Summary: The Divine mercy is real, active, working in individuals and especially in the history of the Church.
Divine Mercy Sunday 2012
Spirit of the Liturgy
“As newborn babies, alleluia, desire the pure milk of the Spirit, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.” With these words of the Introit, we began our sacrifice of praise today. With these words, we began our celebration of Divine Mercy.
Human authors write about the “problem of God” from time to time. “How,” they ask, “can we believe in a God of love when there is so much evil in the world. Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and tsunamis claim hundreds of thousands of human lives, and destroy property so that survivors are in misery for months or years. Then there are wars and domestic disturbances and everything in between that bring uncounted unhappiness.” “How,” they ask, “could a good God let all that evil happen?”
Pagans worked that out, in the epoch after the fall of man, by simply denying the goodness of God. For them, there were many gods, made in the image of man. They were super powerful and immortal, but bored, so they played with humans like game pieces. The conflicts between the gods were played out on the chessboard of this world, and our misery was their entertainment.
No wonder that some philosophers, like Democritus, decided that the best route to human happiness–or at least a reduction of human misery–was to deny the existence of these gods. Their solution was a radical materialism, where gods don’t exist, where the atom is the only eternal reality, and all we see and experience is merely a rearrangement of these atoms. Their thought gradually took hold after the Renaissance, and now secular humanism is the de facto religion of our land. If you don’t believe it, just try to decorate your public classroom door for Valentine’s Day with a cherub.
The Church tells a very different tale. It’s a love story, told best by the prophets Hosea and Ezekiel. God loved us into existence. He even built love and companionship into our operating system–male and female He created us. He gave us a garden of love to tend and to eat from, and some simple rules to follow so that we would become, day by day, more like Him, living in total love. But that wasn’t good enough, or maybe quick enough, for us. We decided to do things the devil’s way. We rebelled, and we lost that original innocence, and those wonderful original gifts. Our rebellion even got in the way of our primary human relationships. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent, but the responsibility for sin is ours. And we pay the price with every drive-by shooting, every divorce, every abortion chosen by our fellow human beings. Worse, we try to fix the problem by buttoning ourselves into gated communities and double-locked doors, like the frightened apostles in the upper room on Easter day.
But God loves us too much to leave us in that terrified state. He crafted a second Eve, named Mary, a woman full of grace and eager to do God’s will. From her came the second Adam, named Jesus, who was both God and man, and whose sacrificial death and resurrection we celebrate each time we gather for Mass. Here, each Sunday, we acknowledge our sins and pray for forgiveness and grace. We hear God’s word, and are challenged to bear witness to that Word in our lives, in a real sense to become God’s Word to the world. We offer ourselves, the only gift God doesn’t have, and say “yes” to God’s challenge as Mary did, as Jesus did. And God responds by once more becoming man, under the signs of bread and wine. It is this sacrament that lets us say “Amen” to God’s invitation, gives us the strength to witness to His love during the week, and bring us together as one family.
The Divine Mercy is real, and has played out in every moment of every day in the history of mankind. Yes, it’s played out in inexplicable miracles–healings from cancer and Parkinson’s and a myriad of other diseases of individuals. It’s also played out when one human shows mercy and compassion to another. God created us as family, and redeems us in family. That’s what it means to be the Catholic Church. The Church is our family; the Church is our ethnicity. The Church is a miraculous sign to the world of the divine mercy. Fr. Ronald Knox taught, “the whole story of the Church is one which imitates the story of her divine Master; she dies and she rises again. She was buried in the catacombs; she rose again with Constantine. She died in the Dark Ages; she rose again with Charlemagne. She died with the Renaissance; she rose again with the saints of the Counter-Reformation.” And, we can add, she died with the clerical abuse scandal, and she will rise with a new generation of priests and religious and laity.