The Feast of Divine Mercy
(Homily Adapted from Fr. Robert Altier)Today the church celebrates the Feast of Divine Mercy and the end of the Octave of Easter. We have been celebrating Easter Sunday and the resurrection for eight days now, and today, the final day of the Easter Octave we acknowledge as the day of new creation.
It is a day on which the love of God is poured into our hearts in a profound way.
The Feast of Divine Mercy has everything to do with Trust and Mercy.
The promises Jesus made to Saint Faustina and to us is that our sins will be forgiven and the temporal punishment due to sin will also be completely removed, that our souls will be as pure as the day of our baptism, if we only do the following:
1. Go to confession and receive holy communion
2. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet
3. Pray for the intentions of our Holy Father with an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.
4. And detach ourselves from sin.
When we look at the picture of Divine Mercy, underneath the picture of Jesus are the words “Jesus, I trust in you.”
That is something many of us do not do very well, to trust in our Lord.We all like to think that we trust in Jesus, but when it comes right down to it, most of us really don’t.We are afraid of letting go of things because we are not sure if God is really going to do what he promised.In the practical day-to-day existence, we trust far more in ourselves, and far more in other people, and far more in money and material things than we do in God, which is a pretty tragic statement, especially in light of what Jesus said:
“If someone is trustworthy in small matters, then they are to be trusted in large matters; but if they are not trustworthy in small matters, then neither are they trustworthy in large matters.”
When we consider this point of trusting in Our Lord, we know that he has made extraordinary promises to us:
• Promises of heaven
• Eternal life
• Promises of being united with him
• Promises that our sins are going to be forgiven
Now if we cannot trust God in small matters, how are we ever going to be able to trust him in the large matters?
For many of us, the problem is that we don’t have any clear evidence to support such trust.
In the Gospel today, we see Thomas in the very same situation and saying “I’m not going to believe unless I put my finger into the holes in His hands and my hand into His side.”
Jesus appears in His mercy and shows Himself to Thomas as says “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
How often do we struggle with the question of whether or not our sins are truly forgiven?
The problem is that we have no evidence, no proof, no outward sign that tour sins are gone.
We cannot see the sins on our soul, and we cannot see them removed.
But in the Gospel the Lord breathes on the disciples and says “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.”
He didn’t say “Whose sins you forgive are swept under the rug”.
He didn’t say “Whose sins you forgive I’ll keep them in mind and I will hold them against them later.”
He said “They are forgiven.”
That means they are gone, and it means that they will never ever be heard of again.
But we fear because we do not trust.
Saint John tells us that fear has to do with judgment. And so even though we come before our Lord and confess our sins, we still are afraid because we do not really believe that they are gone.
He has made the promise, and the One who has promised is trustworthy, We simply need to place out trust in Him because he has made the promise.
When we think about the feast of Divine Mercy and we think about the mercy of God, at first glance, one might think that this would be better if it were celebrated during Lent.
After all, for six weeks of praying and doing penance, we were seeking the mercy of God.
Now all of the sudden, here we are on the octave day of Easter, the height of the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection, and suddenly we turn and we are asking God once again for mercy.
But, in fact, it is rather perfect because remember as we celebrate the octave what that means is that for eight days we celebrate the feast itself.
So today, as we have for the last week, we are in fact celebrating Easter day – not just the Easter Season, which we will be celebrating for the next 6 weeks – but literally Easter day.
The reason for that is because it is a new creation.
The Church gives us 8 days to recognize that because of the mysteries of our faith we have become a new creation, and that God, especially through the Resurrection, has re-created the earth and has re-created each one of us so that as we are baptized into Christ we have literally and truly become a new creation in Christ.
So today as we celebrate the octave of Easter, we also celebrate the feast which connects what happened on the cross with what happened on Easter Sunday.
Anyone who has been praying the Novena of the Divine Mercy knows that they had to begin that Novena on Good Friday, and it culminates, of course, with the events of this day.
It connects Good Friday with Easter Sunday, and it reminds us that the mercy of God is found in the cross of Jesus Christ.
It is found in His precious Blood and it is found through the power of the resurrection.
Sins are forgiven because of the cross.
But it was not enough that Our Lord went to the cross; if he did not rise from the dead we would not be able to rise to a new and everlasting life. These events are intimately connected.
So too, the new creation in Christ which takes place in our souls is completely united with His cross and His resurrection.
But Now, as we ponder the mercy of God, we must be very careful to understand it in its proper sense.
There are many people in our day and age that have fallen into a very unfortunate heresy, into a trap which the devil has laid for them.
They have come to believe that God is merciful, so merciful that they can do pretty much anything they want, that they don’t have to go to confession because God is so merciful.
In fact, they believe that on the day they die, they will stand before God, who is so merciful that he will see on that day just how sorry they are for their sins and he will forgive them on the spot, and they will go right into heaven.
This is heresy!
The reason it is, is because at the moment you die and the soul separates from the body, there is no more changing of the mind. There will be no repentance on our part after we died for mortal sins.
And consequently, there will be no mercy.
The mercy of God is known only in this life.
Fulfillment is found in the next where we recognize that because of the forgiveness of our sins we will be able to enter into life, but the forgiveness of sins happens only here.
What I speak of is mortal sins.
Yes, Venial sins can and will be forgiven in the next life, but that means time in purgatory. No so for mortal sins.
What we want is to be able to get to heaven, and God’s mercy has done all the work for us – except for one thing.
We need to humble ourselves and confess our sins.
That is all God requires.
Of course, along with that is the repentance which implies that we intend to stop committing the sins and that we are going to try to amend our lives.
But all that God is asking of us is to confess our sins.
He has done everything else. And he continues to do everything else.
All that is left for us is that one thing. We simply need to ask ourselves.... “Is He asking too much.”
Some of us like to think that we can lie on our beds and think about our sins and be sorry for them, but that doesn’t work.
The reason that doesn’t work is because God, who treats us with mercy and love, treats us with the full dignity of our human nature.
As human beings, the normal mode of communication is not to lie on one’s bed and ponder things.
You cannot do that with your spouse and children; you cannot do it with God either.
The normal mode of human communication is to speak and to hear. So God in His mercy has set up something for us to be able to do exactly that: to speak what it is that we have done and to hear that in fact we have been forgiven. Lie on your bed as often as you like and think about your sins, and when you get up and walk away the sins will still be on your soul. Your conscience will still be troubled because you don’t have the knowledge that your sins were forgiven.
But when you go to confession and you hear those beautiful words from the mouth of the priest:
“I absolve you from your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” your sins are gone and you have the knowledge that your sins are gone forever – never to be heard of again – even on the Day of Judgment.
That is the mercy God is offering to His people. He has done everything for us, and He has given to us the means by which our sins can be forgiven. All that he asks of us is to humble ourselves, to confess our sins, and to trust in Him.