Summary: Divine Mercy Sunday is an opportunity to examine our attitudes and actions in response to Jesus’s Divine Rescue.
Sunday of Divine Mercy
19 April 2009
On April 30, 2000, Pope John Paul established this Sunday as the Feast of Divine Mercy. In the image of Christ shown to St. Faustina in her vision, two rays of divine mercy come from the heart of Christ. In John’s Gospel we proclaim that blood and water flowed from the pierced heart of Jesus at His death. These are signs of the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, by which we are first cleansed of sin and then nourished on our daily journey. Today, John’s letter reminds us that Jesus came not only in water, but also in blood. The Christian journey begins in Baptism, but it requires at least weekly nourishment at this great Eucharistic banquet until the day we commit ourselves into the hands of our Lord and petition for entry to the real banquet in the Kingdom of God that this sacrificial meal prefigures.
Moreover, fellow sinners, if we are to come to that banquet we must set ourselves to imitate Jesus and Mary by our love for God and each other. We must confess our sins, for, in Zechariah’s words, knowledge of salvation comes through the forgiveness of sins promised to the Apostles that Resurrection Day. All of this is encapsulated in the message of the Divine Mercy. It is so important that, with the simple actions of Mass and confession, full turning away from sins and a prayerful thanks to Jesus for His mercy, the floodgates of mercy are opened in the form of what we call a plenary indulgence, for ourselves or another. And you can say that prayer any time of the day before the Blessed Sacrament.
The reality of Divine Mercy Sunday is actually the reality of our existence. We live, breathe, work, play and pray surrounded by a sea of Divine mercy and compassion. It’s as if we were drowning–suffocated by our own sinful desires and habits–and Jesus leapt from His divine throne to pull us from the ocean of death and give us the breath of life with His own dying breath. You don’t have to imagine someone doing that for you. The Son of God did it for you, did it for me.
The best homilies, I have come to believe, are not the ones that make us feel good, but the ones that encourage us to do good. So take advantage of this Sunday and unite with Jesus and Mary to allow God’s grace to flow into your heart and that of the whole world. But let’s also take advantage of the opportunity to reflect on what a banquet our Savior–our Divine lifeguard–has prepared for us. Ironic, isn’t it? He rescues us and then, instead of demanding payment, He gives us gifts in this Eucharistic sacrifice. The Mass is a gift. It’s not something we do for God, because God needs nothing of ours. It is the daily re-presentation of the rescue, a daily gift that helps us to love God more and love our neighbor in our constant work and prayer.
Pope Benedict reminds us of the seriousness of this sacrificial meal, which is far more serious than the memorial meal we might have at a local restaurant when a friend dies. “The Eucharist is far more than just a meal; it has cost a death to provide it, and the majesty of death is present in it. Whenever we hold it, we should be filled with reverence and awe in the face of this mystery, with awe in the face of this mysterious death that becomes a present reality in our midst. . .The Christian feast, the Eucharist, plumbs the very depths of death. It is not just a matter of pious discourse and entertainment, of some kind of religious beautification, spreading a pious gloss on the world; it plumbs the very depths of existence, which it calls death, and strikes out an upward path to life, the life that overcomes death.” (God is Near us at 44)
So God has rescued us and has invited us to a banquet in which we will relive the rescue and be given gifts that help us to avoid falling into that ocean again. Let’s take some time over the next week to think how we might want to act before, during and after such a banquet.
First, we want to show our respect and honor our host by presenting ourselves in appropriate dress. I’ll tell you that writing this homily has already caused me to change my behavior. Now my formal garb for Liturgy is an alb and stole. But I’m not going to wear jeans under it any more. As I examine myself, I realize that wearing anything so informal does not signal my reverence well enough. We cannot pass judgement in this matter on any other person. In fact, assume from this moment that we are all wearing our “Sunday best.”