06 April 2013

God's Mercy

2nd Sunday of Easter - 7 April 2013

Readings: Acts 5:12-16; Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13; Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; Jn 20:19-31

During the Jubilee Year 2000, at the canonization rites of St. Faustina, Blessed Pope John Paul II declared the Second Sunday of Easter to be celebrated in the universal Church as "Divine Mercy Sunday". Many speculate that the Pope did so because he was Polish and the devotion to the Divine Mercy was, and still is, very strong in Poland and originated with St. Faustina herself.

A more likely explanation is that the Pope truly believed that the world needs to believe and feel God's mercy. And he explained his interest in spreading the message of mercy in great depth and detail in his 1980 encyclical Dives in Miserecordia - referring to God who is "rich in mercy".

The title of the letter is taken from Eph 2,4-5: "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he has for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ, by grace you have been saved."

The text paved way to the Holy Father's two very important statements about mercy. First, that "mercy is love's second name". Secondly, that mercy is "the greatest attribute of God".

Mercy is an expression of God's grace. What is grace but love that is undeserved, unmerited but freely given. And mercy is its inverse expression: it is about us sinners not getting what we deserve. But there is more to mercy than just punishment withheld. There are many aspects and elements of God's mercy, I would like to share three of them: identification with suffering, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

1. Identification with suffering.

In the Latin tradition, the principal word for mercy is misericordia, which means, literally miserable heart. Fr. George Kosicki, CSB, the great Divine Mercy evangelist, once summed up the meaning of this Latin word as follows: misericordia means "having a pain in your heart for the pains of another, and taking pains to do something about their pain"

In the same encyclical, Blessed John Paul writes that mercy was at the heart of the public ministry of Jesus:  "Especially through His lifestyle and through His actions, Jesus revealed that love is present in the world in which we live.... This love makes itself particularly noticed in contact with suffering."

2. Forgiveness.

The most concrete expression of mercy is, of course, forgiveness. Last Good Friday, we meditated on Jesus' seven last words, among them: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." In many miracle stories, Jesus would not just say, "be healed", or "stand up and walk", but "you're sins are forgiven" - a constant source of perplexity for his enemies. And even they grasped the implication of forgiveness: "How can he forgive? Only God can forgive. Does he make himself God?"

3. Reconciliation.

Reconciliation means repairing a broken relationship, and especially when it refers to the relationship between God and man - it inevitably results to restoring the broken self to its graced dignity. The message of Jesus to his disciples in this Sunday's Gospel is peace.

You died Jesus, but the source of life flowed out for souls and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fountain of Life, immeasurable Divine Mercy, cover the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.O Blood and Water which flowed out from the Heart of Jesus as a Fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and the whole world.