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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Divine Mercy Sunday Year “A”

Today we celebrate the octave of Easter, we are celebrating the feast of Divine Mercy. The celebration of this feast day is really dependent on two people, Saint Faustina Kowalska and Pope John Paul II now Blessed John Paul the 2nd. For over 26 years, Pope John Paul the 2nd shepherded the Church. Many of us hardly even remember any other pope. Young people have never known any other pope other than the present one, Benedict the 16th.

Pope John Paul was the third longest-reigning pope in history, and he is without doubt one of the most extraordinary human beings ever to have walked the face of the earth. The newscasts keep telling us that he was certainly one of the most influential people of the 20th century. The man was absolutely brilliant. Listen to this - when he was elected to the papacy, he spoke 26 languages and dialects. English was considered his eighth-best language, and he spoke it quite fluently. After he became Pope, he learned many other languages so that he could preach to people in their own language.

However, he did have his detractors. It is interesting when you listen to what it is they did not like about him. They did not like what he said and did.

It was not John Paul so much whom they hated, but it was rather the One for Whom he was the Vicar. It was Jesus Christ and His Church that they were opposed to, because John Paul the 2nd always spoke the truth. And no matter how much the people clamored and complained, our Holy Father would not waffle when it came to the truth. This man, in over 26 years, went on over 100 apostolic “pilgrimages,”. He brought Jesus Christ to the world.

You remember the young people chanting: “John Paul II, we love you!” Over and over and over they would sing it. The Holy Father, when they finally ended, lifted his head with a huge smile and he sang back: “John Paul II, he loves you!” The young people erupted in applause. When he went to the Philippines, over 7 million people came to see him. Imagine, 7 million people! That’s quite a crowd for a man who was said to be unable to relate to the average person. And so we have to understand that we have been in the presence of a saint. History will know him as John Paul the Great.

In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord told His apostles that as He had been sent so now He was sending them. Pope John Paul II understood what it meant to be an apostle. The word apostle means “to be sent” or “one who is sent.” He went out and he preached Jesus Christ. We have been so blessed by God to have lived in the presence of a saint, and we need to understand the mercy that God has extended to us in this way. He was truly a man for our time.

What we saw over the last few years of his pontificate is the example of what it is to carry the cross, to follow Jesus to Calvary. Do you remember the words of our Holy Father back several years ago when some of his detractors were trying to tell us that he was too sick to carry on, that his health was so bad that he needed to resign.

What did he say? John Paul the 2nd simply said, “Jesus Christ did not come down from His Cross, and I will not come down from mine.” Right to the very last minute, he refused to come down from his cross and he refused to stop working. In the last days of his life, he appointed new cardinals and new bishops throughout the world, 29 new cardinals who were part of the new election of the next pope.

When we look at this picture of Divine Mercy, underneath the picture of Jesus are the words “Jesus, I trust in You.” We can say those words but that really is something we do not do very well, to trust in Jesus. We all like to say that we trust in Jesus, but when it comes right down to it most of us really do not. Perhaps we are afraid of letting go of things because we are not sure if God is really going to do what He has promised to do. In our practical day-to-day lives, isn’t it true that often we trust far more in ourselves and far more in other people and far more in money and material things than we do in God?

And yet, when we consider this point of trusting in Our Lord, we see that God has made extraordinary promises to us; promises, for instance, of heaven, promises of eternal life; promises that we are going to be united with Him; the promise that our sins are going to be forgiven. When Our Lord appeared to Saint Faustina, He told her of the mercy He wanted to give to the people, if only they would believe. That is our problem: Do we really believe in the promises of Our Lord?

We listen, Sunday after Sunday, and then we walk away, for the most part, unchanged because we really don’t believe. Not only does it sound too good to be true but also we know fully well if we did really believe all that Jesus teaches through His church then we would have to swallow our pride and change our lives; we would have to do something different if we really did believe all that the church teaches.

For example, how many of us believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Is it really the Body and Blood, the Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ Himself, substantially present? Or is it just a community meal done in memory of Jesus, a mere symbol?

When we come to Mass do we genuflect or bow to the real presence of Christ in the Tabernacle? At the start or end of Mass do we make the sign of the Cross to acknowledge the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? Or does our pride prevent us from doing that? The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not dependent upon our belief. It really is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ whether we believe it or not and therefore it deserves to be treated with the utmost respect because it is God Himself. To do otherwise is sacrilege and we bring down judgment upon ourselves – whether we believe that or not.

The existence of Heaven, Hell, Purgatory and Indulgences is also not dependent upon our belief. God’s judgment and justice is not dependent upon our belief. All of these are real. If we do not believe in them then we must pray for the grace to believe because Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father draw him”. Faith is a grace that will be given for the asking. This is our Catholic Faith. This is what we believe.

Likewise, God’s Divine Mercy is not dependent upon our belief. The forgiveness of sins is not dependent on our belief. When Jesus says your sins are forgiven in the confessional – those sins are gone forever – they cease to exist – as if they never existed – whether we believe it or not. But often that’s the problem – do we really believe our sins are forgiven or that we even have sins to be forgiven?

Now as we ponder the mercy of God, we must be very, very careful to understand it in its proper sense. You see, the moment we die and the soul separates from the body there will be no more changing of your mind - it will be too late to be sorry. There will be no repentance on our part after we die. Consequently, there will be no mercy. The mercy of God is known only in this life. Immediately after death comes judgment.

