Fr. Stephen’s homily for Divine Mercy Sunday. (The second Sunday of Easter, 11th April.)
‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. For those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’
So it was that eight days after the Resurrection Jesus Christ empowered the apostles to forgive or retain sins.
We should specially note the emphasis on the Holy Spirit.
It is through the work of the Spirit that hearts are softened, that aggression is evaporated, that grudges are healed, and divisions melt away.
It is through the urgings of the Spirit that we learn to say ‘sorry’ to each other and to make our peace with God through the use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Pope St. John Paul said ‘humanity must let itself be touched and pervaded by the Spirit, given to it by the Risen Christ.’
His pontificate was especially woven through with an understanding and wish to communicate to the world the knowledge of Divine Mercy and he was much influenced by the writings of a nun called Sister Faustina who died in 1938.
Born in 1905, she was the daughter of devout parents, who had struggled with poverty on their little farm during the years of the First World War.
Aged 20, she joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, and, six years later, in February 1931 she received a vision.
She described it like this: ‘I saw Jesus dressed in a white garment. He held one hand raised in blessing and with the other, he was touching his garment at the chest. From under the garment came two rays of light, one red, the other pale.’
The Lord spoke to her and said: ‘Paint a picture according to the vision you see and with the inscription: ‘’Jesus, I trust in thee’’. I desire that this picture be venerated first in your chapel and then throughout the whole world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.’
She was, apparently, no artist, and she had to find someone who could do justice to the image she had kept in her mind.
The Lord had explained the significance of the rays of light in her vision: The red ray symbolised the blood which flowed from his body when the soldier pierced his side, and the pale ray, the water.
Together they symbolise the inexhaustible fount of mercy and love, flowing from the heart of Christ.
Faustina was canonised in 2000 by Pope St. John Paul II and he proclaimed that from that moment on the Second Sunday of Easter is to be called Divine Mercy Sunday – a day on which we remember that we not only receive and experience the mercy and love of God ourselves, but that we are also called to reflect this warmth to others.
In 2002 the Pope entrusted the whole world to the Mercy of God and proclaimed Divine Mercy as the answer to all the world’s problems.
In the remarkable way in which these things happen, he himself died on the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday.
The life and spirituality of Sister Faustina has sparked a new understanding of the love that Our Lord has for every single human being.
In the spirit of this, the Church encourages the faithful to pray before the Image of the Christ of Divine Mercy and to recite with the congregation the Divine Mercy Prayer.
For those who wish to receive a plenary Indulgence, this can be obtained with the usual discipline of sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and a Prayer for the Pope’s Intention, to which is added the recitation of the Our Father and Creed and the invocation: ‘Merciful Jesus I trust in you’.