Saturday, April 26, 2014

April 27, 2014: Divine Mercy Sunday A

Have you ever heard of a reverse pilgrimage? Normally you would think of a pilgrimage as leaving your familiar home and surroundings to reach a destination seeking to be closer to Jesus. But think of a reverse pilgrimage--going from the foot of the Cross of the Calvary backwards and into the broken lives lived far away from Jesus.  That’s what I mean by reverse pilgrimage.  Put in another way, all of us here at mass had the experience of being “found” by Jesus. At some point in the past, however, we have to admit that, like the Prodigal Son in the scriptures, we were “lost” from Jesus.

Take Thomas in today’s Gospel for example. On Good Friday like most of the disciples, Thomas was not at Calvary to witness the death of his dear teacher and a friend. After the tragedy of the Cross, Thomas cut himself off from the other disciples and walked alone. He was isolated and lost. When he met the disciples a couple of days later, he noticed the excitement and joy in them. Although he heard the news that Jesus had risen, he refused to take their word for it. He could not bring himself to believe, until Jesus appeared to Thomas and showed his pierced hands and his pierced side. “My Lord and my God,” Thomas exclaimed. Thomas who was lost was then found by his Lord and his God.

When we look back in our lives--that is, taking a reverse pilgrimage--do we see something similar that happened to us? Perhaps we begin to see how no matter what we’ve done, no matter how much we’ve made a mess of our lives, no matter how we’ve abandoned Him in our fruitless searches for comfort, peace, and happiness in the world, God embraced us when we turned to Him with repentance, trust, and love.  What’s another word to describe this embrace of a Prodigal Son or a Prodigal Daughter by the Heavenly Father? Divine Mercy.

Our Lord who appeared to Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska beginning in 1931 gave this message to the Saint:

"My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy" (Diary, 1485)

Pope John Paul II who is being canonized as a saint this Sunday devoted his life spreading the message of this Divine Mercy through his encyclicals, homilies, and by establishing the Second Sunday of Easter as the Feast of  Divine Mercy. In his encyclical, “Rich in Mercy,” St. John Paul II described the message of Divine Mercy through the Gospel parable of the Prodigal Son and his father. In the parable, it is the father who waits for his lost son to be found, regardless of what his son has done. The story of the Prodigal Son is a mirror to our own story. Our Heavenly Father’s only desire is to restore us to His Home. He does not want us to live as slaves of this world; He desires for us to live as sons and daughters who are heirs of His Heavenly Kingdom.

How did each of us get here today, being in this church, celebrating this great Feast of the Divine Mercy together? If we take the reverse pilgrimage through our lives, there was one thing that separated us from being found by Our Lord: trust. It was our fear that kept us from trusting the Heavenly Father. It was fear that kept us saying, “I’m not worthy of this.” Our Lord gives us one succinct solution through the image of the Divine Mercy: “Jesus, I trust in You!”