Now, Today is the time of mercy – After we die will be the time of judgment and entry into purgatory, Heaven or Hell. That is the reality. Because of the forgiveness of our sins in this life we will be able to enter into eternal life with God, but the forgiveness of sins happens only here. That is, for mortal sins. Venial sins can be forgiven in the next life, but that may very well mean a long time in Purgatory. What we want is to be able to get to heaven, and God in His mercy has done all of the work for us – except for one thing. We all know that if something is made too easy, it really does not mean a whole lot to us; but if it costs something, if it is something which is somewhat difficult, then it means much more to us.

So there is a cost that is involved. The greatest cost of all, of course, is the very life of Our Blessed Lord Himself. When we look at the Cross and recognize what it cost for our sins to be forgiven, then we realize how grateful we need to be! But there is a cost on our part as well. It is a relatively small cost – actually, a very small cost – yet one that sometimes seems very difficult for some. That is simply to humble ourselves and confess our sins. The longer we wait the more difficult it seems to become. We need to take that first step. We need to confess our sins to the priest.

When you come to confession and you hear those beautiful words from the mouth of the priest, “I absolve you from your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” your sins are gone and you have knowledge that your sins are gone forever – never ever to be heard of again – even on the Day of Judgment. That is the mercy God is offering to His people. He has done everything for us, and He has given to us the means by which our sins can be forgiven. All that He asks of us is to humble ourselves, to confess and turn away from our sins, and to trust in Him.

Today as we listen to Our Lord’s words: "Do not be afraid. Be at peace." We recall then the same words very often repeated by Pope John Paul the 2nd – “Be not afraid”.

In today’s Gospel we are told that the Holy Spirit is breathed upon the disciples and they are given the authority to forgive sin, our sins. When we really know that our sins are forgiven, we can be at peace. We have nothing to fear if we truly believe in the promises of Our Lord. So the Lord comes to us, once again, and He points to His heart. The rays of love flow from His heart depicting, in the two different colors, the waters of Baptism and the blood of Jesus Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament.

They are the Eucharist and Baptism; the covenant and the celebration of the covenant that each one of us has entered into. The Lord wants us to understand. He wants us to know and to believe. He wants us to be at peace, knowing that our sins are truly, actually, and completely forgiven. These are not just empty rituals we are going through. We don’t just go through the motions of coming here, Sunday after Sunday, and walk out unchanged.

This is a reality that is more profound than anything in the world. It is the true and real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and the actual reality of having your soul cleansed of sin. When you kneel before the priest and hear those beautiful words of absolution, you walk out with the knowledge, the unshakable knowledge, that your sins have been removed from your soul.

They are there no longer. The mercy of God is greater than anything we can do; that is what Our Lord wants us to know. There is nothing we can do that is bigger than Him. He wants, more than anything, to forgive our sins. When we think about the events of the last week that we have celebrated, the Passion, the Crucifixion, the Death, and the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we need to think about what He did.

He took to Himself every single sin that ever had been committed and ever would be committed in the history of the world. He took it all to Himself. He took them to the Cross and crucified them there. Every sin that you and I have ever committed and will ever commit has already been crucified in the person of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He rose victorious over sin and death. There was no more sin affecting Him, it was destroyed. And death was destroyed with it because death is present because of sin, it is one of the effects of sin. The Lord destroyed it so that we are no longer going to be held bound by the bonds of death; we no longer have to live in fear of death.

Why? Because God’s mercy is infinite. His love for you is infinite; it is beyond anything we could ever grasp or imagine. As big as our sins might be, they are nothing for the Lord. If you have confessed the sin, it is gone, it is not there anymore. The Lord looks you right in the face today, as He looked at Thomas 2,000 years ago, and He says, "Doubt no longer, but believe."

Believe because He promised it. Believe because He did it. He nailed that sin to the Cross already. It is over with, it is done. If you have confessed it, it’s gone. That is the mercy of God. His mercy is so that you can have life. His mercy is so that you can be united with Him forever in the next world; so that you can go to Heaven; so that you can be one with Jesus Christ for eternity. That is the mercy of God. That is the promise He has made.

Doubt no longer, but believe. Let your life be changed. We need to be transformed in Jesus Christ because we don’t live merely a natural life; we live a divine life. Sanctifying grace is the very life of God and it has been poured forth into your soul, if you are in the state of grace, so that the life of Jesus Christ can be lived in you. We need to believe that. We need to accept it.

We have the promises of Christ; in those promises, we can be at peace if we truly trust Our Lord and what He has said. When we can be at peace, when we are filled with trust, when we are no longer afraid, then it can be said of each one of us what was said of Thomas when he made that profession "My Lord and my God" : He doubted no longer, but believed. This Sunday afternoon at 3 pm at St. Matthew church we will celebrate the feast of Divine Mercy by first adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Then we will bless and venerate the image of Divine Mercy.

This will be followed by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet together and thereby partaking of those promises made through St. Faustina. All of our sins which we have confessed either eight days before this feast or eight days after it, are forgiven and the temporal punishment attached to them is also removed. Having worthily received Holy Communion on the Feast day of Divine Mercy we will receive a plenary indulgence. It will be like a second baptism. We will be truly born again. If we died then we would go straight into the arms of Jesus. Straight into heaven. No side journies to purgatory.

Pope John Paul the 2nd in one of his Homilies on Divine Mercy Sunday prayed:

“Mary, Mother of Mercy, help us always to have this trust in your Son, our Redeemer. Help us too, St. Faustina, whom we remember today with special affection. Fixing our weak gaze on the divine Savior's face, we would like to repeat with you: "Jesus, I trust in You!" Now and for ever. Amen.”

And might we add “Blessed Pope John Paul the 2nd, Pray for us.

God’s name is mercy. Mercy is truly God’s name.

Deacon Bernie Ouellette

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