Pastoral Message – April 16, 2023

Pastoral Message – April 16, 2023

In 2000, Saint John Paul II designated the second Sunday of Easter, which is the eighth and final day of the Easter Octave, as Divine Mercy Sunday. He believed that the Divine Mercy of God was the key to understanding the joy of Easter.

Today’s gospel scene provides insight into this great mystery of the Divine Mercy. On the first Easter Sunday evening, Jesus comes in the midst of His disciples, whom he finds frightened and ashamed behind a locked door. These are the same men who abandoned Him in His hour of need just three days earlier. Yet, Jesus immediately forgives and reassures them with word: Shalom (peace). With that one word they are restored to relationship with Jesus. They are made whole with God and with one another.

In the late 1930s in Eastern Europe there was no peace. Between the cruelty of Nazi Germany and the atheistic communism of the Soviet Union, it was a place full of fear. Between these two forces of godlessness, God provided a voice to counter that fear, shame, and mistrust. The voice was that of a young nun, Sister Maria Faustina. She came from a very poor family that had struggled on their little farm during the terrible years of World War I. Sister Faustina had only three years of a very simple education. Hers were the humblest of tasks in the convent, usually in the kitchen, tending the vegetable garden or answering the door. In her diary we read of her simple, yet powerful, story. Sister Faustina died in October, 1938 in Kraków, Poland.

In February, 1931, our Lord appeared to this simple nun, bringing with Him a message of mercy for all mankind. He described the image that he wanted her to paint along with the simple inscription, “Jesus, I trust in you.” It is that image that countless millions of believers view as they pray at three o’clock in the afternoon each day: “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” The prayer is for mercy for ALL sins of the WHOLE WORLD. The prayer reflects great faith in God’s Divine Mercy for EVERYONE!

In today’s Gospel passage, we walk with Saint Thomas who has been given that terrible nickname “doubting Thomas.” Yet the gospel passage shows us that after he touched the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side, Saint Thomas uttered in just five words what perhaps is the deepest expression of faith known in history: “My Lord and my God!” Because he was not ashamed of his doubt that he could clearly see the ever merciful God.

Those who fail to recognize God’s mercy often commit two sins: despair and of presumption. A person in despair says, “I’m so bad that God could never forgive me for my sins.” On the other hand, a presumptive person says, “I’m so good that God absolutely wants me with Him in heaven!” We live in an age of presumption in which people very quickly presume their own goodness and overlook any sin or frailty. However, we also see that this age is one of deep despair. It is an age that yearns for God’s mercy.

The word mercy in Latin is misericordia or literally “the suffering of the heart.” In the Old Testament, the word hesed, which means “tender mercy,” captures this grace. In the familiar words of Psalm 118: “His mercy endures forever.” Wherever we look in God‘s great creation, His mercy endures forever. The prophet Isaiah evokes the tender image of the love of a mother for her child, saying that even should your own mother forget you, God will never forget you. Indeed, His mercy endures forever! God’s tender mercy will always lead us to a conversion of heart. In the Gospels, Jesus always called sinners to Himself. After comforting and forgiving them, He also sent him forth with the gentle but firm reminder: “Now go and sin no more.” This is the promise that we make in each Act of Contrition – that with the help of God’s grace we will sin no more and we will avoid whatever leads us to sin.

Indeed, it is in confession that we experience most clearly and most significantly the great mercy of God. Consequently, it is only natural that the devotion of Divine Mercy is intimately connected with the great Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is also no accident that the world is attracted to the example of Pope Francis, who is often seen both hearing confessions and humbly kneeling to receive the sacrament himself. And so, as we take great joy in the enduring nature of God‘s mercy, let us shout to the heavens on this Solemnity of Divine Mercy, on this eighth day of the Easter Octave: “Jesus, we trust in You” because your mercy endures forever!

Fr. Mike

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