Acts 2:42-47, 1 Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31
When we talk of Divine Mercy, we mean the compassion, graciousness and mercy that God shows to us despite how sinful we are.
Divine Mercy first of all reveals the merciful heart of God, how deep, rich and abundant His mercy is.
Then secondly, Divine Mercy exposes God’s lovely desire to show this mercy to us. He constantly invites us to confess our sins and amend our lives.
Finally, Divine mercy also implies that we do the same to anyone who has offended us. We are called to show mercy to our neighbours, offenders and people who do wrong to us, which makes us live in bitterness and pain.
Then the Divine Mercy as we celebrate it today is a request from the Lord Jesus Christ who through Sr. Faustina requests that every second Sunday of Easter be dedicated to His Divine Mercy.
In the year 2000, Our Holy Father Pope John Paul instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy which then became a new feast to be celebrated for the first time in 2001 on the Second Sunday of Easter.
It arises out of a series of apparitions from the Lord to a polish nun whose name is Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament. Sr. Faustina is a Polish Catholic nun and mystic.
She received several messages from our Lord Jesus Christ on the nature of His Divine Mercy.
Sr. Faustina was born in Poland in 1905. When she was twenty years old she entered the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.
She lived there for the next thirteen years until her death on October 5th 1938. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1993 and canonized in 2000.
In April 1978 the Holy See in Rome permitted the spread of this devotion. The one primarily responsible for the Holy See approving the authenticity of the apparitions was Karol Wojtyla, then Archbishop of Cracow, later that year elevated as Pope. In 1981 Pope John Paul said his destined role was to bring the era of Divine Mercy into the world.
The Promise of Divine Mercy
In the 1930s, St. Faustina received extraordinary revelations, which she recorded in her diary. Our Lord Jesus Christ told her, “In the Old Covenant I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart” (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1588).
Therefore, Sr. Faustina was chosen to be the vessel that will spread the message of God’s mercy and for the mission of bringing His message of Mercy to the world. Jesus called the Divine Mercy Sunday mankind’s “last hope of salvation” (995)
Today, we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy. It is specially known as Divine Mercy Sunday.
St. Faustina was privileged to receive apparitions from Jesus emphasizing his mercy, and especially his mercy today.
Jesus promises that those who go to Confession and receive Holy Communion today will receive not only forgiveness of their sins, but the total remission of all temporal punishment for their sins.
It is like a second baptism when God wipes all our sins and punishment away. Confession during the week beforehand is also acceptable.
Our attitude should be one of total trust in Jesus’ Divine Mercy. Confession before today in preparation for this feast is also recommended.
Sister Faustina used to confess on Saturday. Hence, going to confession is not the only way to prepare ourselves for this feast. We are also to be merciful, to perform acts of mercy.
The Mercy of God.
The theme of the ‘mercy of God’ runs throughout the Bible. The bible says that God is ‘rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4).
The Greek word ‘eleos’ means ‘mercy, compassion, pity, clemency.
This feast of Divine Mercy reminds us of many parables taught by Jesus emphasizing God’s mercy. We remember the three beautiful parables of Luke 15.
In this chapter, God is like a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to go in search of the one lost one.
Also in the parable of the lost coin, God is like the woman who searches the entire house to find the coin she lost.
Then in the parable of the prodigal son, God is like the father who comes out of the house to welcome back his prodigal son and who comes out of the house a second time to entice the elder son to come in and join in the party.
Today God has thrown a party during which we can receive God’s infinite mercy. Let us accept and go to the party and receive God’s mercy.
Attributes of God’s Mercy.
In this season of Easter, it is most fitting indeed for us to focus our attention on the Lord and the nature of the Divine Mercy.
In truth, the mercy of God is boundless, enduring and ever-present. Unlimited mercy and compassion are what God has for every one of us sinners and unworthy people.
God grants us this when we allow Him to extend such a wonderful and gracious mercy towards us.
He does not want us to be destroyed and annihilated because of our sinfulness. God longs to give us another chance.
The Lord has shown us such great love and mercy. Despite our sinful nature, God reaches out to all of us. He desires to heal us from all of our brokenness and unworthiness.
In the ministry of Jesus, He showed us how to reach out to the worst of sinners, to those whom the rest of the community had dismissed as being hopeless and unworthy to be saved, like the tax collectors and prostitutes.
This is what the apostles were doing in the first reading of today. They continued the good works of the Lord’s merciful love, by ministering to the poor, the sick and the dying, providing them with both physical and spiritual care.
