Last Sunday we were invited to meditate upon Divine Mercy and to seek it out through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Ultimately (in the truest sense of that word, since the ultimate goal of our lives should be to die in God’s mercy), we are called to seek that mercy and live that mercy every day of the year.
Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday at the Church of the Holy Spirit, which sits just a few blocks from St. Peter’s Square. The Sisters who staff the church are from the same religious order as St. Faustina, to whom Jesus revealed the secrets of the Divine Mercy, so that she could share them with us. Besides being a place of Spiritual Works of Mercy, it is joined to one of the oldest hospitals in the world, where Corporal Works of Mercy have been done for centuries.
The Holy Father linked the Divine Mercy to the whole mystery of Easter. “The Risen Jesus patiently soothed their troubled hearts. Risen Himself, He now brings about ‘the resurrection of the disciples.’ He raises their spirits and their lives are changed. Earlier, the Lord’s words and His example had failed to change them. Now, at Easter, something new happens, and it happens in the light of mercy. Jesus raises them up with mercy. Having received that mercy, they become merciful in turn. It is hard to be merciful without the experience of having first received mercy.” This is true for all of us.
The pope then enumerated how the Apostles received mercy “through three gifts. First, Jesus offers them peace, then the Spirit and finally His wounds. The disciples were upset. They were locked away for fear, fear of being arrested and ending up like the Master. But they were not only huddled together in a room; they were also trapped in their own remorse. They had abandoned and denied Jesus. They felt helpless, discredited, good for nothing. Jesus arrives and says to them twice, ‘Peace be with you!’ He does not bring a peace that removes the problems without, but one that infuses trust within. He tells them, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you’ (Jn 20:21). It is as if to say, ‘I am sending you because I believe in you.’ Those disheartened disciples were put at peace with themselves. The peace of Jesus made them pass from remorse to mission. It entails not ease and comfort, but the challenge to break out of ourselves. The peace of Jesus frees from the self-absorption that paralyzes. The disciples realized that they had been shown mercy: they realized that God did not condemn or demean them, but instead believed in them. God, in fact, believes in us even more than we believe in ourselves. ‘He loves us better than we love ourselves’ (cf. St. John Henry Newman, “Meditations and Devotions,” III, 12, 2). As far as God is concerned, no one is useless, discredited or a castaway. Today Jesus also tells us, ‘Peace be with you! You are precious in My eyes. Peace be with you! You are important for Me. Peace be with you! You have a mission. No one can take your place. You are irreplaceable. And I believe in you.’”
After bestowing His peace upon them, then “Jesus showed mercy to His disciples by granting them the Holy Spirit. He bestowed the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins (cf. vv. 22-23). The disciples were guilty; they had run away, they had abandoned the Master. Sin brings torment; evil has its price. We need to open our hearts to being forgiven. Forgiveness in the Holy Spirit is the Easter gift that enables our interior resurrection. Let us ask for the grace to accept that gift, to embrace the Sacrament of forgiveness. And to understand that Confession is not about ourselves and our sins, but about God and His mercy. Let us not confess to abase ourselves, but to be raised up. We, all of us, need this badly. Like little children who, whenever they fall, need to be picked up by their fathers, we need this. Confession is the Sacrament that lifts us up; it does not leave us on the ground, weeping on the hard stones where we have fallen. Confession is the Sacrament of Resurrection, pure mercy. All those who hear Confessions ought to convey the sweetness of mercy. This is what confessors are meant to do: to convey the sweetness of the mercy of Jesus Who forgives everything. God forgives everything.”
Then the pope described “a third gift of mercy: He showed them His wounds. By those wounds we were healed (cf. 1 Pet 2:24; Is 53:5). But how can wounds heal us? By mercy. In those wounds, like Thomas, we can literally touch the fact that God has loved us to the end. He has made our wounds His own and borne our weaknesses in His own body. In adoring and kissing His wounds, we come to realize that in His tender love all our weaknesses are accepted. This happens at every Mass, where Jesus offers us His wounded and Risen Body. His radiant wounds dispel the darkness we carry within. Like Thomas, we discover God; we realize how close He is to us and we are moved to exclaim, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (Jn 20:28). This is the starting-point of our Christian journey. But if we trust in our own abilities, in the efficiency of our structures and projects, we will not go far. Only if we accept the love of God, will we be able to offer something new to the world.”
The Holy Father then said that in “receiving mercy, [the Apostles] in turn became merciful. The Acts of the Apostles relate that ‘no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common’ (4:32). It is all the more surprising when we think that those were the same disciples who had earlier argued about prizes and rewards, and about who was the greatest among them (cf. Mt 10:37; Lk 22:24). Now they share everything. How did they change like that? They now saw in others the same mercy that had changed their own lives. They discovered that they shared the mission, the forgiveness and the Body of Jesus, and so it seemed natural to share their earthly possessions.”
Speaking to us Christians now, Pope Francis asked, “Do you want proof that God has touched your life? See if you can stoop to bind the wounds of others. Today is the day to ask, ‘Am I, who so often have received God’s peace, His mercy, merciful to others? Do I, who have so often been fed by the Body of Jesus, make any effort to relieve the hunger of the poor?’ Let us not remain indifferent. Let us not live a one-way faith, a faith that receives but does not give, a faith that accepts the gift but does not give it in return. Without works of mercy it dies (cf. Jas 2:17).Let us ask for the grace to become witnesses of mercy.”