To all my charismatic friends, no I am not now baptized in the Spirit (although surely I am through the Sacraments of the Church)I'm simply offering Divine Mercy to all in my reach. Actually, this was at a birthday party for Karen Coates, Deacon Don Coates wife. She teaches one of our 4th grade classes at our school. She turns 60 today and I was offering her a blessing. I began by praying, "Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord," when I realized I was offering the wrong blessing! Happy 60th!
The birthday girl with her husband the deacon
My homily for Divine Mercy Sunday:
Introduction: Pope John Paul died on the Vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter which five years ago was Divine Mercy Sunday. Many years prior to his death, he formally renamed the Second Sunday of Easter as “Divine Mercy Sunday.” The Gospel of this Sunday is about the Church continuing the ministry of Jesus’ Divine Mercy and forgiveness. It brings me back to that day when the Holy Father went to that stark prison cell and in what looked like a scene from a confessional, offered Ali Acca his unconditional forgiveness—a sign of this Divine Mercy that the Pope so embrace and promoted himself. I am sure it was personally difficult for the pope to come to this spirit of forgiveness for his would-be assassin. Only when you consider how difficult it is to show mercy, can we really then appreciate the mercy Jesus has shown the world, especially in his gruesome execution on the cross and his glorious resurrection. The sins that offend God really do not deserve mercy, but divine punishment. Jesus shows us, tough, that the justice due our sins is taken upon Himself and thus opens the flood of God’s divine mercy for all of us so undeserving.
Topic Statement: Though all of us truly deserve from God true justice and the punishment due our sins, Jesus Christ nonetheless shows us mercy and love.
1. One of the lasting legacies of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II is that he knew how to temper the demanding truths of our Catholic faith with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
A. When Pope John Paul II became Pope back in 1978, the Catholic Church was in the midst of a monumental transition. As with all major transitions, there was great confusion in the Church. Many priests and nuns had lost their identity, not to mention the person in the pew. Catholicism which had been like a rock for centuries, had now become more like a marshmallow. Within this context, the pope set out to restore the great discipline of the Church. At times he seemed harsh—he was seen wagging his finger at a dissenting priest in Central America. We saw dictators shaking in their boots in communist countries. We saw him calling Catholics to a strict sexual ethic and a consistent pro-life position, not only for the innocent unborn, but for the living and for the not-so-innocent through his opposition to the death penalty. Yet, even as he made clear what was sin and unacceptable, he also spoke of the mercy of God. In fact he instituted this very Sunday as Divine Mercy Sunday. Because only in the face of the truth and love of Jesus Christ, do we really see how far we are from it and how much in need we are of Jesus’ mercy. And when we repent and come to the font of Jesus’ mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Penance, we experience that mercy!
B. The Catholic Church is very incarnational. We believe that Jesus Christ crucified and risen is still with the Church. We can experience the glorified flesh and blood of Jesus through the sacraments of the church and through the ministry of the Church. The primary ministry of Jesus is Divine Mercy and the forgiveness of sins. In fact it was this ministry of offering forgiveness that got Him into trouble. He forgave sins and the ultimate act of forgiveness, even for those who killed him, was the crucifixion—Jesus Divine Mercy shown in His flesh and blood. It is no wonder that Jesus gives this same authority to forgive sins in His name to the apostles and their successors. The very reason for the Sacrament of Penance lies in the Gospel reading—it comes from Jesus’ mandate that the Church must make visible Jesus continuing forgiveness as the primary fruit of his crucifixion and glorious resurrection.
2. As baptized, confirmed and Holy Communion receiving members of the Catholic Church, we are called to be a people of divine mercy and reconciliation.
A. Three of the most powerful words any of us can hear are “I forgive you!” The ministry of forgiveness of the Church does not belong exclusively to priests and bishops in the sacrament of Penance. It belongs to all of us. We are called to make visible and tangible the peace and reconciliation that Jesus has brought to the world. Many people throughout the world want to see Jesus as “Doubting Thomas” did. The only way any of us will see Jesus is when we make visible is unconditional love and the power of his forgiveness. Forgiveness is a part of Pope John Paul’s legacy of the culture of life. He was opposed to the taking of not only innocent life in the womb of the mother, but also to the taking of the lives of the guilty through the death penalty. Only when we temper justice and the punishment due our crimes and sins do with love and mercy, then we truly understand the call to imitate Jesus who is primarily the God of mercy and not the God of justice and punishment.
B. We are in perilous times in the Church. The world, meaning the Godless secularism wants to do away with mercy and seek retribution only. The world wants to see the pope punished for the sins and crimes committed against children and teenagers by a minority of priests. The world wants to see the Church disappear as any kind of influence in the world and the world’s secular agenda. The secular agenda has little room for forgiveness if it involves God in any way. The Church must proclaim Divine Mercy and remind everyone when we turn away from God’s mercy, we claim our own retribution. What we sow is what we reap. Punishment or mercy; which will it be? In most cases we will need and experience both, but Divine Mercy will triumph.
Conclusion: Through the eyes of faith, we see Jesus Christ crucified and risen at this Mass. We see Him in one another. We hear him in the Word that is proclaimed. We see Him in the priest who represents Him at Mass. We will see Him in the Eucharistic elements. Seeing Jesus should inspire us to be like Jesus and to bring his love, forgiveness, peace and reconciliation to a world in need of Jesus’ Divine Mercy.