Divine Mercy Sunday 2012
I am sure that you have all heard the news about Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker. On Thursday he arrived home from work and found his next door neighbor’s house on fire. He ran into the house that was engulfed in flames. Hearing the cries of a woman in an upstairs bedroom, he ran up the stairs, grabbed the woman and threw her over his shoulders –suffering from burns and smoke inhalation; he punched his way through the kitchen and down the stairs. Both he and the woman collapsed outside the building. The Mayor is certainly a man of character. He stands with all of our firefighters, policemen and military who are willing to give their lives for their neighbor. Jesus said “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.”
I was struck by a particular comment Mayor Booker made. He called this incident his “come to Jesus moment.” His statement is profound. It was a “Jesus” moment for sure. For where there is Good – there is God. His saving act was an act of mercy.
In April of year 2000, our beloved Pope John Paul II proclaimed today, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, “Divine Mercy” Sunday. He was inspired by a young nun who lived in Cracow Poland in the 1930’s. Her name was Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska. Sr. Faustina received extraordinary revelations or messages from Our Lord Jesus. Asked by Jesus to record the messages, she compiled them in notebooks – known today as the diary of St. Faustina Kowalska. The words of her diary contained God’s loving message of Divine Mercy - a message of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. Our readings today speak of this very message.
St. Luke, in his Acts of the Apostles, speaks about the earliest community of believers. How they were all of one heart and one mind, keeping things in common so as not to have a needy person among them. Dorothy Day, who helped to start the Catholic Worker Movement, said “We have all known the long loneliness - and we have learned that the only solution is love - and that love comes with community.” By sharing with each other we bring down the Kingdom of God to earth. That is what we as Church do when we love one another.
Remember this today when we share the sign of PEACE. It is not a hello. It is a sign of us being community – being members of the Body of Christ – being of one heart and one mind – loving our neighbors as God loves us. St. John says the greatest proof of our love for God is to keep the commandments – to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole strength, and our whole mind – and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
John’s Gospel tells the story of a meeting between a “ doubting” Apostle and Jesus. The disciples were sitting in the upper room – with the doors locked. Mary Magdalene told them she had seen the Lord. It must have sounded unbelievable to them. Still, they were human – and they all had their doubts. Then Jesus appeared. His first words to them “Peace be with you.” In essence he was saying “Do not be afraid.” No longer doubt. God, in his great wisdom, knows us very well. Human beings always want proof. He showed the disciples his hands and his side.
In Jesus’ great mercy, as he once calmed the Sea of Galilee, he now calms the disciples and frees them from all anxiety.
One disciple was not there. Thomas. Where was Thomas? Why was he not with the disciples? Was Thomas not with the disciples because he was still in despair over the death of Jesus? Possibly. On the other hand, it is possible that Thomas is the only disciple willing to show his face outside of the locked upper room! Perhaps he is out in the streets; going about his life, willing to “take the risk” that someone might recognize him and arrest him as a follower of Jesus.
Later, when the disciples see Thomas, they share their fascinating experience with him. Not enough for Thomas. He still needs to see. So a week later Jesus appears again to the disciples, including Thomas. The Lord doesn’t chastise Thomas for not resting in his friend’s belief – He again offers a gift of mercy, proof of his resurrection by asking Thomas to see his hands, and to place his own hand in His side. Thomas’ only answer is “My Lord and My God.” Thomas would never be the same. He is the first to recognize Jesus as Lord and God after the resurrection.
Jesus says blessed are you who have seen – blessed are those who have not seen. That which we ‘have not seen’ is the glorious Body of the Risen One. However, we still see in another way, by listening to the Word of God and to the Magisterium of the Church and also ‘seeing’ the real Body of Christ which is the Eucharist.
After seeing the Lord in his Glorified Body, the disciples were now ready to proclaim the Good News, to offer their very lives for the Gospel. St. Thomas offered his life while converting the people of India. If you have a chance after Mass, look at the stained glass window “The Martyrdom of St. Thomas.” The image is frightening and inspiring. It shows Thomas on his knees, his arms raised, one hand clutching a cross. Soldiers carrying spears will soon put Thomas to silence. This image of Thomas is not one of a doubter, but one of a believer. And this belief is a direct result of Divine mercy.
And so it is with you and me – our faith is a gift – a direct result of Divine Mercy.
Jesus said to St. Faustina – “I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.”
Help me, O Lord that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors' souls and come to their rescue.
Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors' needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.
Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.
Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.
Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.
Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness.
And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me.