God’s mercy and love.’ They reveal to us the face of the Father: ‘the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation’.
This image of Jesus as the revelation of God’s loving mercy was brought home to me very vividly a couple of years ago when I visited Poland and the city of Krakow. I saw there for myself the magnificent basilica which the Polish people have built in honour of St. Faustina, the apostle of Divine Mercy. The period between the First and Second World Wars was a time of great turmoil and suffering for the people of Poland. In the words of St. Peter in our second reading, it was a time when the people of Poland were ‘plagued by all sorts of trials’ and their faith ‘tested like gold in the furnace’.
It was also during this time that St. Faustina received the revelation of the image of the Divine Mercy. As I listened to our Gospel being read that image came immediately to mind. The Risen Lord, standing before his disciples, in a peaceful radiance of light, the wounds in his hands and his feet still visible, reminders of the depth of God’s love revealed to us on the cross. The posture is that of the priest in blessing and absolution. Through a blessing, of course, comes God’s strength and consolation. Through absolution comes God’s forgiveness and mercy. ‘Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.’ What incredible words. What consoling words. The mercy of God is completely available to us. It is willingly and generously offered. This is part of the joy of Easter.
That so many people choose not to accept God’s mercy in our world today is both a mystery and a challenge. The challenge is to tell others the good news of God’s mercy. Perhaps there have been times when we have spoken too much of the just demands of God without speaking also of his infinite love and mercy. Perhaps we have allowed others to think of our Catholic faith as defined by prohibitions and devoid of joy. We will lead others to God’s mercy by being first immersed in that mercy and gentleness ourselves. We will bring others to the joy of Easter by knowing Christ’s freedom and joy in our own hearts and manifesting it to others. In the words of the Psalm, ‘the Lord is slow to anger and rich in mercy’. Let us pray that we will be living witnesses of that mercy to others. That is the challenge.
The mystery is harder to define. It is clear that for a significant number of people Confession has become all but a forgotten sacrament. It is as if there is a lack of trust in God’s mercy. Those who say it is sufficient to tell God that they are sorry for serious or repeated sins without recourse to the ministry of the Church have only to read today’s Gospel to know that this is not what Christ intended. On the one hand, we all know the folly of trying to judge ourselves and our culpability for our own conduct. On the other, there is the importance of being reassured that we are truly forgiven. Only the sacrament of Confession or Reconciliation can offer that absolute assurance, not because of the worthiness of the priest, but because Christ is always true to his word, his word given unequivocally, generously and willingly in today’s Gospel.
This is why the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation, as well as participation in the Eucharist, is central to the celebration of the Divine Mercy. I ask you all to pray that those who, for whatever reason, have lost touch with this irreplaceable sacrament of God’s mercy and love, will rediscover its beauty, its power and its peace.
There is a deeper dimension to this mystery which it is also important to mention. It takes places at the social and cultural level. Some people speak of a spiritual crisis in our society. Others describe it as a crisis of values. What is increasingly clear is that whatever way it is described the consequences are becoming increasingly evident. We are becoming a more heartless, less forgiving and a less merciful society. You see it in an increasingly aggressive and competitive attitude, in the more frequent resort to violence, in the relentless pursuit of the vulnerabilities of celebrities and public figures, for entertainment rather than for legitimate public interest and in the merciless culture of image compliance, not least among the young. All of this is probably linked to our increasing departure from the practice of faith. All of this is connected to our loss of a sense of our being created and therefore dependent on a Creator other than ourselves. We are made to worship but when we cease to worship God, we can lose the sense of direction and of purpose in life. The problem cannot be addressed by social or political initiatives alone. Our society needs a change of heart about God, about the Church, about living, enjoying and sharing a faith which makes us more loving and human. The human heart has a natural yearning for God but when we lose that yearning and set our hearts on other things, that are not God, then we find ourselves, as God warned us, in an increasingly miserable state.
We often wring our hands over the loss of social cohesion, over lack of respect for property, health, life, over substance abuse. Yet we ignore the spiritual, religious and moral remedies that are staring us in the face, the remedies offered to us by God.
Perhaps the problem is that some in Irish society are vainly seeking a substitute for the role once played by the Church. As a community of faith the Church must always ensure that it is a faithful mirror of the mercy and love of God. But the truth is that Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life. The truth is that Jesus has entrusted to his Church the ministry of the sacraments of his mercy and love. There is no alternative to Jesus, to the Gospel, to the Church, to the objective moral order. Those who are waiting for something else to replace Jesus and his Church will always be disappointed. The challenge for every Christian is to ensure that their lives and their witness to the faith is authentic, humble and humanising. We are called to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.
The Gospel of John reminds us that it is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter and the Spirit of Truth, who guides us along the ways of Divine Mercy. The Spirit convinces the world “concerning sin and righteousness and judgement” (Jn 16:8). The Spirit enables us, individually and collectively, to acknowledge sin, every sin, ‘in the full dimension of evil which it contains and inwardly conceals.’ (cf. Dominum et vivificantem, 32). On the other hand, the Holy Spirit permits us to see the merciful and forgiving love of God.
The stone which the builders rejected, may be rejected by some in our own society, but is still the cornerstone! Let us pray today that no-one will allow any human failing on the part of any member of the Church to get in the way of their personal commitment to Jesus and the community of believers. As we pray in every Mass, ‘look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church and grant us the peace and unity of your Kingdom.’
The Gospel of John tells us that blood and water flowed from the side of Jesus on the cross. In the image of the Divine Mercy they are represented by the two streams of light flowing from the wounded heart of Christ. These streams of light shower outwards to embrace all. They break through the moral and spiritual fog which surrounds so much of our lives and guide us toward the source of all mercy and love.
The heart of Christ is vast. There is no one is this Basilica today who’s heart is not wounded in some way. There is no one in this Basilica who cannot be healed in their heart, in their mind, in their emotions by the encounter with the love and mercy of Jesus present in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of reconciliation. In the words of Pope John Paul II, ‘the Cross is like a touch of eternal love upon the most painful wounds of our earthly existence.’
As he consecrated the Shrine to the Divine Mercy in Krakow, he would no doubt have also been aware that the foundation stone of that great Basilica had been carved from stone taken from the hill of Calvary. Because of Calvary, we can trust the stone which the builders rejected. On Easter Sunday, it became the corner stone. In the words of our psalm – this is the work of the Lord, a marvel in our eyes – we rejoice and are glad!
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy –
Hail our Life, our sweetness and our hope.
May our pilgrimage here today to Mary’s Shrine lead us unerringly to Her Divine Son.
May it lead us to imitate His merciful ways.
For, in the final days of sorting sheep from goats
The measure by which all people will be judged by God will be their compassionate actions to relieve the sufferings of those in need.
Mercy is the way God acts towards people.
Mercy is the way God expects us to act towards others.
Within the Christian community – people who perform acts of mercy enrich the entire Christ –
The Body of Christ – Compassion and mercy inspire people to be united in love and heart and thoughts.
It is the direct opposite of attitudes of self-interest, self-importance and status seeking.
St Peter sums it up well when he says: “Once you were no people but now you are God’s people. You had not received mercy – but now you have received mercy Amen”.