4.8.18. – 2nd Sun. of Easter – B
The Feast of Divine Mercy
Acts of the Apostles 4: 32 – 35
First Letter of St. John 5: 1 – 6
Gospel of John 20: 19 – 31
Please refer to your own Bible for the Scripture readings.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Divine Compassion: Touching the Wounds of †Jesus
St. John Paul II designated the Sunday after Easter as “Divine Mercy Sunday”. And the obvious reason this Sunday was chosen – was the passage of we just heard from the Gospel according to John.
On that first Easter night, †Jesus appeared to the eleven who were gathered in the upper room. †Jesus gave them authority to express God’s mercy to the world – to forgive sin. So, when we think of mercy, we think of forgiving someone for hurting us or forgiving some wrong that they have done to us. That’s normally what we think – when we think about mercy. But – when we speak of ‘Divine Mercy’, it expresses the forgiveness of sin, made possible through the Death and Resurrection of †Jesus there is so much more to Divine Mercy.
In the diary of St. Faustina Kowalska, who first promoted the devotion to the Divine Mercy, the Saint prayed this: “O greatly merciful God, infinite goodness, today all mankind calls out from the abyss of its misery to Your mercy, to Your compassion, O God”. (from: Divine Mercy In My Soul; Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament [+1939]) This reminds us, not only of God’s mercy toward us, but of His infinite compassion as well. Most of us are quick to forgive someone when they’ve hurt us; when they come and they apologize, we are ready to forgive, especially when we sense that their heart-felt apology is real. But showing compassion to other people, especially those who are different than us, that can be much more difficult, because compassion and mercy are not the same. †Jesus is very clear in the Gospel according to Luke – chapter 6: “Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36).
How is God compassionate? †Jesus taught this: “Your heavenly Father…makes the sun rise on the bad and the good and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust”. (Matt.5:45) God does not discriminate at all; He embraces every thing and every one, equally. It doesn’t matter what condition of grace or sin that a person is in – they receive the warmth of the sun because it is a gift from God. Whether we are saint or sinner, regardless if we follow Him with heroic virtue or – struggle with basic morality – God loves us and God shows us mercy and compassion! God loves the saints in heaven, and, believe it or not – God loves the devils in hell, too; He loves them both. He loves them both equally, they simply respond to His love differently – and that’s why they are – where they are – in heaven or hell. The difference for us, whether we will go to heaven or to hell – will also depend on how we respond to God’s love. (By the way – regardless of how the media wrongly reported what Pope Francis said: there is a hell!)
Let us look at a parable – ‘The Parable of the Loving Father and His Prodigal Son”. It is a good image of the Father for us – and God’s love, mercy and compassion toward us. The father in the parable loves his prodigal son; he also loves his faithful elder son, just as much. He loves one despite his weakness and he loves the other despite his bitterness. (Remember, the elder son didn’t want to go into that party, he was angry and bitter toward his brother.) The father loved them both.
To express Divine Mercy and Divine Compassion is to love equally; to embrace those who ask us to forgive them. It is to embrace those who even don’t know how to ask us for forgiveness and to show compassion for them. †Jesus gave His life on the cross for both of them. (pointing to the cross hanging on the wall behind the altar) “Biblical compassion demands that we never be content, either as a family or as a Church, while some of our members are separated from us. The compassion of God leaves no room for writing off anyone as lost or as good-riddance”. (Ron Rolheiser: Sacred Fire; Image Books, N.Y., 2014; P.125) The compassion of God does not allow that. If there is someone in your life today – that you have said to them or feel about them as “good-riddance”, you are not doing what God has asked. That’s not what He wants of us. Divine Mercy, Divine Compassion is to see everyone as a ‘child of God’, regardless of whether they are in communion with the Church, whether they are in communion with the community or with your family.
