19 April 2020:  Divine Mercy Sunday

“Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, the Feast of Mercy”

Napoléon Bonaparte was the Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1815.  Once, a soldier was found guilty with a serious offence.   The soldier’s mother came to Napoleon and asked pardon for her son.   Napoleon said that since it was the second major offense, justice demanded death.  The mother implored,  “I do not ask for justice, I plead for mercy.”  “But,” said the emperor, “he does not deserve mercy.”  “Sir,” cried the mother, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for.”  His compassion and the clarity of the mother’s logic prompted Napoleon to respond, “Well, then, I will have mercy.”  About “mercy” William Shakespeare wrote, ” It droppeth (or in modern terms it drops) as the gentle rain from heaven.”

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, the Feast of Mercy!  St. Pope John Paul II made the surprise announcement in his homily at the canonization of St. Faustina on April 30, 2000.  There, he declared: “the Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on, throughout the Church, will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.”

Saint Faustina was an apostle of Divine Mercy, and she lived here on earth only for 33 years as Jesus himself lived only for 33 years.   Lord Jesus assigned to St. Faustina three basic tasks: 1st, to pray for souls, entrusting them to God’s incomprehensible Mercy;  2nd, to tell the world about God’s generous Mercy; and 3rd, to start a new movement in the Church focusing on God’s Mercy.   Through her, Lord Jesus communicates to the whole world the great message of God’s mercy and reveals the pattern of Christian perfection, based on trust in God, and on the attitude of mercy toward one’s neighbors.   She wrote in her spiritual diary titled “Divine Mercy in My Soul”:  “O my Jesus, each of Your servants reflects one of Your virtues; I desire to reflect Your compassionate heart, full of mercy; I want to glorify it.  Let Your mercy, O Jesus, be impressed upon my heart and soul like a seal, and this will be my badge in this and in the future life.”   Sr. Faustina heard Jesus saying to her:  “Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish the aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart.”  These words become very relevant today as the whole world is aching with the pandemic of coronavirus.  As Jesus told St. Faustina, Jesus is telling everyone of us: “I do not want to punish the aching (the suffering) mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart.”

The readings for this Sunday are about God’s mercy.   The opening prayer addresses the Father as “God of everlasting Mercy.”  In the responsorial psalm we sing repeatedly, with great joy “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His mercy endures forever” (Ps 118).  In the 2nd reading we heard that God revealed His mercy, first and foremost, by sending His only-begotten Son, to become our Savior and Lord by His suffering, death and Resurrection.

Today’s Gospel vividly reminds us of how Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a sacrament of Divine Mercy.  The Risen Lord gave his apostles the power to forgive sins with the words, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them. (Jn. 20: 19-23).  Forgiveness is the greatest expression of mercy.

In the declaration of the Jubilee year of Mercy pope Francis said:  “It is my burning desire that the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.   And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead. 

The first reading stresses the corporal acts of mercy practiced by the early Christian community by sharing, considering the needs of everyone.  We heard in that reading that every day they devoted themselves to breaking bread in their homes.  This is so true today as we keep the social distance and we pray together in our own homes feeling the presence of the Risen Lord.

In the parables of mercy, the lost coin, the lost sheep, and especially in the Parable of the Prodigal son Jesus reveals the nature of God as that of a Father who never gives up until he has forgiven the wrong and overcome rejection with compassion and mercy (cf. Lk 15:1-32).   The parable of the good Samaritan is a perfect example of mercy in action, the real mercy.  Much more than the good Samaritan, Jesus has reached out to us while we were still sinners and laid down his life for us (Rom. 5:6-8).   In the parable of the “ruthless servant” the master says, “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Mt 18:33).  In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us, given to us by God.   Let us listen to the words of Jesus “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Mt 5:7)

The gospel command, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” demands that we show mercy to our neighbors always and everywhere. We radiate God’s mercy to others by our actions, our words, and our prayers. It is mainly through acts of mercy that we practice mercy in our daily lives and become eligible for God’s merciful judgment. 

Let us pray to our Lord, on this Divine Mercy Sunday:

Lord forgive us of all our sins and punishment, show your mercy for even the most hardened sinners and teach us to forgive others and to excel in actions of mercy and compassion.  Lord give us your grace to live your command: “Be merciful, just as your Father in heaven is merciful.”

May God bless you!