Homily: Divine Mercy Feast, 2014

Feast of Divine Mercy  
Last Day of Octave       

Acts 2:42-47; Ps 118:1-24; 1 Pet 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

In Rome today, on the Feast of Divine Mercy, Pope Francis will proclaim John XXIII and John Paul II as saints. The choice of date is significant as the Feast of Divine Mercy was commissioned by Pope John Paul II.  Established in 2000, it is celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter.

We know that Pope John Paul II died in the Vatican on April 2, 2005, as Saturday drew to a close, the day before Divine Mercy Sunday. Furthermore, the link between Divine Mercy and the Easter celebration, especially on this last day of the Octave, Second Sunday of Easter, exists on many levels.

In his 1980 encyclical on God’s mercy, Rich in Mercy, Pope John Paul 11 developed a scriptural and doctrinal basis for our faith in the mercy of God. By linking the revealed truth about God’s mercy to one of the most solemn Sundays after Easter itself, he illumined the fact that the liturgy already proclaimed the divine mercy.

On this Second Sunday of Easter, the responsorial psalm and Gospel center on the theme of mercy. In Psalm 118 we say three times, “His mercy endures forever.” The Gospel, from

John 20:19-31, begins with the risen Christ appearing to the apostles on Easter night. Jesus calms his disciples by saying and giving them “Peace.” He shows them the scars of his Passion, his wounded hands and side. His glorified body retains the evidence of his saving work through his suffering, death and resurrection.

Jesus fills them with joy and again says to them—and produces in them—“Peace.” Then he breathes on them and explains what the divine breathing means with the words, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” He gives the apostles the power of God’s mercy for the sinner, the gift of forgiving sins from God’s treasury of mercy. The other texts speak of healing and give the assurance there is nothing to fear.

Today’s second reading also speaks to us of faith. Saint Peter himself, filled with spiritual enthusiasm, points out to the newly-baptized the reason for their hope and their joy. I like to think how in this passage, at the beginning of his First Letter, Peter does not use language of exhortation; instead, he states a fact. He writes: ‘this is a cause of great joy for you .. and he adds: “you did not see him, yet you love him’; … you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe ., and you are sure to the end to which your faith looks forward, that is the salvation of your souls”. A new reality has come about in Christ’s resurrection, a reality to which faith opens the door. “This is the Lord’s doing”, says the Psalm (118:23), and “it is marvelous in our eyes”, the eyes of faith. And again we hear the theme repeated in St John’s Gospel when we hear Jesus proclaim “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”: this is the beatitude of faith.

The Divine Mercy devotion fosters the virtue of trust in God’s mercy that finds its fulfillment in the liturgy of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. Popular piety animates the faith attitudes that make participation in the sacraments more vital and fruitful.  The word and the concept of "mercy" seem to cause some uneasiness in man. Perhaps it can also be said that the present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart, the very idea of mercy.

However, one special way the Church celebrates God’s mercy throughout the year is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This beautiful Sacrament was presented to the Church by Christ himself on the day of his Resurrection, hence this Sacrament of Mercy is supremely relevant also in this Easter season.

The message of mercy is that God loves us — all of us — no matter how great our sins. He wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, through His death and Resurrection, all will come to share His joy.   So, let us pray in our hearts: Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen 

Bishop Leslie Tomlinson