We look at Thomas. He was away from the community when †Jesus appeared that first Easter night. And he refused to believe what the others told him about †Jesus rising from the dead. And most Scripture Scholars (going all the way back to the Fathers of the Church) believe that he was just heart-broken. He loved †Jesus so much and he was so much into what †Jesus was doing; Thomas believed Him to be the Eternal Son of God. Then when he heard that he was dead, he couldn’t handle it; he was just roaming through the streets trying to figure this whole thing out. So when he comes back that night after the resurrection and they tell him what happened, he’s not ready to believe them. He has had his dream shattered already; he wasn’t going to get his hopes up again. But the next week when †Jesus appears again, He does not scold Thomas for his lack of faith; but He invited Thomas to get closer to Him, to touch the wounds on His body. C.S. Lewis in his book: ‘Mere Christianity,’ writes: “If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to – or even into – the thing that has them.
The first words of †Jesus to the apostles on that Easter night was: “Peace be with you”. Do we long for the Peace of Christ enough – to reach into the wounded Body of Christ in those around us? We are reminded in our opening prayer (that we heard at the beginning of mass today) of the mercy that flows from the wounds of Christ. This is part of the opening prayer: “God of everlasting mercy…we pray…that all may grasp and fully understand…by whose blood they have been redeemed”. If we want to experience Divine Mercy – we must express Divine Compassion by reaching out to His wounded body, the wounds of the Body of Christ, that’s how we do it. †Jesus rose from the tomb in a glorified body, but the wounds remain. To this day, they remain. They can be seen in the painting of Divine Mercy, which was painted from St. Faustina’s vision of †Jesus in 1931. It also included two rays of light, one white and one red; the rays symbolized the blood and water – coming from the wounded side of †Jesus. (some people mistake that for the heart) This represents the blood and water flowing from His wounded side – as we read in John’s Gospel; and as we heard today, proclaimed from the First Letter of John: “He is the One who came through water and blood”. (1 Jn.5:6)
†Jesus wants us to see Him in the wounded people around us. In the wounds of Christ, we will see a young girl – terrified into having an abortion, and how easily some of us are to reject that young girl. In the wounds of Christ, we will see a family hiding in the shadows – fearful of deportation. In the wounds of Christ, we will see a spouse – alone for months at a time – raising a family – while their spouse is deployed. In the wounds of Christ, we will see a parent who loves their gay child – and is hurt and confused that others, including fellow Christians, who cannot see the goodness in their child.
Here is what St. Faustina prayed: “Help me O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful and compassionate, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearance, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbor’s soul and come to their rescue. Help me O Lord, that my ears may be merciful and compassionate, that I may give heed to my neighbor’s need, and not be indifferent to their pain and moaning. Help me O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful and compassionate 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 compassionate and full of good deeds, so that I may only do good to my neighbor. Help me O Lord, that my feet may be merciful and compassionate so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. Help me O Lord, that my heart may be merciful and compassionate so that I, myself, may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor”.
Compassion – “com-passio” – to suffer with.
†Jesus had great compassion for Thomas. Thomas was lost. He didn’t know what to think. His life was shattered. You see, †Jesus understood the loss that Thomas felt – †Jesus felt that same loss when everyone abandoned Him in the Garden of Gethsemani. So, what did †Jesus do? He invited Thomas into His wounds and by entering the wounds of Christ, Thomas understood the mercy and compassion of God and he exclaimed with great faith: “My Lord and my God”!
Divine Mercy demands that we never stop working until our families, Churches and communities are whole again. The Divine Mercy of God is endless until we are whole again. God will not give up on us until we are whole again. His mercy is infinite and He will continue to shower us with His mercy and compassion until we are whole again – and He wants us to do the same for one another. God showers us with mercy and compassion no matter how long it takes us to be whole. We must do the same!
The apostles and their successors were given a holy responsibility to sacramentally impart God’s mercy on others through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But you too are carriers of God’s merciful compassion to the world! That is your mission because it is a participation in Mission of †Jesus who came to reconcile the world to God through His mercy. You have been given the power to heal wounds in the lives of those in need; you also have the power to make another’s wounds larger by your lack of mercy and compassion. We are all wounded healers. See †Jesus in everyone you meet and don’t be afraid to touch His wounds in that person.
“By His wounds you were healed”. (1 Peter 2:24)
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.