Second Sunday of Easter / Sunday of Divine Mercy
April 28, 2019 – Year C
Readings: Acts 5:12-16 / Ps 118 / Rev 1:9-11A, 12-13, 17-19 / Jn 20:19-31
by Father Paul O’Donnell Duggan, Guest Celebrant
At this very late stage in my life I have entered into the 21st century with emailing. I received an email from a couple from my hometown in Ireland saying to me, “Father Paddy wants to see you when you come home to visit in the summer.” I knew Father Paddy from when we were younger, and our fathers worked in the same village.
About nine years ago, Father Paddy was appointed the pastor of the parish in my hometown. I want to plagiarize him a little today because it is relevant to Divine Mercy Sunday.
When Father Paddy was appointed pastor of the parish, his father was waiting to move to Nazareth House, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. His accommodations weren’t ready, so Father Paddy put his father up in the rectory for a week or so. Each night Father Paddy and his father had a ritual. Father Paddy would tuck his father into bed, and they would each say goodnight. One night, Father Paddy heard his father calling him, so he went upstairs to see if there was a problem. Father Paddy asked what he needed and his father said he wanted to say goodnight. Exasperated, Father Paddy said “You’ve already said goodnight to me!” His father replied, “Oh son, I never get tired of looking at your face.”
That Sunday, Father Paddy’s homily was about the image of God. He used that image to portray the Father – “Son, I never get tired of looking at your face.” That’s a very biblical image of God. This is an image of the God of mercy.
The reason I think it fits for Divine Mercy Sunday goes back to my time in New Zealand as pastor of a church in Christchurch diocese. I walked through the neighborhood to visit the parishioners and found many people were angry. Where does this anger come from? Now it is much worse. The whole world is angry; it almost seems contagious. How do we deal with this much anger? It can show itself in the words we use toward someone or in our actions that hurt someone. I believe the answer is mercy and Divine Mercy Sunday is the day we can realize that God is a God of mercy. Pope Francis has shown us that side of God – His mercy.
I must first seek the mercy of God. The reason I can’t have mercy on others, is because I don’t seek the mercy of God for myself. I need to seek that mercy of God so that I can pass it on to others. Two iconic images of mercy are: 1) Pope John Paul II going to the jail to see the person who tried to assassinate him, and forgiving him; and 2) Pope Francis kneeling outside the confessional in Rome, seeking forgiveness for his sins, seeking mercy. How powerful to have both sides of the coin: Pope John Paul II offering forgiveness and Pope Francis seeking forgiveness.
There are many ways we can seek forgiveness today. We receive forgiveness for our venial sins at each Mass when we say “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.” We also celebrate today the establishment of the sacrament of reconciliation, when Jesus gave the power to forgive sins to His apostles. How thoughtful of the Lord to give us this as the first sacrament after his resurrection! That is why Pope John Paul II chose this Sunday to designate as Divine Mercy Sunday.
Here is the point we should take from all this. If I am not seeking mercy from God, I will never be able to deal with my anger. I’ll always be a person full of anger, sometimes hidden but always there. It is impossible for us to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply – like Pope John Paul II did for his attacker – we just can’t do that on our own. We must seek God’s mercy in our lives in order to pass it on to someone else, in order to do the impossible.
The evil one doesn’t want us to seek God’s mercy. He knows the rippling effect of seeking God’s mercy: We will be able to forgive others or to ask for forgiveness. Today as we come to the Eucharist and receive Jesus, be sure to thank Jesus for the sacrament of reconciliation. Ask for the ability to see the tactics of the evil one so that you can avoid them.