HOMILY FOR DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY 2019
It is hugely significant that the Novena to Divine Mercy commences on Good Friday with the forgiveness of Jesus on the cross on Calvary and ends on this Sunday with the gospel where Jesus creates a forgiving people “those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven”. In human life we struggle with our own failures and lack of forgiveness. It may be an addiction, a family quarrel, a row that festers beneath the surface and deprives us of peace. In our culture today, forgiveness is an enormous challenge, both on the part of those who are hurting and those causing the hurt. Each of us needs to ask “Am I convinced that I have been forgiven by God or by others”. This forgiveness contributes to the peace which Jesus promises in today’s gospel.
In our own experience we recognise that the absence of forgiveness is a hindrance to peace. Forgiveness is what the world craves but fails to understand; vindictiveness and revenge are much more common attitudes. The message of today’s Gospel reminds us that it is not just that God forgives, but that God has created a people who forgive. What we celebrate in Divine Mercy is that once we have experienced the mercy of God and are forgiven then we are expected to work as ministers of mercy helping to bring about the forgiveness of others.
At times we may feel helpless; paralysed by our own weakness and sinfulness as we endeavour to find a way forward. Each one of us could identify with the frightened disciples in today’s gospel. We too may be living behind closed doors, when we have human doubts about the silence of God and the apparent success of evil, bringing about the collapse of religious values and various structures which are sacred and dear to us. Divine Mercy reminds us that God has intervened, giving us an opportunity to begin anew and overcome our fears.
It is relatively easy then to identify with and understand the reaction of Thomas in today’s gospel. He is crying out for reassurance and wants to be convinced that Christ’s presence is real and powerful. Are there not times when we wish that God would show his hand more clearly and enable us to be convinced that He is in control in spite of the chaos which surrounds us.
The God in whom we believe is one who, as he did on Calvary, turns a crisis into a new and glorious opportunity, bringing life out of death and light out of darkness. Our God is not curtailed by closed doors and He reassures us that because he is risen there is no situation in which we need to be afraid.
The Latin word ‘misericordia’ which we translate as ‘Mercy’ always has a healing quality about it as it touches the raw hurt, the gaping wounds, the irritating and annoying experiences, whether in our personal lives, our family or community.
The meeting of God’s mercy and our human misery takes place most frequently in silence. Did it ever strike you that the silence of the Knock Apparition is making a very powerful statement in this regard? A people devastated by famine, defeated in so many ways by poverty and death are introduced to the Lamb of God on the altar at the cross. This is the Lamb that St. John pointed out as ‘the one who takes away the sin of the world’. Yes Mercy and Misery met at that gable wall 140 years ago. Mercy and human sinfulness meet in a very significant way here in Knock in the sacrament of reconciliation in the confessional. It is here that the real healing takes place. Here we are encouraged and enabled to put the broken pieces of life together again in a new way. Try as we may, we cannot do this on our own. We depend on the mercy of God and this is what we celebrate here at Our Lady’s shrine on this Mercy Sunday.
Today’s Gospel began with closed doors and disciples locked in fear. At every Mass, we begin by acknowledging our sinfulness, the doors we have closed, the things which deprive us of peace, our need for God’s forgiveness. At the end of every Mass the Lord sends us out on mission “go in peace”. This is the peace which the risen Lord breathed on frightened disciples that Easter Sunday evening and which he breathes on us this Mercy Sunday.
As we leave Knock today, I make a special plea that you would pray the Divine Chaplet for the Church and the world which were never more in need of forgiveness.