Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday, Year C (23 & 24/4/22)

posted 25 Apr 2022, 03:42 by Parish Office

Today’s feast day of Divine Mercy Sunday originates from the messages Our Lord gave St Faustina, all approved, of course, by the Church. But it also ties in well with today’s Gospel reading.

When Our Lord appears to the Eleven, they have reasons, perhaps, to be afraid. Out of the eleven, how many were there at the foot of the cross? The answer is one. All the others ran away. That was embarrassing in itself. Then there is the fact that the future Pope and leader of the Church, St Peter, not only ran away – that came later on. In the garden of Gethsemane he cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Our Lord had to heal him and tell Peter to put his sword back in its scabbard, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:53). Then Peter denied three times that he even knew Him. Finally, on Easter Sunday, many of them refused to believe the women when they said that they had been told that Christ had risen from the dead.

But when Jesus appears to them, they are not rejected for making a complete mess of things and failing when they were put to the test. Instead, they are made ministers of the sacrament of confession:

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

For those whose sins you forgive,

they are forgiven;

for those whose sins you retain,

they are retained.”

Perhaps it could be said that, because they have themselves been through temptation and fallen, it will make them more understanding when others come to them for forgiveness. A good priest, or even bishop, hearing confessions, needs to have the humility to recognise that he too, is a sinner. Even if others might confess things which, in and of themselves, are more serious than anything he has ever done, he has to recognise that, as a priest or bishop, he has greater knowledge and responsibility, and so when he sins, it is more serious.

Next, the apostle St Thomas. He was too sceptical and untrusting. No one could convince Him that the Lord was alive. He had to see it for himself. And he did. Jesus said, “Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.” We are asked to put our trust in Him. And that’s what it says at the bottom of the Divine Mercy image: “Jesus, I Trust in You”. Thomas’ response is not just to recognise that Jesus is risen, but to confess His divinity as well: “My Lord and my God!” We also are asked to confess that Jesus is our Lord and our God. That means that we need to

put our trust in Him, and live our lives for Him. And as part of that, we need to draw others to the Lord, to express to others the difference He makes in our lives.

The message of Divine Mercy is that we cannot exhaust the mercy of our God. Our sins are no match for the love of the Lord. It’s like trying to stop the sun by holding up a block of ice – the ice will only melt. No matter whatever our sins, they can be forgiven. Even the sin of Judas Iscariot can be forgiven. People speculate about what happened to Judas Iscariot. It was theoretically possible for him to be forgiven, if he turned to the Lord in repentance. Many have been guilty of homicide, trying to kill a human being. Some have been guilty of, at least attempted, regicide, killing a king. Judas was an accomplice to deicide, trying to kill God. But even that sin can be forgiven – even a sin of that magnitude. So we have no reason to be afraid that when we go to confession that the priest will say: sorry, your sins are just too bad. You can’t be forgiven for that.

But the devil can try to play tricks with us. With some people, he distorts their conscience in one direction, so that they can commit even quite serious sins and have little or no regret. With others, he makes them think that small sins are so great that they can’t be forgiven, or maybe are only forgiven slightly. Our Lord said to Saint Faustina (Diary, 1074):

“The flames of my mercy are burning me. I desire to pour them out upon human souls. Oh, what pain they cause Me when they do not want to accept them! … Tell aching mankind to snuggle close to My merciful Heart, and I will fill it with peace.

“Tell [all people], My daughter, that I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls.”

We could think of the example of St Augustine of Hippo, who as a young man joined the heretical sect of the Manichees and led and immoral life, cohabiting with his girlfriend, but he cast her away when she impeded his progress in social standing. His experience of conversion and God’s mercy led him to write his Confessions, his account of his conversion, which is still read to this day as a literary classic. His experience of the mercy of God has radiated down throughout the centuries, and continues to this day. He left a life of sin and became a great bishop and teacher of the faith. The words of Our Lady could apply to him: “the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.” (Luke 1:49-50)

Today, there are many saints still to be made. Will we help and trust in our Lord, and will we be one of them?