Divine Mercy Sunday. April 8, 2018.
Acts 4:32-35, 1Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20:19-31
Divine mercy in our souls
I had the opportunity some years ago to speak to some seminarians who were losing their faith in their religious and priestly vocation and dropping out of their seminary in great numbers. I discovered one major factor for their departures from the seminary – they were rather dismissive of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In short, they had a rather insufficient grasp of the sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Sacrament of Confession, being the sacrament of divine mercy, involves much more than the forgiveness of sins and a divine assurance of this forgiveness in a community of faith as we believe. We must see in divine mercy that unmerited and utterly gratuitous love that God has for us His sinful creatures by which He willingly stoops down to supply all our needs no matter how sinful or unworthy we may be.
Thus through the sacrament of divine mercy, the human soul is ennobled with all that it needs to be and to act as God desires it to do. In the words of Jesus to St. Faustina kowalska, “When you go to Confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My heart always flow down upon your soul and ennobles it.” (Divine Mercy in my soul, #1448)
The Collect in today’s Mass shows how our faith is rooted in the ennobling power of divine mercy, “God of everlasting mercy, who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast kindle the faith of the people you have made your own.” This sacrament of Confession, in addition to freeing us from our sins, enkindles and renews our faith, making that faith permeate our thoughts, words and actions.
In the Gospel, the risen Christ does not abandon His unfaithful disciples who abandoned Him in His hour of need. He had begged them to “watch with Him” during His agony in the garden of Gethsemane because “His heart was sorrowful unto death.” But they chose to sleep and eventually abandoned Him. Upon rising from the dead, Jesus, the Mercy of God incarnate, goes searching for His disciples to bring them that which they so desperately needed. To those who huddled behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews,” Jesus repeatedly offered the peace of heart that they so desperately needed, “Peace be with you.” Sensing their guilt from abandoning Him, Jesus offered them the needed forgiveness and reconciliation with God in His Spirit, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Knowing that they would need the power to forgive themselves and those who hurt their communion in the Church community, He gave them the sacrament of divine mercy, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and, whose sins you retain are retained.” Then to the doubting Thomas who was struggling to believe, Jesus gave Him the much needed gift of faith through His sacred wounds and elicited the act of faith from Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in addition to cleansing our sins, divine Mercy is all about the divine love ennobling our souls no matter how sinful we have been or the struggles that we are facing in life. In Jesus Christ, we have access to every single grace and blessing that we need, whether it is spiritual, emotional, psychological, etc. But for divine mercy to supply all our needs and ennoble our souls, we must do the following:
- Experience divine mercy as often as possible, especially in the sacrament of Confession. We must not wait for the sinful actions to take root before seeking for mercy; but even confessing our sinful thoughts, desires and fantasies prepare us to act with strong faith in dealing with the temptations before they take root in our souls.
- Trust completely in divine mercy, that God’s merciful love will surely bend over all our miseries and bring us all that we need. We do not place our trust in our selves or in anything or in any person but in Jesus Christ alone for all our needs. In all things, our mantra should be, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
- Act on this mercy and let others experience the mercy that we have received from God by our striving to meet all their needs to the best of our ability.
The First Reading shows us how the early Church became a community whose faith was so powerful that “with great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” Having experienced the mercy of God through the risen Christ, they placed all their trust in God to the extent that “those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, put them at the feet of the apostles so that they were distributed to each according to need.” They acted on the mercy that they had experienced to the point that they met the needs of others in community, “There was no needy person among them.” They received a strong and vibrant faith that was active in love despite their poverty.
St. John reminds us in the Second Reading that “the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” It is not our money, resources, experience, knowledge, number, or anything that can withstand the onslaught of our secular world but our faith. Without faith, we cannot “love the children of God, love God and obey His commandments.” Without faith, we will see in God’s commandments only the dictates of a tyrant whose commandments are nothing but useless burdens to be discarded or, at least, meliorated. Without faith we cannot grasp the mercy of God behind His commandments, we cannot repent from our sins and wage war against the forces of darkness, we cannot keep our commitments in our vocations, we cannot pray, serve, love, forgive, etc.
This unconquerable faith that we need cannot be self-manufactured. The path to this type of faith is through the continuous experience of divine mercy, beginning from the font of baptism, through complete trust in this mercy of God in all our needs and through our willingness to meet the needs of others as best we can. How are we constantly experiencing divine mercy today? Our masses, prayers, meditations, encounters with others – are they experiences of divine mercy? What aspects of our lives today are we refusing to place under the banner of complete trust in God? Where are we trying to be in control? How attentive and responsive are we to the spiritual, emotional, physical needs of others? Our response to these questions will determine the quality of our faith.
Let us turn to Mary, our Mother in faith, who never wavered in faith even at the cross of Calvary as she suffered with Jesus for our salvation. It is divine mercy that ennobled her with such heroic faith. She experienced the mercy of God in a singularly unique way having been prevented from all original sin by the foreseen merits of Christ while we all are delivered from original sin. She placed all her trust in divine mercy for all her needs as she shows us in the wedding of Cana, “They have no wine.” She shows us how to meet the needs of others as she traveled in haste to visit and strengthen her aged cousin Elizabeth at her time of need. Mary, our Mother of mercy, is also willing to bend over us today as always to share with us her unquenchable faith if only we would draw close to her and learn from her how to experience deeply, trust completely, and reflect divine mercy to others.
Our Eucharist is always an encounter with merciful Savior who never ceases to hunt for us no matter how sinful we may be. Our risen Lord comes to us to show us His wounds not to make us feel bad or guilty but as a guarantee that He would always ennoble our souls and supply all our needs, beginning with that unconquerable faith that cries out even in the darkest moments, “My Lord and my God!”
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!