Second Sunday of Easter, Cycle A - Divine Mercy SundayHomily from Father Clyde A. Bonar, Ph.D.
Acts 2: 42-47;
1 Peter 1: 3-9;
John 20: 19-31
"God is Love, Mercy is His Deed"
Introduction - Why we don’t like the Feast of Divine Mercy?
It is remaining us about our sinfulness, about our insufficiency, about the fundamental truth that I am NOT god? And I am not able to save myself!!
In the Old Testament, each year to cleanse the people of their sins, the priest offered animal sacrifices to God. Christ changed all that. Through the Blood of the Cross, Jesus himself became the sacrifice, the Lamb who was slaughtered.
On Good Friday, we witnessed the three hours Christ spent on the Cross. On Easter Sunday, singing "Alleluia," we rejoiced at the Resurrection of Jesus.
By his death on the Cross Christ demonstrated the mercy of God. Today we celebrate God’s mercy for us sinners. We celebrate that by the Divine Mercy of God, the Blood of the Cross cleanses us of our sins.
In his revelations to Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), Jesus told St. Faustina his "Heart rejoices in this title of Mercy," and that he desires "that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy."1 Today is the Sunday after of Easter. We call it Divine Mercy Sunday.
"The Flower of Love"
St. Faustina wrote in her dairy, "Mercy is the flower of love. God is love, and mercy is His deed."2 Story after story in the Bible tells us of the mercy of God.
Remember the story of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32-34)? After leaving the slavery of the pharaoh, the Hebrew people are traipsing in the desert. Moses goes up to Mt. Sinai to talk to God. And stays on the mountain for 40 days. The people start to worry, ask themselves what happened to Moses, where is God. Aaron tells the people to gather all their gold, their rings and earrings; melts the collected items of gold, and makes a golden calf. Aaron tells the people to worship the golden calf, to offer sacrifices to the golden calf.
That’s the sin of apostasy, the people turning away from God, putting their faith in an idol made of gold. God’s pretty upset, Moses pleads for the people. What’s God do? Shows mercy. God renews his covenant with the Hebrew people, tells them again he loves them and will take care of them. "God is love, mercy is His deed."
In the New Testament we have the well known story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32). The younger son tells his father to give him his share of the family fortune. The father does and the son sets off to look for a better life. As the story develops, the son commits one deadly sin after another. To begin with, there is failure to honor his parents: the money given to the son is the father’s old age insurance. The son just says, Give me the money; and never worries about how his father will get on in his old age. That’s the sin of pride, the son putting his own selfish wants before the needs of others. And how does the son use his inheritance? He violates the Sixth Commandment, spending his father’s money on high living and "loose women."
What’s the father do, when the prodigal son comes home broke, hungry, and in rags? The father puts the finest robe on his son’s shoulders and gives a party – his son is home. Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son to illustrate the mercy God has for us. Our Father in Heaven shows us mercy even when we act like a prodigal son. "God is love, mercy is His deed."
Check the Bible. Story after story telling us of the Divine Mercy of God. He renewed his covenant with the Hebrew people after they misbehaved. God forgives our sins. Whatever the sin, God shows mercy to the sinner.
Are we the sinner in need of mercy?
Are we the sinner in need of mercy? You bet! As a person hesitated in confession, the old priest reassured him: "Don’t be afraid to mention your sins. You can’t tell me anything I haven’t heard before." And, it’s true. In the confessional, priests are told every sin you have ever imagined.
One heart rending confession I’ll always remember. I was hearing confessions in the local jail. With tears in his eyes, slowly in a whisper, the man said, "I shot my son." His old girl friend, the mother of his son, was now sleeping with another man. In his anger the inmate went after them, and in the bedroom, in the dark, he started to shot. His bullets killed his own son. The sorrow in his voice pleaded for mercy, for forgiveness of his dreadful sin.
Another time, in the hospital, a lady was scheduled for major surgery. She’d asked to see a priest. She too began to cry as she made her confession. She told of a loving husband, always kind and considerate, but she’d been the one hard to live with. She always criticized her husband, screamed and yelled at him. "I’ve been an awful wife," she told me. She continued, "And my son, I kicked him out of the house." Probably the lady exaggerated. But faced with the uncertainty of her operation, she wanted to hear of the mercy of God, to be forgiven for the times she failed to show love.
All too often penitents confess violating the Third Commandment: they miss Mass. One cheerful young chap told me he was a "good Catholic," that he always came to Mass on Easter and Christmas." His average, two Masses a year. Another penitent did better, she got to Mass about six times a year. I tell them that’s not enough. God forgives, God shows mercy. Then I tell them that God really does expect to see us in church each Sunday and every Sunday.
We all have a list of sins, some sins more serious, some less serious; some sins we do often, others very seldom. Truth is, we always have some sins to confess; some temptations are hard to resist. Yes, we are the sinners, we need God’s mercy.
"Fount of Mercy"
Christ told his disciples, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them." God the Son instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For all those bad things we do, when we confess our sins, the priest is ready and eager to tell us of God’s mercy, that God forgives all our little transgressions and God forgives the worst things we might do. Every sin can be forgiven, God’s mercy is boundless.
Jesus told St. Faustina, "When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting for you there. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul." Jesus continued, "there is no limit to My generosity." One day when she herself was making her confession, Sister Faustina remembered that when the priest rose to give absolution, "Suddenly his figure became diffused with a great light, and I saw that it was not Father A., but Jesus."3 St. ThérPse of Lisieux says God shows his mercy in the confessional like a mother lovingly clasping a child to her heart.
That’s a prime place to hear of God’s mercy, in the confessional
To remind us of his mercy, on the evening of February 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to St. Faustina "clad in a white garment. One hand [was] raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment to his breast. From beneath the garment, slightly aside at the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale." A pale ray for the waters of baptism, a red ray for the Blood of the Cross. Faustina’s soul was in awe, she had great joy. Jesus told her to paint an image just as she saw it, and add the words, "Jesus, I trust in you."
We call the painting the Image of Divine Mercy. Christ promised that souls who venerated this Image would not perish. A reminder that by the mercy of God we will become participants in eternal life.
A way to ask for God’s mercy is to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The Lord told Sister Faustina, "Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death."6 Jesus said to recite the Chaplet for nine days, on the beads of the rosary. His instructions:
" "First of all, you will say one Our Father and Hail Mary and the I Believe in God [Apostles’ Creed].
" "Then, on the Our Father beads you will say the following words, ‘Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.’
" "On the Hail Mary beads, you will say the following words: ‘For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.’
" "In conclusion, three times you will recite these words: ‘Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world."7
When we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, God promises to embrace us with his mercy. God promises the same indulgence when we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for a dying person.
We have three very specific ways to seek and to receive God’s mercy: during the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by venerating the Image of Divine Mercy, and by praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Jesus told Sister Faustina that he wanted a feast of Divine Mercy, and asked her who knows anything about such a feast. On the occasion of the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska on 30 April 2000, Pope John Paul II decreed that throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday.
The promise of Jesus is that God wants "to grant a plenary indulgence [complete pardon] to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My [His] Mercy."8 Today we celebrate, we rejoice in the Divine Mercy of God.