Monday, May 02, 2011

Divine Mercy Sunday - homily

Some of you may remember when you much younger that the second Sunday of Easter was called, “Good Shepherd Sunday”. In 2000, Pope John Paul II renamed it, "Divine Mercy Sunday". It was the same day that he canonized St. Faustina. He called it "the happiest day of my life". It was in 1931 that the Lord Jesus appeared to St. Faustina in Poland and told her to write down many specific and concrete ways that He is offering His Divine Mercy to the modern world. There are incredible graces associated with Divine Mercy! One of these graces is that Catholics who attend Mass today can receive a plenary indulgence. A plenary indulgence removes all temporal punishment due to sin; basically, it takes away all time in Purgatory. So, if you know someone who has died, you can send them straight to Heaven with the indulgence! To gain it, you need to satisfy the three conditions within a week: 1)go to Confession, 2) receive Holy Communion, and 3) pray for the Pope. I will be offering confessions after Mass and all week to help you gain the indulgence.

Another of the graces is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The chaplet is prayed on the rosary beads and takes about five minutes. This is a powerful, powerful devotion. I came to know its power a few years ago when a family member was dying of cancer. She had been away from the Church for many years and refused the sacraments when I offered them towards the end. She only had days to live and we were very worried about her soul. So, at the advice of the priest, we and many of our prayer warriors began to pray the chaplet every day for her. The day before she died, she asked for a priest. I believe that she was saved through the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. We have cards in the back which show how to pray the chaplet. There is an image of Divine Mercy on the front of the card; there are even graces for those who look at the image.

Divine Mercy Sunday celebrates the mercy of God. So much of what we have comes from God's mercy. The second reading lists a litany of gifts: "in his great mercy, God has given us...a new birth...a living". We can see so much coming from God's love; Pope John Paul II said that mercy is "love's second name".

God is mercy. He cannot NOT be merciful. He cannot NOT forgive us or have compassion on us who are in constant need. As Mary says in her Magnificat, "he has mercy on those who fear him in every generation". Every generation! He is merciful in every generation of the Old Testament. Many people see the God of the Old Testament as vengeful and wrathful. But, if you've studied the Old Testament, you know that God is merciful throughout. People are constantly rejecting Him and His covenant and He constantly invites them back in to covenant. He continually offers them second chances.

God is merciful in every generation of the New Testament and ‘til the end of time. Today's Gospel is the main Scriptural evidence for the sacrament of Confession. Christ gives the power to forgive sins to the first priests in John 20:20 (and following). Think about it for a sec: do you really think that God just brought the forgiveness of sins to the generations who lived when Jesus walked the earth? Of course not. He intended to have every generation receive His forgiveness of sins through priests. So, the power has been passed down to each generation of priests since then.

In his mercy, God constantly gives us second chances. Many people get sour to Confession because they confess the same sins over and over again. But, look at the flip side: God continues to forgive our same sins over and over again. He always gives us another chance. As one of our grad students pointed out in our Bible study, He gives Thomas another chance in today's Gospel. After everything that has just happened - all the events that we just celebrated - Thomas does not believe. After the Passion and Death and Resurrection, Thomas still needs evidence to believe in Christ. Thomas is very much like us. We need hard-core evidence. Now, Jesus could have been like, ‘Thomas, you fool. Why did I pick you in the first place?’ He wasn’t. His response was merciful. He simply gave Thomas the evidence he was looking for: He showed him His side and His hands. Thomas responded with, “my Lord and my God”. Many of you students should do what Thomas did: ask the Lord to show you the evidence. I know that many of you are looking for reasons to believe…that God is there…that He is alive…and that He loves you. Ask Him during Holy Communion tonight to show you the evidence.

Finally, Thomas is like us and we should be like Thomas especially when it comes to the Eucharist, the risen Body and Blood of Christ. Actually, the Church recommends that when the priest elevates the Host at the consecration, we should whisper Thomas’ words, “my Lord and my God”. The Eucharist is our hard-core evidence. It is the immediate evidence that God is here…that He lives…that He loves you…and that He is merciful.

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