The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Divine Mercy Sunday

Spring is in the air. The snow is almost gone. The hockey equipment is put away and the baseball gloves and bats are out. The story is told of the young boy playing in his back yard. He has a baseball bat in one hand and a ball in the other.

He says out loud “I am the best batter in the whole world”. He then throws the ball way up in the air and as it comes down he takes a swing at it. He misses. Strike one.

He grabs the ball, says “I am the best batter in the whole world”, throws the ball in the air again and as it comes down he takes another swing at it. And misses. Strike two.

As he grabs the ball for a third time he says “I am the best batter in the whole world”, throws the ball higher in the air and swings at it as it comes down. He misses. Strike Three.

He stares at the ball lying on the ground. And with a big grin says “I am the best pitcher in the whole world”. This little boy is either an extreme optimist or not wanting to be disappointed - he denies the reality of his poor batmanship focusing our attention instead on the possibility that he struck out because of his great pitching.

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Divine Mercy Sunday. This is the day that the Lord wanted the Church to set aside as a feast day celebrating His Divine Mercy.

In today’s psalm the psalmist says “His steadfast Love endures forever” God’s mercy is without end. His mercy endures forever.

However, even though His mercy is without end He can only offer it to us. He cannot force us to accept His mercy – that would be a violation of our free will. And so He presents us through His Church with this great feast of Divine Mercy to draw our attention once again to His great love for us manifested through His Divine Mercy.

Like the little boy denying the reality of his poor batmanship we too sometimes deny the reality of God’s Mercy. Perhaps it’s because if we were to focus on His mercy it would mean that we have need His mercy. And we would only have need of His mercy if we were sinners and in need of His redemption.

Instead of focusing on ourselves as sinners we prefer to focus instead on God’s love – a love that we hope will not see our sins but rather will accept us as we are - sin or no sin.

The Church teaches us about the 4 last things – Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

Death - because all of us will die. If a multimillionaire and I were to die at the same time – in an instant we would both stand naked before God. We cannot take anything with us except how we lived our lives.

At that time it won’t matter how many degrees or doctorates I may have. All of that is left behind. Because after death comes judgment – particular judgment – in which we will have to account instantaneously for how we lived our lives, how we obeyed the commandments of God.

It’s 7:30 now. At 7:31 I could be standing in front of God’s judgement seat, my earthly life all over, facing the awesome reality of Heaven or Hell for all eternity.

On the average, on our earth, about 120,000 people come before the judgment seat of God daily. There will be no more time for sorrow or repentance. It’s too late – we are fixed in place the instant we die.

After we are judged we are consigned to Heaven or Hell forever. Heaven is the place that is described in the bible as:

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1 Cor 2:9

If all of us were to die tonight – could we say that we are completely without sin, that we carry no attachment to sin – that we have loved as God commanded us to love, and that we have obeyed all of His commandments - How would we stand before the judgement seat of God right now –

Not all of us would be ready to enter Heaven – some of us would still have some attachment to sin – although not separated from him by Mortal or serious sin we have to be purged from all of our sinful attachements because the Bible says that nothing impure will enter heaven

“But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Rev 21:27

For those who need to be made clean God’s Divine Mercy provides us with the cleansing, purging fire of purgatory where all attachments to sin are wiped away. Those who enter purgatory are assured of Heaven after they have been cleansed of all impurities and attachments to sin. Theologians tell us that the main suffering in purgatory is the temporary loss of the vision of God.

We are separated from Him until we are cleansed. They also tell us that the cleansing fires of purgatory are real – the physical suffering there is greater than anything we could ever experience on earth.

It is only endured by the fact that we know that eventually once we are cleansed we will be in the presence of almighty God. That is why we pray for the souls in purgatory – so that their suffering might be lessened.

And then there is Hell. This also is a reality and a real possibility for unrepentant sinners.

We sometimes wonder and question why the church especially under Pope John Paul II has declared so many saints to be in heaven. Well, there is a real process in which the Church basically asks God to confirm that so and so is in Heaven. And when this process is complete, the Church declares this person as being a saint in Heaven.

The Church has never however declared that any particular person is in Hell. The Church confirms what the Bible teaches. There is a Hell and people do go there for all eternity.

In fact the Bible speaks more often about Hell than it does about heaven.

“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Luke 13:24

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matt 10:28

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?
Matt 23:33

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
2 Pet 2:4

Theologians tell us that the fires of Hell are real. Again the main punishment is the loss of God for all eternity. The physical suffering is more than we could ever imagine or experience on earth and it is never ending. It is for all eternity.

God does not consign us to Hell – we freely choose it ourselves. The main way we do this is by turning away from God and focusing on ourselves. Lucifer was the first of God’s creatures to do this – and now he sits in Hell as Satan – the prince of Darkness and he’d like nothing better than to have us join him there.

If we deny the existence of Hell then we deny the need for a Redeemer. We deny the need for Jesus to have died on the cross. We also deny Free will – since if we deny the existence of Hell we deny the possibility of our being able to choose to go there.

