15 April 2012
“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his love has no end.”
We receive these beautiful words taken from the Psalm on this the eighth day of Easter, as if receiving from the lips of the risen Christ, who bears the great message of divine mercy and entrusts its ministry to the Apostles in the Upper Room: “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you…. Receive the Holy Spirit. For those sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” Jesus entrusted to them the gift of “forgiving sins,” a gift that flows from the wounds in his hands, his feet, and from his pierced side. From there a wave of divine mercy flows and floods the world.
The second Sunday of Easter has been celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday since the canonization of St Faustina by Pope John Paul II on the second Sunday of Easter in the Jubilee Year 2000.
Faustina was third of 10 children born into a poor peasant farming family in Poland struggling through the ravages and aftermath of the First World War. She had only three years of very simple education and was eventually accepted at the age of 20 into a convent in Krakow having being rejected repeatedly because of her poverty and lack of education. In the convent she was assigned the humblest duties and tasks, usually in the kitchen or the garden.
And yet from the writings of this simple, humble servant come profound words of God’s loving message of Divine Mercy. Faustina received extraordinary revelations from and visions of Our Lord Jesus. Jesus asked her to record these experiences and she wrote them done faithfully in notebooks covering over 600 pages that have been compiled and published as the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. She died from tuberculosis in 1938 at the age of 33.
The Church’s teaching on Divine Mercy is based on Holy Scripture and the faith handed down by the apostles. Blessed John Paul didn’t establish “Divine Mercy Sunday” to commemorate St. Faustina’s mystical experiences. This Sunday is the Octave Day of Easter and Faustina’s revelations powerfully express the central truths that lie at the heart of our Easter celebrations: the merciful love of God, revealed vividly in the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is an intercessory prayer centred on the Passion; and the Image of the Divine Mercy is an artistic expression of the Risen Christ. The two rays seen in the image, according to what Jesus told St Faustina, “represent the blood and the water” that flowed from his side when his heart was pierced on the Cross. The blood recalls the sacrifice of the Cross and the mystery of the Eucharist; the water makes us think of Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit. In the Divine Mercy image, Jesus is moving towards us and asking us to trust in him. He is asking us not to be afraid to ask him for his limitless mercy in the Sacrament of Confession.
Blessed John Paul wrote “There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy—that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights of the holiness of God. It is a message that is clear and understandable for everyone. Anyone can come and look at this image of the merciful Jesus, His Heart radiating grace, and hear in the depths of his own soul what Saint Faustina heard: ‘Fear nothing. I am with you always’. And if this person responds with a sincere heart: ‘Jesus, I trust in you,’ he will find comfort in all his anxieties and fears.”
It seems wonderfully appropriate that when Pope JPII passed on, he died during the night on the Vigil of the Feast of Divine Mercy in 2005.
The ABC of the Divine Mercy message is simply:
A – Ask. Ask for God’s Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.
B – Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.
C – Complete trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.
It was a lack of trust that was the root of Thomas’ doubts about the Risen Lord. He didn’t trust the word of the other disciples and he didn’t trust the promise made by Jesus. Thomas could not see in the darkness of his despair and disappointment, what Jesus had revealed to him in the light.
Have we not all at some time had our doubts? And have we not at some time felt the cold darkness and emptiness that comes with that doubt?
Faith is not the absence of doubt; it is the overcoming of doubt.
Alfred Lloyd Tennyson wrote: “There lives more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds.”
Jesus did not blame Thomas for doubting and he didn’t condemn him. He invited him rather to come closer and to touch him. Thomas in response gives us that profound profession of faith “My Lord and my God”. And for the rest of his life he travelled widely witnessing to the Resurrection and preaching the Gospel. Tradition has it that he was the only Apostle who evangelised outside of the Roman Empire. It’s believed that he journeyed to what is known today as Iran and then went to India where he was killed for proclaiming his faith in the Risen Lord.
Jesus asked Thomas to come close and to touch him as a sign of his real presence. He calls each one of us to come closer and touch him. He is really present in the Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist. Doubt no longer but believe.
“My Lord and my God. Jesus, I trust in you.”