The apostles were healing those who are sick by the virtue of the power granted to them by the Lord. They also ministered to the people in various places.
In the first reading, so many signs and wonders were worked at the hands of the apostles.
This happened to the extent the sick were even taken out into the streets and laid on beds and sleeping mats in the hope that at least the shadow of Peter might fall across some of them.
In the first reading also, some of the People even came crowding in from the towns round about Jerusalem, bringing with them their sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and all of them were cured.
Therefore, these apostles continued the work of Jesus. In essence, they teach us to be merciful as Jesus does. We can never separate mercy from God’s nature. In the same way, the heart of compassion should never be separated from us.
Any Christian who is devoid of the heart of compassion for the poor, no matter how prayerful he may seem to be is not a Christian.
To be merciful as Jesus does is our call. He calls us to be merciful as Jesus does.
Our vocation is to follow in the footsteps of the Lord Himself and His disciples, in doing the works of mercy in our daily living.
Our Lord promises many great blessings and graces for the merciful when He says, “Give, and it shall be given to you…; the measure you give to others is the measure that will be given to you” (Luke 6:38).
Therefore, the more we are merciful to others the more, we also invite mercy upon our lives.
He says, “Do them good and lend to them, without any hope of return; then your reward will be a rich one, and you will be true sons of the Most High, generous like Him toward the thankless and unjust” (Luke 6:35).
In Matthew 5:7, Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy
Therefore, this is the greatest reward a person can expect. We receive mercy when we show mercy to others. We become sons of the Most High for being merciful to our fellowmen.
Divine mercy obtains for us graces and light, cleanses us from our sins, guides us to the Sacrament of Penance, and saves our soul from death that is from eternal damnation.
In the second reading, Jesus tells John, “Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last; I am the Living One, I was dead and now I am to live forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and the underworld”.
Therefore, it is through His divine mercy that we can achieve eternity in the end.
Our Inability To Believe In His Mercy
There are times we remember our pasts and it seems as if God will never forgive us again. There are also times we go to confession but deep inside our hearts we still believe that God is yet to forgive us.
Many Christians are suffering from unbelief about the merciful hearts of Jesus. This is why many of us believe that there are some people God answer their prayers first, but does not answer ours first. Because of this type of unbelief, we lose hope in God’s mercy and love.
Also, many of us have not been able to show mercy in our actions and deeds in life, especially because we think that everything we say about being merciful is just mere talk.
The point here is that we are acting in the manner of St. Thomas the Apostle as mentioned in our Gospel passage today.
St. Thomas shows his lack of faith and doubt in the Lord’s resurrection. St. Thomas doubted and refused to believe the words of the other disciples that Jesus has risen, to the point that he publicly mentioned that he would not believe unless he was able to prove it with his own hands. He wants to touch with His hands to verify if truly the person appearing to them is Jesus Christ.
This is exactly what many of us are suffering from as well. We are suffering from our inability to have genuine faith in God, in His love and His mercy.
Many Christians today completely lose trust in the mercy of God. They continue to feel the guilt of their pasts even after having confessed their sins. Some Christians even believe that God is so heart hardened that He cannot be able to answer their prayers.
Today’s gospel calls for a rethink and to have complete trust and faith in Jesus and His merciful heart.
The Power to Forgive Sins.
When Jesus appears to the apostle today, He says to them “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you”.
Then, after saying this he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained”.
By this, Jesus handed unto them the power to forgive the sins of others. The apostles hand this power to the further generation. This is where the church derives its power to forgive sins.
Therefore, when the priest stays at the confessional, He does not act on the power of His own, rather He is there in the person of Christ.
The power to grant forgiveness to penitents is not of his but of the Lord Jesus Christ who grants them the privilege to relieve sinners from the burdens of sin. He, therefore, wants them to be merciful as Jesus does.
Before Creation, the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters, and today, Jesus breathed on the apostles the same Spirit of God, which therefore signify a moment of recreation.
Therefore, at the confessional, the priest in turn grants the penitent this solemn gift of forgiveness from the Lord, recreating the sinner to be new again.
After the confession, God wipes our sins away, and the Holy Spirit then takes absolute control of the heart of the penitent.
1. The Feast of Divine Mercy is a call to be merciful as Jesus does. In His mercy, He forgave the woman caught in adultery in John 8. When others condemned the woman to die, Jesus did not.
