John Paul II and Divine Mercy, Divine Mercy Sunday (Second Sunday of Easter (A)) May 1, 2011

Fr. Roger J. Landry

St. Anthony of Padua Parish, New Bedford, MA

Divine Mercy Sunday

May 1, 2011

Acts 2:42-47; 1Pet1:3-9; Jn 20:1-9

 

The following text guided today’s homily:

JOHN PAUL II AND DIVINE MERCY

  •  “Eternal Father, I offer to you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, for our sins and those of the whole world; by the sufferings of his Passion, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world” (Diary, 476). Upon us and upon the whole world … How greatly today’s world needs God’s mercy! In every continent, from the depth of human suffering, a cry for mercy seems to rise up. Where hatred and the thirst for revenge dominate, where war brings suffering and death to the innocent, there the grace of mercy is needed in order to settle human minds and hearts and to bring about peace. Wherever respect for life and human dignity are lacking, there is need of God’s merciful love, in whose light we see the inexpressible value of every human being. Mercy is needed in order to ensure that every injustice in the world will come to an end in the splendour of truth.
  • John Paul II: “Today … I wish solemnly to entrust the world to Divine Mercy. I do so with the burning desire that the message of God’s merciful love, proclaimed … through Saint Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope.  … This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness! I entrust this task to you, dear Brothers and Sisters… May you be witnesses to mercy!”
  • “There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy — that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights of the holiness of God.”
  • “The Message of Divine Mercy has always been near and dear to me. It is as if history had inscribed it in the tragic experience of the Second World War. In those difficult years it was a particular support and an inexhaustible source of hope. … This was also my personal experience, which I took with me to the See of Peter and which in a sense forms the image of this Pontificate. I give thanks to Divine Providence that I have been enabled to contribute personally to the fulfillment of Christ’s will, through the institution of the Feast of Divine Mercy.”

 

