The Infinite Blessing of Divine Mercy
Still filled with the joy of our Lord’s Resurrection, on this day the Church sings over and over again “God’s mercy endures forever.” We find this song of praise in Psalm 118, which is the Responsorial Psalm at Mass today. The words capture perfectly the mind of the Church which, since 2001, has celebrated this eighth day of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.
At that first celebration of this feast of mercy at the beginning of the new millennium, Saint John Paul II implored, “Let us make our own the Psalmist’s exclamation which we sang in the Responsorial Psalm: the Lord’s mercy endures forever!” Recalling the full expression of the Lord’s mercy, the Pope then said, “In order to understand thoroughly the truth of these words, let us be led by the liturgy to the heart of the event of salvation, which unites Christ’s Death and Resurrection with our lives and with the world’s history. This miracle of mercy has radically changed humanity’s destiny. It is a miracle in which is unfolded the fullness of the love of the Father who, for our redemption, does not even draw back before the sacrifice of His Only-begotten Son” (Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday, April 22, 2001).
Today’s celebration coming in the Jubilee Year of Mercy offers us a special grace. Over these past months since the opening of the Door of Mercy at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, we have been engaged in prayer and reflection on our need for mercy and the responsibility of we who know the grace of divine mercy to share that tender love and compassion with others.
This year has also been marked by much tragedy in our own country and across the world. From the devastating loss of life through gun violence to the genocide of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East to the recent bombing attacks in Europe, Divine Mercy Sunday offers to us a way to link mercy and peace.
Saint John Paul reflected in his second encyclical that in the humiliated and suffering Christ, believers and non-believers can admire a surprising solidarity, which binds him to our human condition beyond all imaginable measure. The Cross, even after the Resurrection of the Son of God, “speaks and never ceases to speak of God the Father, who is absolutely faithful to His eternal love for man,” he wrote, “Believing in this love means believing in mercy” (Dives in Misericordia, 7).
Sister Faustina Kowalska, whose own devotion to the Divine Mercy of God was part of the inspiration of this holy pastor for Divine Mercy Sunday, learned that “mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to my mercy” (Diary of Sister Faustina Kowalska, 300). In this Year of Mercy, we are reminded that in opening our hearts to receiving this mercy, a necessary step is to practice being merciful ourselves through spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
These acts of compassion and consolation can take place in the many interactions we have with people in our everyday lives or through the many opportunities to serve others in the ministries of the archdiocese and our parishes. Building a culture of peace begins in small expressions of mercy that spread from our hearts to our homes, to our communities and across communities and cultures.
Because we know the love of our merciful father, we as individual Christians and as a Church have a particular responsibility for sharing mercy. Pope Francis writes “An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 John 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy” (Evangelii Gaudium, 24).
The message of Divine Mercy is that God loves us – all of us – no matter how great our imperfections and infidelities. This mercy changes everything. It transforms the world. The darkness is overcome and life is made new again.