At the cross, He also forgave the repentant thief crucified alongside Him who asks that He remembers him in His kingdom (Luke 23:32-43). Jesus did not even postpone the forgiveness nor judge Him of his pasts, rather He forgive Him immediately.
On the cross also, He asks the Father to forgive all that mocked, condemned and crucified Him. He asks God to forgive them for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).
Therefore, Jesus wants us to, first of all, understand how abundant His mercy is. This will enable us to seek and approach him always in confidence when we seek His mercy.
2. The mercy of God is abundant and boundless, but we have often abused this goodness and failed to make an effort to improve. Like Thomas, we doubt His merciful and loving heart.
Also, since we know that He is so merciful, we decide to live in sin and atrocity believing that whatever we do, He will surely forgive us.
We neglect and abuse His love for us because we know that He must surely forgive when we ask of Him. This is an abuse of God’s love.
God loves us not for us to continue to live in sin but for us to return this love through a trusting and loving relationship with Him. But we have decided to live otherwise.
3. In Matthew 5:7, Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. He also commanded us to forgive and forget, but we decide to be merciless. He asks us to forgive but we decide not to forgive.
When He appears to the apostles today, His first greeting is “peace be with you”. He wants them first to embrace the message and gift of peace.
Therefore, peace should be the first virtue that every Christian should possess.
Instead, we decide not to live in peace. We decide to live with hatred of another, bearing grudges and living in bitterness. We decide to harden our hearts.
Instead of living in peace, and love, we become heartless and wicked to our fellow human beings. This is the reason, we are killing ourselves.
This is the reason families are not progressing. Instead of embracing forwardness, we embrace backwardness. Jesus wants us to be merciful as He does. But we choose not to. We find it even as a hobby to live in jealousy, envy, bitterness and hatred. We are affecting ourselves.
4. The Feast of divine mercy today is a call to be merciful as Jesus does. It is very painful when you remember how someone you love and helped but later paid you back with betrayal.
It is very painful when you remember how you spent your hard-earned money on someone who promised you His or her trust, but later, He or she paid you back with evil. Sometimes when we remember what we did for people who later paid us back with evil, it pains us.
Also when you remember how the soldiers, mocked, flogged, naked and crucified Jesus, it pains. But Jesus shows us that despite these mistreatments, it is better to forgive and keep our hearts pure.
He forgives all His offenders on the cross and asks us to do the same. Therefore, the feast of divine Mercy is asking us to go inwards and remember the people that have hurt us and those we have hurt. Then, we forgive and clean our minds from the pains and bitterness.
We have to forgive, if not for any other thing, but for the sake of Jesus, who commanded us to do so. Therefore, never live in grudges or bitterness for anyone. Be merciful as Jesus does.
5. Also let us always be confident in approaching God’s presence. Let us always approach Him in the sacrament of penance and seek His mercy.
Also, let us approach Him at the sacrament of the altar. In His presence, there is peace, love, mercy and forgiveness of sins. Let us not glory in sin but let us glory in the grace and mercy that are abundant in his presence.
6. Let us always have the hunger to seek God’s forgiveness, and forgive others. On 13 May 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and wounded by Ali Ağca.
On May 13, that day, people sat in Peter’s square, waiting for the Pope to arrive. When the Pope passed through a crowd of supporters, Ağca fired four shots at the pope and critically wounded him.
He flees the scene as the crowd is in shock. He is unlucky as the Vatican security chief Camillo Cibin, a nun, and several spectators grab him and prevent him from escaping. They later arrest him.
All the four bullets hit John Paul II; two of them lodged in his lower intestine. The other two hit his left index finger and right arm and also injured two bystanders.
The Italian government sentence Ağca to life imprisonment for the assassination attempt in July 1981, but the Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi pardons him in June 2000 at the Pope’s request.
Pope John Paul II asks people to “pray for my brother [Ağca] … whom I have sincerely forgiven”.
In 1983, Pope John Paul II meets Ağca and speaks to him privately at Rome’s Rebibbia Prison, which is the prison where Ağca is a hostage.
Ağca kissed the Pope’s ring after their visit. The Pope was also deeply in touch with Ağca’s family over the years.
Although Ağca attempted to murder the pope, he later developed a friendship with the pontiff. In early February 2005, during the Pope’s illness, Ağca sent a letter to the Pope wishing him well.
Let us also learn to forgive.
May God have mercy on us and guide us to encounter His love and mercy always. Amen.
God bless you.