for Divine Mercy Sunday, 2nd Sunday of Easter
April 15, 2007
I begin my reflections this morning with a billboard - one you can see for yourselves if you are driving north on I 275 just before the Carleton exit. This very unusual billboard might be likened to a wayside shrine. In vivid colors it depicts Our Blessed Lord, His right hand raised in blessing, while from His heart radiates a two-fold stream of light, one crimson, the other shining white, together symbolizing the mingled blood and water that flowed from His lance-pierced side. To the left of the picture, you will find in compelling letters, the simple prayer: AJesus, I trust in You.” That Christ-Image, as many of you are aware, is the visual expression of what might be described as a world-wide explosion of Faith, of Hope and of Love, all converging on one central truth: The God we come to know in and through Jesus is a God of Compassionate Love - A God of Inexhaustible Mercy.
Today, on this Solemnity of Divine Mercy, we, all of us, are invited to lay claim to that central truth - to rediscover it at an ever deeper level of appreciation, so that it becomes for us, our truth to live by, the inspiration of our praying and the foundation of our trust.
This reawakening of devotion traces its origin to a Polish visionary named Sister Faustina Kowalska and to the messages Our Lord communicated to us through her. The apparitions with which she was favored are not in any sense a matter of divine and catholic faith - but, like the apparitions at Fatima and Lourdes and the Sacred Heart visitations to St. Margaret Mary, these mystical experiences have survived the most vigorous official scrutiny and have been deemed not only credible but totally commendable in the devotional practices they ask for.
Sister Faustina died in October of l938 at the age of 33, after only l3 years as a vowed religious, having lived her religious dedication with radiant faith and fervor, leaving as her gift to the Church, a detailed record of the way in which Our Lord had singled her out to be the apostle and the messenger of Divine Mercy. With truly miraculous rapidity, her reputation for extraordinary holiness began to spread, first in her native Poland, then throughout the world. Reports abounded of favors and graces granted and cures wrought through her intercession. Her diary was translated into a dozen languages and the Devotion Our Lord asked for through her proved to be a spiritual awakening for millions of people the world over. In 1968, the official inquiry into her heroic virtue and her credibility was begun in Krakow, and two years later, her beatification process was officially opened in the Vatican with the approval of Pope Paul II. No holy person, recent or ancient, has been scrutinized with more critical attention, a test which she passed, as the expression has it, Asumma cum laude@ - with highest praise. On April 13, l993, Pope John Paul II declared her Blessed and during the Millennial Holy Year of 2000, he solemnly canonized her - ASaint Faustina@.
On the occasion of her beatification and again during her canonization ceremony, the Holy Father acknowledged his personal debt to the saint. He told how, as a seminarian and in preparing for his ordination, he had prayerfully read her diary and how he had felt powerfully called by God, not only to center his own spiritual life in a total trust in Divine Mercy but also to devote every day and every effort of his priestly life to sharing with others the same Christ-centered Trust. So faithfully did he live out that youthful resolve that he is rightly known as The Pope of Divine Mercy. One of his earliest encyclicals, certainly his most personal, written in l980, was entitled ADives in Misericordia@ - AThe Riches of Divine Mercy@. In it he clearly laid out what would be the central focus of his pontificate, declaring: AEverything that forms the Vision of Jesus in the Church=s living faith and teaching illuminates our Appreciation of God, Our Father in the Holiness of His Mercy.@ And he went on to say: AIt is the principal task of the Church to profess and proclaim Mercy as the Most Stupendous Attribute of the Creator and the Redeemer and to bring people ever closer to the Source of Our Savior=s Mercy. Not only does Our Lord speak of God=s Mercy; above all, He Himself, incarnates and personifies it. In a very real sense, Jesus is Mercy.@ Many years after he wrote those revelatory words, Pope John Paul declared that that at the time, he felt that St. Faustina was beside him, guiding his pen.
It was surely by a gracious arrangement of Divine Providence that when Our Holy Father died, on April 3rd, it was toward evening on the Vigil of this feast and at an altar close to his bed, today=s Mass was being celebrated, appropriately in Polish. It is his special feast-day. He established it.
How appropriate, too, that the next morning, the whole world listened to the posthumous homily, written in his own tremulous hand - the homily he had hoped to deliver that very day. It was a message right out of his pastoral heart, brief enough that, by way of conclusion, I can share it with you, word for word:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The joyful Alleluia of Easter resounds also today. Our gospel page from St. John tells us how the Risen One, on the night of that day, appeared to the Apostles and Ashowed them His hands and His side@, that is, the signs of His Painful Passion, indelibly printed upon his body, even after His resurrection. Those glorious wounds, which eight days later, He invited the incredulous Thomas to touch, reveal the Mercy of God Who Aso loved the world that He gave his only Son@.
This mystery of love is at the heart of today=s liturgy, dedicated to the Divine Mercy. To people everywhere, the Risen Lord offers as a gift, His Love that forgives, reconciles and reopens the spirit to hope. It is a Love that converts hearts and gives peace. How important it is for all to understand and to accept the Divine Mercy!@
He concludes with this prayer:
ALord Who by Your Death and Resurrection reveal the Love of the Father, we believe in you and with confidence, we repeat to you today: AJesus, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Jesus, I trust in you.@ B His Final Words - we make them our own: AJesus, I trust in You@.