Deacon Bill – April 7, Divine Mercy Sunday

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, we read the very end of John’s gospel and receive an offer of mercy from Christ.  It says, “Now Jesus did many other signs that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, AND that through this belief YOU may have life in his name.”  In our lives we have job offers, marriage offers, house offers, and special, limited time offers.  But this mercy offer is the greatest offer we will ever receive!

Let’s talk about how mercy applies to our lives.  If life is a board game, then as sinners, we often find ourselves on the square marked “Sin.”  We have two options, to move to the square marked “mercy” and erase our sin or stay on “Sin” and accumulate more sin by denying it and avoiding God.  One is a path of light and life, and the other is a path of darkness and death.

Sin IS separation from God.  Think of a blender, or a toaster, or a desk lamp.  When we disconnect these from their power source, they stop doing what they were created to do.  When we plug them back in, they come to life and become useful again.  WE were made by God to love; to love the Father and to love one another as Jesus loves us.  Sin disconnects us from our creator, and it interrupts the power to love ourselves and love others as we should.

Peter Kreeft says, “Salvation from sin restores our relationship with God, this is called ‘justification.’”  Justification is described in Romans 3 as God granting absolution from ALL guilt AND a full release from the penalty of our sin.  This is why the mercy offer is so important!

Forgiveness gives us a clean slate and can only come from a divine source, God.  That’s why today is called DIVINE Mercy Sunday!  Justification through mercy helps us choose the path of light and life, because through it we gradually improve our character and our actions as we strive to become holy, a process called “sanctification.” “Sanctification” means to set apart for a special use or purpose.  When we are plugged back into God, through his mercy, we become like the toaster after it’s plugged in, ready to perform the job we were created for, to love. 

However, we don’t always choose the path of light and life, we encounter resistance that keeps us in a state of sin, in a place of darkness and death.  But why?  What are the roadblocks we face in our lives that keep us from accepting Jesus’ offer of mercy?

The first roadblock is doubt, clearly defined by Thomas in today’s gospel, and it’s part of every Christian journey.  Even Thomas, who has walked in the presence of Jesus and the apostles for THREE years, dismisses the apostles when they tell him, “Jesus is risen!”   Thomas holds out for his own personal encounter with Christ.  In this gospel Jesus speaks to US saying, “Blessed are those who have NOT seen and have believed.”  He knew it would be hard, so he makes Himself available to have a personal encounter with each of us, through the Eucharist. 

Another roadblock we all face is “ego.”  When we deny our own imperfections, we end up rejecting God’s offer of mercy by the logic that we just don’t need it.  This is a slippery slope that can lead to more sin, separation from God, and a spiritual death that leads to our destruction.

A third roadblock is the fear of letting go of sin.  We know we sin, but something in our life depends on it, and we are afraid of leaving our comfort zone.  Essentially, we lack faith that God will accompany us as we let go of sin.  Peter Kreeft writes, “Why does God require faith on our part before he gives us eternal life?  It’s not like, ‘I will reward you with wages if you do this work for my company.’ It’s more like, ‘If you jump into my arms, I will catch you.’  God respects our free will to the end.  That is the only reason there is a hell as well as a heaven.  He knocks at the door of our soul, but we must FREELY choose to open the door and let him in.  The lock is on the INSIDE, and faith is the key that opens the lock.”  God’s offer of mercy covers all contingencies.

Saint Faustina’s dependence on God led us to today’s feast of Divine Mercy. She was born in 1905 and began having visions of Jesus as a 7-year-old.  She entered, “The Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy” at the age of 20 and encountered Jesus as a nun until her death at age 33.  She was encouraged by her spiritual director to write down her conversations with Christ and produced a 600-page diary that has been published in eleven languages!  She was canonized in the year 2000 and is a modern example of how to maintain an intimate relationship with Jesus.

St. Faustina’s diary is a window into the mind of Christ, with words that encourage us as we face the roadblocks to mercy, including doubt, ego, and letting go of sin.  She quotes Jesus saying, “I want to give Myself to souls and to fill them with My love, but there are few who want to accept all the graces My love has intended for them.”  Here we see Jesus knocking at our door.

In another part of the diary, Jesus talks about saving all of us, especially those who are suffering.  He says, “My daughter, write that the greater the misery of a soul, the greater its right to My mercy; [urge] all souls to trust in the unfathomable abyss of My mercy, because I want to save them all.”  This comforts us in our times of hopelessness knowing that Jesus is anxious to see us through to the end, no matter what our circumstances.

Finally, Christ asks that we be like St John and spread the word of His mercy.  He says, “Souls who spread the honor of My mercy I shield through their entire life as a tender mother her infant, and at the hour of their death I will not be a JUDGE for them, but a MERCIFUL SAVIOR.”

St Faustina’s message encourages us to GO TO CONFESSION and emphasizes the power of the gifts that await us.  Not only are our sins erased, but we receive grace that strengthens us AGAINST the temptation of the devil, a powerful force to contend with in our world today.

As we celebrate the Joy of Easter, let’s reflect on the full offering of mercy from the Father, how we receive it in our lives, and how we can overcome the roadblocks in our way.  And finally, how we can share the mercy of Christ with our families, friends, and community.