Mercy, Healing, Forgiveness
Jim Williams of Montana, writes in Reader’s Digest: “I was driving too fast late one night when I saw the flashing lights of a police car in my rear-view mirror. As I pulled over and rolled down my window of my station wagon, I tried to dream up an excuse for my haste. But when the patrolman reached the car, he said nothing. Instead, he merely shined his flashlight in my face, then on my seven-month-old in his car seat, then on our three other children, who were asleep, and lastly on the two dogs in the very back of the car. Returning the beam of light to my face, he then uttered the only words of the encounter. “’Son,’ he said, ‘you can’t afford a ticket. Slow down.’” And with that, he returned to his car and drove away.” Sometimes mercy triumphs over law. So it is for sinners who call out to Jesus.”
The story is told about Albert Einstein, the brilliant physicist of Princeton University in the early 20th century. Einstein was traveling from Princeton on a train, and when the conductor came down the aisle to punch the passengers’ tickets, Einstein couldn’t find his. He looked in his vest pocket, he looked in his pants pocket, he looked in his briefcase, but there was no ticket. The conductor was gracious; “Not to worry, Dr. Einstein, I know who you are, we all know who you are, and I’m sure you bought a ticket.” As the conductor moved down the aisle, he looked back and noticed Einstein on his hands and knees, searching under the seat for his ticket. The conductor returned to Einstein; “Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. You don’t need a ticket, I’m sure you bought one.” Einstein arose and said, “Young man, I too know who I am; what I don’t know is where I am going.” And that is the Good News of Easter; that we know where we are going. We have been told by the Savior that his life and death has promised us life eternal.
Today we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy and so we usually call today Divine Mercy Sunday. St. Faustina was privileged to receive apparitions from Jesus emphasizing his mercy, and especially his mercy today. Jesus promised that those who go to Confession and receive Holy Communion today will receive not only forgiveness of their sins, but the total remission of all temporal punishment for their sins. It is like a second baptism, all sin and punishment is wiped out. Confession during the week beforehand is also acceptable. Our attitude should be one of total trust in Jesus’ Divine Mercy. Confession before today in preparation for this feast is also okay, Sister Faustina used to confess on Saturday. Jesus’ promise is recorded three times in the Diary of Saint Faustina, each time in a slightly different way. This is the first teaching from Jesus,
“My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy”. (Diary §699)
Jesus asked that we pray a novena in preparation for the feast (Diary §1209-1229). The nine days of prayer begin on Good Friday and end today. When St. Faustina was first taught the novena she saw an angel about to execute God’s punishment on a certain place on earth. She prayed for mercy but her prayers were without effect. Then suddenly she heard this prayer,
“Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”
On the following morning St. Faustina was taught the other prayers which are to be prayed on Rosary beads. (Diary §474-476) We call it the Chaplet of Mercy.
Through the Chaplet even nature and weather can be changed. This should not be a surprise to us. When we read the Gospels we see Jesus calming storms (e.g. Matt 8:26) as well as healing the sick so why should it surprise us that prayer can change the course of events? In one apparition of Jesus to St. Faustina he taught her the power of this Chaplet to stop a storm.
Let us accept God’s invitation to celebrate and practice mercy. One way the Church celebrates God’s mercy throughout the year is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Finding time for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is another good way to receive Divine Mercy. We radiate God’s mercy to others by our actions, our words, and our prayers. It is mainly through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that we practice mercy in our daily lives and become eligible for God’s merciful judgment.
Let us ask God for the Faith that culminates in self-surrender to God and leads us to serve those we encounter with love. Living Faith enables us to see the Risen Lord in everyone and gives us the willingness to render to each one our loving service.
We need to meet the challenge for a transparent Christian life — “I will not believe unless I see.” This “seeing” is what others demand of us. They ask that we reflect Jesus, the Risen Lord, in our lives by our selfless love, unconditional forgiveness and humble service. The integrity of our lives bears a fundamental witness to others who want to see the Risen Lord alive and active, working in us. Christ’s mercy shines forth from us whenever we reach out to the poor, the needy and the marginalized, as St. Teresa of Kolkata (Mother Teresa) did. His mercy shines forth when we remain open to those who struggle in Faith, as did the Apostle Thomas in today’s Gospel.
Like St. Thomas, let us use our skepticism to help us grow in Faith. It is our genuine doubts about the doctrines of our religion that encourage us to study these doctrines more closely and thus to grow in our Faith. This will naturally lead us to a personal encounter with Jesus through our prayer, study of the Word of God, and frequenting of the Sacraments. However, we must never forget the fact that our Faith is not our own doing but is a gift from God. Hence, we need to augment our Faith every day by prayer so that we may join St. Thomas in his proclamation: “My Lord and my God.”
Let us have the courage of our Christian convictions to share our Faith as St. Thomas did. We are not to keep the gift of Faith locked in our hearts, but to share it with our children, our families and our neighbors, always remembering the words of Pope St. John XXIII: “Every believer in this world must become a spark of Christ’s light.”
This feast of Divine Mercy reminds us of many parables taught by Jesus emphasizing God’s mercy. We remember the three beautiful parables of Luke 15. God is like a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to go in search of the one lost one. God is like a woman who searches the entire house to find the coin she lost. God is like a father who comes out of the house to welcome back his prodigal son and who comes out of the house a second time to entice the elder son to come in and join in the party.
God Bless you. Have a wonderful Sunday
Fr. Michael Dias