Sunday, April 23, 2017

April 23, 2017: Divine Mercy Sunday A

April 23, 2017: Divine Mercy Sunday A

Click to hear Audio Homily

Nearby the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland, is the St. John Paul II Church and Conference Center.  One of the remarkable items on display within the Church is the white cassock Pope John Paul II wore on that fateful day of May 13, 1981, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, when a gunman named Ali Agca shot him four times. All four bullets hit the Pope. From the blood stains on the cassock, one can tell that John Paul II bled heavily. Although Ali Agca aimed at close range, somehow the bullets missed lethal targets, one grazing the pope’s right elbow, and another deflecting off his left index finger before passing through his abdomen, a fraction of an inch from a major artery. During his recuperation, John Paul II said, “It was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path.” After recuperation, John Paul II visited his assassin in prison to offer him pardon and reconciliation. As John Paul II sat at the side of his assassin, Ali Agca expressed fears that Our Lady of Fatima might come after him next. He kept asking the pope, “Why aren’t you dead.” The Pope stated the contrary, that he came to forgive and not to harm. Ali Agca did not ask for forgiveness; nevertheless, John Paul II took the hand of the gunman and showed the world that a Christian must forgive his enemies, even when they do not want forgiveness.

For Ali Agca to see the person whom he believed he had killed was a fearful moment, as if seeing a ghost. It makes me wonder how the disciples in the Upper Room felt when the Risen Lord appeared to them? We are told that on the eighth day after Jesus’ death, the disciples gathered in the Upper Room behind locked doors in fear of persecution. John, who was in the Upper Room with the other disciples, told us that Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you!" and he showed them his hands and his side; he showed them his wounds. The disciples realized that it was not an apparition: it was truly him, the Lord.

Jesus invites us, the modern-day disciples, to behold these wounds, to touch them as Thomas did, to heal our lack of belief. Above all, he invites us to enter into the mystery of these wounds, which is the mystery of his merciful love. In particular, Jesus desires us to meditate upon the wound in his heart, how it is the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity. Jesus told St. Faustina, “I desire that you know more profoundly the love that burns in My Heart for souls, and you will understand this when you meditate upon My Passion. Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners; I desire their salvation. When you say this prayer, with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner, I will give him the grace of conversion. This is the prayer:“O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.” (Diary 186, 187)

Jesus desires us to move from doubt to trust in him. Jesus did so with Thomas as he invited Thomas to put his finger into his pierced side. Today, through the image and prayer of Divine Mercy, Jesus desires us to receive abundant graces in order to move from fear to confidence and from doubt to trust: “I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory. I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: “Jesus, I trust in You.” By means of this Image, I shall be granting many graces to souls; so let every soul have access to it. Let the rays of grace enter your soul; they bring with them light, warmth, and life.”

As we receive graces from venerating the image of Divine Mercy, we are called to be his merciful love to others; we are called to be Apostles of Mercy. Jesus asks that we be merciful in deed, word, and prayer. Jesus tells us through St. Faustina’s Diary, “I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first — by deed, the second — by word, the third — by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies Me and pays reverence to My mercy.” Whenever our hearts are moved to compassion, wherever we are, we can always put this compassion into action either by some deed that helps alleviate another person’s suffering, by some word that comforts or assists them, or by prayer. As St. Faustina wrote: “If I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically.” Of course, one of the great prayers of mercy, is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

As Pope John Paul II forgave Ali Agca, he modeled for us what it means to be Apostles of Mercy. In 2016, Ali Agca was prompted to tell a reporter how the Pope changed him. He said, “After John Paul II visited me in prison, I thought about it, and I studied the Gospel at length...I know the sacred books better than many others. If [Pope Francis] welcomes me, I’ll be a priest and I will celebrate Mass...” He also expressed a desire to go to Fatima in Portugal in May, 2017, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions. He said, “I’ll pray there, maybe even together with the pope, to the Madonna, my spiritual mother.”
Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that afflict the bodies and souls of those around us. By alleviating and helping to heal their wounds, we profess Jesus and make him present and alive. By our mercy in action, we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as their “Lord and God.”