That would mean that we would all go to Heaven like little robots – no choice whatsoever.

It’s amazing how many times we turn away from God’s Mercy. Think, when was the last time we went to confession. In His mercy, God gave us this sacrament when Jesus told His disciples “Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven them”.

Do you remember the Charlie Major Hit in the 90’s

It goes something like this

I had a friend
He didn't make it home last night
He went out on the town
And he had himself a time
When it was time for leaving, he was much too tight
He climbed behind the wheel and it cost him his life
He thought he knew better, the odds he could beat
He said, "I'll make it alright, don't you worry 'bout me"

It can't.. It can't happen to me
I got an angel watching over me
It can't .. It can't happen to me
It's always someone else, you see
It can't … it can't happen to me
It can't happen to me

I knew a young man
He had it all going his way
But he carried with him
A deep seeded pain
He stepped over the line to find some escape
They found him one night - Lying face down in the rain
He thought he was stronger - the odds he could beat
He said, "I'll make it alright, don't you worry 'bout me"

Visiting people in the hospital in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer or Rocky over the past few years you’d be surprised how many people seem to have that attitude.

It can’t happen to me – I’m going back home soon.

In our formation as Deacons we are taught that our primary function is not to just bring Holy Communion to the sick but rather to prepare them if we can for the reality of eternity. Pray with them, invite them and prepare them to receive the sacrament of the sick from the priest. We used to call it the last rites.

When I ask them if they would like to see a priest, to be anointed, or to go to confession and then to receive our Lord in Holy Communion - I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say “Oh, I won’t be here that long – I expect I’ll be out of here and back home within a few days. Thanks for asking. I’ll come around and see Father then.”

It has happened that they are often right about one thing – they are not around for that long – the next time we see them is usually at the funeral. They had the opportunity to avail themselves of God’s mercy – to make things right with God but they turned Him down. I’ll decide when I die – I’m not ready to go just yet.

Sometimes we hear of lay ministers bringing sick people Holy Communion – often without giving them the opportunity to cleanse themselves through sacramental confession to be washed by Christ.

This is really a tragedy because Holy Communion is not magic. It can and should bring solace and comfort to the soul that is prepared to receive our Lord. Food for the journey. On the other hand it can bring sacrilege and false hope to the one that is not prepared.

The Pastor of this parish has the care of the Blessed Sacrament. One should never bring Holy Communion to anyone without the permission of the Pastor.

Isn’t it funny how we sometimes criticize the church for canonizing so many people. Yet, we ourselves canonize far more than the church ever has or ever will canonize.

At least at most every funeral that I’ve ever attended I hear the words so and so is “Safe in the arms of Jesus” or “Gone home to be with our Lord” or their suffering is finally over. Is it? Is it really? The bible and the Church both tell us that this is not the reality.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matt 7:21

“Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 18:3

“Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” John 13:8

The feast that we celebrate today was instituted at Christ’s command for this purpose.

Jesus told St. Faustina that this Feast of Mercy would be a very special day when "all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened". (Diary 699)

Our Lord made a great promise to all those souls who would go to Confession and then receive Him in Holy Communion on the Feast of Mercy, on the Sunday after Easter, which is now called Divine Mercy Sunday throughout the Catholic Church.

Jesus promised that "The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain the complete forgiveness of sins and punishment."(Diary 699) He went on to say "I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My Mercy." (Diary 1109)

We want to encourage everyone to take advantage of this incredible promise and the additional Plenary Indulgence on this great Feast of Mercy "Divine Mercy Sunday".

We want you to benefit fully from these promises, and we also want you to notify all of your family and friends about them too and urge them to return to the practice of their faith!

The Image of The Divine Mercy, which Our Lord requested to be solemnly blessed and venerated on this day, is on display in our church. Pope John Paul II said that the image portrays the Risen Jesus Christ bringing Mercy to the whole world.

Our Lord said "I want the image to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish". (Diary 341, 48) Please take the time to visit with this Image of The Divine Mercy and venerate Jesus.

Jesus said to St. Faustina "I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You". (Diary 327) "The two rays denote Blood and Water.

The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the cross. …Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him." (Diary 299)

About the feastday "Divine Mercy Sunday", Jesus said "…tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially poor sinners.

On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon the souls who approach the Fount of My Mercy. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened.

Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.... Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy". (Diary 699)

Our Lord said "When you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul…" and "Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul.

When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy" (1602). Make your confession before Me.

The person of the priest is… only a screen. Never analyze what sort of a priest that I am making use of; open your soul in confession to Me, and I will fill it with My light." (1725)

This Sunday afternoon we will celebrate the solemn blessing of the image of Divine Mercy and the praying of the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

This will take place at 3 o’clock during the hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Everyone is cordially invited to come and participate.

God’s Divine Mercy is being offered to you. You can accept it and place all your trust in Jesus or like some who think they can predict the future; you can defer it until later.

Please don’t reject the Mercy of Christ at the time it is offered to you – the reality is that you may never get a second chance.

Deacon Bernie Ouellette

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