Homily 1 May 2011
Divine Mercy Sunday
Beatification of John Paul II
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Half way across the world today a sacred event is occurring
which is the most significant moment in the Church in this young century
and a watershed religious experience
for the contemporary Catholic generation –
whether anyone in particular realizes it or not.
I shall keep you in suspense for a moment and return to that later.
For the story of the mysteries we celebrate today
begins in 1933 with a wise priest named Fr. Sopocko,
assigned as chaplain to the sisters in a small convent in Poland.
One of his regular spiritual directees was a young sister named Faustina,
who shared with him that she had been receiving visions from the Lord
since Lent of the previous year
and who possessed tremendous spiritual knowledge and insight.
In a pastoral decision that has impacted the Church for nearly a century,
Fr. Spopcko directed Sister Faustina to keep a diary of her spiritual journey.
This one volume of a simple polish nun has touched the hearts & souls of millions
who find in its pages a treasury of divine love and spiritual wisdom.
Faustina died at the tender age of 33.
Despite Fr. Sopocko’s valiant efforts to promote her writings and spirituality,
the diary was banned from publication –
mostly because of misunderstanding and mistranslation.
Fr. Spopcko died in 1975, three years before the ban was lifted.
At the time Faustina entered her eternal reward,
a young man named Karol Wojtyla was graduating from high school.
Wojtyla, as cardinal, received the torch, as it were, from Sopocko
and was responsible for opening the way for the diary to be published
and read by Christians everywhere.
In 1978, Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope John Paul II,
and in 2000 he presided over the canonization of Sister Faustina.
He decreed that today, the Sunday after Easter, would be celebrated as
Divine Mercy Sunday – a day celebrating the mercy of Jesus
revealed in the Scriptures and in the life and writings of Faustina.
He universalized devotion to the prayers and the image of Divine Mercy,
revealed by the Lord Himself to Faustina in the privacy of her convent cell:
the image is of the Risen Christ
raising His right hand in blessing
and touching His chest with the left hand,
wherefrom emanates two rays: one red and the other white,
symbolizing the cleansing water of baptism
and the salvific blood of Christ
which poured forth from His pierced S.H.
Behold the incarnate God of mercy!
Jesus, risen triumphant from the grave, has destroyed the power of sin and death
and has opened the gates to the treasury of His merciful love.
No sin, no sorrow, no mortal wound can ever have the final word
for Christ has conquered
by the agony of the Cross and the glory of the resurrection!
How fitting that we should celebrate Divine Mercy this day,
for in the collect for this Sunday we prayed to the God of mercy,
whose Son has given us new life through the waters of Baptism
and redeemed us in His Precious Blood.
The feast of Divine Mercy is indeed an Easter celebration as well!
The Scriptures destined for this Sunday long before this feast was named
correspond providentially to its theme.
The mercy of the Lord, which endures forever,
has wrought marvels before our eyes that stir us to rejoicing.
In Christ the love of God takes on flesh and is made present to us –
God, whose mercy revealed in Christ has given us new life, new hope!
Christ is alive. He loves us passionately. He has put our sins to death on the Cross.
Thus we rejoice in the hope of life in Him on earth, and with Him forever.
John records in his Gospel the institution of the Sacrament of Penance.
Jesus entrusts to the Apostles the power to forgive sins in His Name,
sacred power handed on through apostolic succession to every priest.
Through the power of the Spirit and the ministry of the priest,
souls are washed clean and men and women set free from the chains of sin.
Divine Mercy Sunday is not a pleasant romp
through a meadow of Biblical platitudes about God’s love.
Today is an invitation to the Church and the world
to return to the Sacrament of Penance!
It is in the confessional – the antechamber of Heaven’s treasury –
that we hear the words of our sweet and merciful Jesus: I absolve you!
Fear not the confessional but cling to it as to a life raft in a storm-tossed sea.
God’s mercy is our hope and our salvation in a tempting and broken world.
The prayers of devotion to Divine Mercy are simply beautiful,
as is the Lord’s message to the world through Faustina:
He says: I love you. Trust in Me. There is nothing more powerful than my love!
Our Lord, who is merciful to the doubting Thomas, the woman caught in adultery
and to prodigal sons and daughters everywhere
will indeed be merciful to us, if we but call upon His Holy Name!
Wherever you are in life today, trust in Jesus,
whose merciful embrace envelops you
and whose flesh and blood will soon be united to yours.
This simple but compelling message would not have resonated so clearly
throughout the whole world,
had the trumpet not been sounded in Poland by one cloistered nun
and had one pope not wisely promoted this feast and devotion.
And so we come to the uniquely joyous event I mentioned at the beginning:
Today in Rome Pope John Paul II is beatified, the middle step toward sainthood,
and henceforth we shall call him Blessed John Paul II!
BJP’s institution of Divine Mercy Sunday is but the tip of the iceberg
that is the legacy of his papacy – a tremendous gift to the Church!
For 27 years, his heartwarming smile, brilliant mind and steel resolve
captivated the world and led the Church from confusion to renewed purpose
in the third Christian millennium.
On the shoulders of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, who oversaw Vatican II,
John Paul stood as a giant in his own way
and brought the vision of the Council to fruition in countless ways.
The Word of God and the authentic and rich teaching of our Church
flowed constantly from his lips and his pen
as he invited the world into deeper relationship with Jesus.
In a new edition of the Code of Canon Law,
the first publication of a universal Catechism of Catholic faith since 1585,
13 encyclicals and innumerable homilies, writings and talks,
BJP’s ministry touched every aspect of doctrine and morality
and reminded the world what is means to be Catholic.
He visited 129 countries, never missing an opportunity to tell others about the Lord
and remind the world of Who truly loves them unto death.
His famous invitation to begin a new evangelization –
to open wide the doors to Christ
and to be not afraid as we preach by word, sacrament and example –
rings true for each one of us today.
Because of BJPII, we can know who we are as Catholics, as where we must go!
We accept his invitation and follow after his splendid example
as his legacy of sweet smiles and strong teaching
beckons, even compels, us to embrace and share Jesus Christ!
His legacy continues in our hearts and in our lives of study, prayer and service
as much as we celebrate the sacraments with devotion
and spread the Word of God, revealed to us in Scripture and Tradition.
Jesus Christ, our risen and merciful Lord was the first and greatest love
of BJPII – may He by diligence and grace be our greatest love as well.
On this DMS, the peace and mercy of God descends upon the whole Church,
as Providence declares blessed our beloved JPII
and in so doing confirms from on high
that in his ministry and teaching
are found the way and truth that lead to life.
Today is indeed the day the Lord has made; we rejoice and are glad!
May we go forth from this holy church,
nourished in body and soul with the living presence of Jesus Christ
to proclaim to the world
that the risen Christ stands in our midst to bring us peace!
May BJPII intercede for and inspire us as we newly evangelize
within and without the Church with courage
and open wide the doors of every heart
to the merciful love and glorious truth of Jesus Christ!