DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY
HOMILY GIVEN BY
ARCHBISHOP SEÁN BRADY
ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
SUNDAY 3 APRIL 2005
On Sunday 30 April 2000, Pope John Paul II canonised St. Faustina Kowalska. He began his Homily by quoting the words of Psalm 118.1 –
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good
His steadfast love endures forever”
words which the Church sings on the octave of Easter as it receives, from the lips of the Risen Christ, the great message of Divine Mercy and entrusts the task of dispensing that mercy to the Apostles.
The Holy Father went on to say that his joy was truly great in presenting the life and witness of St. Faustina to the whole Church as a gift of God for our time. For, by Divine Providence, the life of this humble daughter of Krakov, in Poland was completely linked with the history of the century. In fact, it was between the first and second World Wars that Christ entrusted his message of mercy to her. It is not a new message by any means, but it can be considered as a gift of special enlightenment – a ray of light to the man and woman.
Yesterday evening, as you know, the Holy Father died at 9.37 pm in his private apartment. At 8.00 pm the celebration of Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday began in the Holy Father’s room. During the course of the Mass the Viaticum was administered to the Holy Father and once again the anointing of the sick. Truly the ways of God’s providence are marvellous.
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good;
His steadfast love endures forever.
In the course of that homily five years ago, Pope John Paul II went on to say “It is important that we accept the whole message that comes to us on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on will be called Divine Mercy Sunday”.
So what is this whole message? The Holy Father points two important facts –
1. The path of mercy re-establishes the relationship of each person with God – a relationship ruptured by sin but it does mean mercy creates new relations among human beings.
2. We not only receive and experience the mercy of God – we are called to practise mercy to others.
On this Divine Mercy Sunday I would like to remind you of a couple of incidents from the Gospels which illustrate how Jesus was merciful. St. Luke tells us that Jesus had a preference for poor people. The sinners find a friend in Jesus. He was not afraid to associate with them.
Ø When Jesus went to a town called Nain, he met a widow whose only son had just died. Jesus had compassion; that is, he had mercy on her and told her not to cry. Then he raised her son from the dead and gave him back to his mother.
Ø On another occasion, a man called Jairus came and begged Jesus to come to his house where he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying. Again, Jesus had mercy on him and came to his house and restored the girl to life. Jesus showed his mercy in a special way towards women and strangers.
Jesus had risen on the day he appeared to the apostles and showed them his hands and his side. He said to them,
“Peace be with you. The Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained”.
With these words the Risen Christ brings the great message of Divine Mercy and entrusts its administration to the apostles. In other words, he asked the apostles to bring the divine mercy of God to others. By pointing out the wounds of the passion – and especially the wounds in his heart – Jesus is pointing out the source from which this great wave of mercy flows.
It was in the middle of the last century that St. Faustina had a vision in which she saw two rays of light shining. We are told that these two rays of light represented blood and water. In Mel Gibson’s film The Passion which I saw recently the Roman soldier on Calvary, pierces Christ’s side with his spear. Blood and water flow from his side. The blood recalls the sacrifice of the cross and the gift of the Eucharist. The water represents the sacrament of Baptism and also the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The message is that God’s mercy comes to us through the heart of Christ’s pierced side. Jesus Christ pours out this message on the human race through the descending of the Holy Spirit.
The late Pope John Paul II went on to spell out that mercy is the deepest and most tender aspect of love. It is mercy’s ability to take up and carry various burdens, for example, the burden of grief and sorrow, the burden of pain, of worry and especially the burden of guilt, which is taken away by forgiveness. So, I think we all need the mercy of God because we all, at times, feel crushed under various loads of troubles.
The message of mercy, given by Christ to St Faustina in the years between the first and second world wars was very important. It was a message that gave hope to many in the midst of suffering.
It is not a new message but it does offer a ray of light to the people of our time. For that to happen we must welcome into our lives the Risen Christ, who shows the wounds of his crucifixion and repeats, “Peace be with you”.
The human race must let itself be touched and pervaded by the spirit given to it by the Risen Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who heals the wounds of the heart and pulls down the barriers that separate and divide us from one another. At the same time, the Spirit restores the joy of the Father’s love and of brotherly unity.
But we not only receive and experience the mercy of God. We are also called to practice mercy towards one another. “Blessed are the merciful,” said Jesus, “for they shall obtain mercy”. He also tells us that there are many paths of mercy. Mercy not only forgives sins but mercy reaches out to all human needs, especially the needs we have for help to carry the burdens of life and that message of mercy continues to reach us through His hands, held out.
The canonisation of St Faustina emphasises this message of mercy. Pope John Paul II told us that it was important that we study it so that we will learn to know ever better the true face of God and the true face of our brothers and sisters. In fact love of God and love of one’s brothers and sisters are inseparable. But of course it is not easy to love with a deep love that only comes with an authentic gift of penetrating the mystery of God’s love. When we look at God, and are united with his fatherly heart, well then we are able to look with new eyes at our brothers and sisters and view them with an attitude of unselfishness and generosity and forgiveness. All of this is mercy.
We all need to hear the message of Divine Mercy. We need to realise that we have all sinned and have need of God’s forgiveness but the message of Divine Mercy tells us that, that forgiveness is available to us if we have the humility to ask.
The message of divine mercy is also a message about the value of every human being. Each person is precious in God’s eyes. Christ gave his life for each one of us. This is a most consoling message especially for those who are crushed by the weight of trouble or the weight of guilt or those who may have lost all confidence in life and are troubled to despair.
Last week I met some people up in Ards in Donegal. I asked them what is the secret of Divine Mercy? They said they just leave it all to Jesus. They take the prayer Jesus, I trust in you at its face value and abandon themselves completely to Him. It dispels the thickest clouds.
We all need to be aware of the depth of divine mercy. We need to experience it ourselves in our own lives and we need to show that mercy ourselves to others. Pope John Paul II won the hearts of others by his goodness and mercy. He spanned all ages to conversion. We are all called to play our part in encouraging sinners to conversion and confession. We can all play our part in calming rivalries and healing hatred. Let us, the evening, say with firm hope:
Christ Jesus, I trust in you.