  • In the summer of 1947, returning from Poland to Rome in order to continue his doctoral studies, young Father Karol Wojtyla, the future John Paul II, stopped in Ars, France, in order to make a pilgrimage to the patron saint of parish priests, St. John Mary Vianney. There, where one is able to sit in the holy Curé of Ars’ confessional, put on his stole, and more, he meditated on St. John Vianney’s heroism in the Sacrament of Penance. For over 31 years, St. John Vianney spent 12 hour days in winter and up to 18 hour days in the summer in the confessional, reconciling penitents to God. It was then, Father Wojtyla would say later, that he made a resolution to allow himself to be a “prisoner of the confessional” following along the line of Fr. Vianney.
  • Even though Divine Providence had other plans for him than his becoming another Curé of Ars, becoming a prisoner of the confessional for his entire priesthood, in his own way, he stressed God’s mercy and the power of the Sacrament of God’s reconciling love. He sought to propose to the faithful, by his words, writings and life witness of how this ministry of mercy was one of the most beautiful and most consoling.
  • John Paul II’s practice as a confessor
    • When he arrived to his first assignment, a country parish in Niegowic, he began to hold himself to the promise made during his visit to Ars, that he would become a “prisoner of the confessional.” The confessional, he told Fr. Mieczyslaw Malinsi, was where priests encounter their people in the depths of their humanity, helping the person on the other side of the confessional screen to enter more deeply into the Christian drama of his or her own unique life.
    • He continued this as the chaplain at the technical university in Krakow.
    • His whole priestly style was one of accompaniment, walking with people in their problems, just as Christ accompanies us. Many of his penitents called him a “fantastic confessor.”
    • With his young penitents:
      • Whole Church exists for you.
      • Greatest means for interior maturation
      • Formed young people to use their freedom to choose well.
    • Confession with Fr. Wojtyla could last as long as an hour, sometimes even longer. Each confession was an exchange of ideas between two individuals, “not the mass production of Christians.” The individuality that Wojtyla fostered in the confessional was another reflection of his capacity to enter into others’ experiences. He didn’t impose, one penitent recalled, but he did demand — that decisions be made as wisely as possible. He believed his penitents had it within themselves to know the truth and live it.
    • The goal of confession, he believed, was not psychic relief from stress or inappropriate guilt, but the sanctification of all of life. Moreover, the sanctification received through the regular practice of confession and a lengthy, conversational review of one’s life in all its dimensions would lead to vocational clarity.
    • His style as a confessor was another example of his creativity as a minister of the Gospel. He was a demanding confessor but in a very different way. The confessor’s role in the drama of the human condition was to accompany a fellow Christian and a fellow human being in order to promote the penitent’s spiritual discernment, to illumine the dramatic tension of life between the person-I-am and the person-I-ought-to-be.
    • He continued his work as a confessor even as Holy Father, going down to St. Peter’s basilica on Good Friday to hear confessions himself.
  • John Paul II had a great love and devotion to Divine Mercy.
    • His chemical plant was right across from the shrine where St. Faustina was. St. Faustina and her writings were not known at the time but I have always found significance in that fact.
      • 2002: ‘I desire to say that many of my personal memories are tied to this place. During the Nazi occupation, when I was working in the Solvay factory near here, I used to come here. Even now I recall the street that goes from Borek Falecki to Debniki that I took every day going to work on the different turns with the wooden shoes on my feet. They’re the shoes that we used to wear then. How was it possible to imagine that one day the man with the wooden shoes would consecrate the Basilica of the Divine Mercy at Lagiewniki of Kraków.’
    • He got his old professor Fr. Ignacy Rozycki and the director of his habilitation thesis to examine all her writings.
    • He defended her when her orthodoxy was challenged because of a bad Italian translation of her diary.
    • He beatified her in 1993 and canonized her in 2000. He said he felt spiritually “very close” to her.
    • He said of her and Divine Mercy in 2000:
      • ‘My joy is truly great in presenting the life and witness of Sr Faustina Kowalska to the whole Church as a gift of God for our time. By divine Providence, the life of this humble daughter of Poland was completely linked with the history of the 20th century, the century we have just left behind. In fact, it was between the First and Second World Wars that Christ entrusted his message of mercy to her. Those who remember, who were witnesses and participants in the events of those years and the horrible sufferings they caused for millions of people, know well how necessary was the message of mercy.’
      • Jesus told Sr Faustina:  “Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to divine mercy” (Diary, p. 132). Through the work of the Polish religious, this message has become linked for ever to the 20th century, the last of the second millennium and the bridge to the third. It is not a new message but can be considered a gift of special enlightenment that helps us to relive the Gospel of Easter more intensely, to offer it as a ray of light to the men and women of our time.
      • Sr Faustina’s canonization has a particular eloquence:  “by this act I intend today to pass this message on to the new millennium. I pass it on to all people, so that they will learn to know ever better the true face of God and the true face of their brethren”.
  • He died on the vigil of the feast of divine mercy.
  • He will be beatified on the feast of divine mercy.
  • His second encyclical was all about Divine Mercy. It was called “Dives et Misericordia,” referring to God the Father as “rich in mercy.” George Weigel calls this encyclical “the clearest expression of the pastoral soul of John Paul II”.
  • That’s probably the reason why the Vatican, in the prayer for his feast day released yesterday, had it focus on divine mercy:
    • O God, who are rich in mercy, and who willed that the Blessed John Paul II, should preside as Pope over your universal Church, grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind, Who lives and reigns
  • 86. Christ’s messianic program, the program of mercy, becomes the program of his people, the program of the church
  • 125. The church must bear witness to the mercy of God revealed in Christ, in the whole of his mission as Messiah
  • 154. The church must consider it one of her principal duties–at every stage of history and especially in our modern age–to proclaim and to introduce into life the mystery of mercy, supremely revealed in Jesus Christ
  • He summarized: 64. Mercy constitutes the fundamental content of the messianic message of Christ and the constitutive power of his mission. His disciples and followers understood and practiced mercy in the same way. Mercy never ceased to reveal itself, in their hearts and in their actions, as an especially creative proof of the love which does not allow itself to be “conquered by evil,” but overcomes “evil with good.
  • Offer up Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1ACTS 2:42-47

They devoted themselves
to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life,
to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone,
and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
All who believed were together and had all things in common;
they would sell their property and possessions
and divide them among all according to each one’s need.
Every day they devoted themselves
to meeting together in the temple area
and to breaking bread in their homes.
They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart,
praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.
And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Responsorial PsalmPS 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

R. (1) Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just:
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 21 PT 1:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
kept in heaven for you
who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith,
to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.
In this you rejoice, although now for a little while
you may have to suffer through various trials,
so that the genuineness of your faith,
more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire,
may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Although you have not seen him you love him;
even though you do not see him now yet believe in him,
you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,
as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

AlleluiaJN 20:29

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me, says the Lord;
blessed are they who have not seen me, but still believe!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelJN 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.