Divine Mercy Sunday
May 01, 2011
God’s Mercy Endures Forever!
There are three important celebrations this Sunday. First, it is the second Sunday of Easter. Second, we celebrate the Feast of the Divine Mercy. It was Pope John Paul II who established it as feast in the universal Church in the Jubilee Year 2000. On that same day, he also canonized the humble instrument of the Divine Mercy, the Polish nun, St. Faustina Kowalska. And third, on this day, May 01, 2011, the solemn beatification ceremony of the same Pope John Paul II takes place in Rome. From now on, we call him Blessed John Paul the Great. One more authentic miracle attributed through his intercession will elevate him to sainthood.
Perhaps, some of us may ask why these three celebrations are clumped together in one day. The answer to this lies in the fact that there is only one underlying theme in all of them: Divine Mercy.
God is love. And love shown towards sinners is mercy. This is precisely the mission of Jesus. He suffered and died on the cross as the unblemished lamb of sacrifice so that we, ungrateful sinners that we are, will not perish, but may have eternal life and salvation. The resurrection of Jesus is his victory that gave us new birth and eternal life. St. Peter proclaimed this in the second reading: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1Pet 1:3).
As we look at the Gospel, we see how the mercy of God is manifested in and through the Risen Lord. Instead of reprimanding his disciples who abandoned him during his moments of suffering, Jesus appeared to them and greeted them: “Peace!” Instead of taking revenge on his cruel persecutors, he asked the Father to “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” He then sent his disciples to tell them about God’s love and forgiveness. And most importantly, to make sure God’s mercy and forgiveness are always readily available to all his followers, he instituted the sacrament of Penance: “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”
The Sacrament of Penance is the sacrament of God’s overflowing mercy. That is why every priest is reminded that when a penitent comes for confession, no matter how tired he is or how inconvenient it may be for him, he has to find time to hear that confession, for he must always remember that at that moment God’s mercy is at work in that person.
Truly, it is fitting that we celebrate on this day the boundless mercy of God for us sinners. And it is indeed significant that the beatification of Pope John Paul II be done today. It was he who officially universalized this devotion by declaring the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. And it was also he who made possible the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska.
But what does Divine Mercy really mean? Many people are saying that there really is no Hell. For them, the existence of Hell it is inconsistent with the idea of an infinitely merciful God. How can a merciful God punish sinners? How can a God of love create a place of torment? Sadly, many people only want to hear about God’s love, and not about God’s justice. So, it seems inopportune and even anachronistic for the priest to preach about the evil of sin and the horror of hell.
In the devotion of the Divine Mercy, Jesus revealed many important truths to St. Faustina. And it should be pointed out that, when talking about God’s Mercy, Jesus had also to speak about sin, evil, hell and eternal punishment.
Let me cite some quotations from the Diary of St. Faustina. First, sin is ugly. Jesus said: “Were a soul like a decaying corpse, so that from a human standpoint, there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full (Diary, 1448). Sin separates us from God for it is our rejection of His friendship. So a soul that is separated from God is rightfully described as a decaying corpse, devoid of life and beauty. Yet God is always ready to grant the sinner His unconditional forgiveness. But if he persists in the life of sin, and refuses to seek God’s forgiveness, this will eventually lead to his eternal separation from God, to hell.
Second, souls suffer punishment: “Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity…tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near (Diary, 965).
Third, Hell exists, and it is for real. St. Faustina wrote that God had given her a vision of hell, “so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like.” She also wrote, “I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me” (Diary, 741).
What is the point of telling us of these things? Good parents want the safety and well being of their children. So they will not shy away from telling their children about the dangers of playing with fire, or running carelessly across the street. These are not meant to scare them or limit their freedom. These are important warnings so that they will not be harmed. And if earthly parents are like that, how much more for God who is our loving Father? Jesus said, “If you, then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him” (Mt 7:11).
The messages of the Lord Jesus to St. Faustina, therefore, are proofs of God’s infinite Mercy. And it is during these times, with the rapid spread of the culture of death in the world, and with many people losing the faith, that we should take serious heed of these messages, lest we fall into the trap of the enemy. Pope Benedict XVI said about this in his homily during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday: “Today we are once more painfully aware that Satan has been permitted to sift the disciples before the whole world.”
Life in this world is a serious spiritual battle. Yet we go on life not without hope and courage, for Jesus assures us: “I am with you always until the end of time.” Like the Apostle Thomas, let us affirm our faith and trust in Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” Let us rejoice and be filled with hope, for God is love, and “His mercy endures forever.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
141 Henry Street
New York, NY 10002