The Future Starts Today – Divine Mercy

Divine Mercy Sunday 2014  – Canonization of Popes John Paul the Great and John XXIII

Octave of Easter
Holy Mother Church celebrates her highest Holy Days in a most special way.  She deems them so powerful that they can’t be celebrated in 24 hours.  They celebrate them for 8 days – an Octave.  So, Easter, which started last Sunday – actually the Saturday evening prior ends today – the eighth day. What Christ did for us, deserves our total and continual celebration.  Like Christmas; Easter, even more so, it is that powerful and special.

What Christ did for us last weekend.
Easter the culmination of the Sacred Triduum, which started Holy Thursday evening with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, brings us into Christ’s battle and victory with Satan, with evil. We are strengthened with the knowledge that Christ is all powerful; God did battle with Satan and defeated him and death.  With the cross and the resurrection evil no longer holds power over mankind – we can be free from it. But, just as important is the knowledge that in spite of our failings and our arrogance God loves us, totally; the cross shows that better than anything else.  That Christ climbed up on that tree of death and changed it into a throne of unconditional love gives us an undeserved banner to hang onto to. By His Pasch we are at the center of God’s loving plan. In spite of our continual turning from Him, He still forgives us and gives us His love.

How can we celebrate this gift in one day? So the Church will take 8 days; of course she takes the next 5 five weeks, up to Pentecost, unpacking its meaning.  But on this 8th day Holy Mother Church celebrates the gift of Easter with two words.  Two words to explain Jesus’ actions; two words tells us what our Heavenly Father is all about.

Mercy and Love
Many years ago, Father Benedict Groeschel once stated that God’s primary personality trait is truth and justice, but He has one personality flaw that goes with it – mercy. He was telling us in a humorous way what God is about – what Easter brings to us – what those two words are that Holy Mother Church uses today – Divine Mercy.

Because of the God’s Love, or better said – because God is Love, He radiates mercy. Mercy is, in an important way, synonymous with Love.  For to love, truly love, we must continually forgive anything that falls short of love.  We pardon everyone for we love everyone. Today’s second reading we hear St. Peter tell us ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope…’[1] This is what we celebrate especially today – the living hope of eternal salvation through God’s mercy.

St. John Paul II
God is mercy, Divine Mercy and through it (as I said) evil is defeated – it will never have a permanent hold on us. I say permanent, because even though it can’t take control of us (if we don’t allow it), it can still affect us.  Evil is still around us, Satan still holds court in this world and he constantly strives to erode our ability to live the gift Christ died to give us; again, evil is still a reality.

St. John Paul the Great, in an interview, was asked if evil had a limit. His response was a profound yes! The limit of evil is Divine Mercy[2]. The effects of evil in the world can go no farther than Mercy.  Through God’s Mercy (Divine Mercy) on the Cross Satan and death were defeated. Christ faced Satan and his evil and absorbed it as it was thrown at Him (in the false testimony, the kangaroo court, the torture and abuse, the crucifixion, and mostly our sins) and returned love; He forgave, He returned mercy for each act of evil that pounded upon Him.  The evil couldn’t go any farther because it was washed away.  The limit of evil is Mercy.

Mercy is a verb
Christ’s actions of mercy are just that – actions.  Mercy isn’t a noun; it isn’t a talisman that He hanged around His neck and it brought Mercy.  Mercy is a verb, it is action, Christ worked mercy.

We are called to do the same.
But Christ isn’t here in the same way to work His mercy.  How does it continue against the evil of our time? Because it is our action as well.  We, Christ’s disciples, followers of His Way, are the vehicles of His Mercy.  By our actions we can show God’s mercy. How? By following Christ’s example and absorbing the evil thrown towards us and radiating back love.   In the Gospel of St. Luke (Chapter 6) we witness the Sermon on the Mount.  This is our game plan on how to live Christ’s example.  In it Christ tells those around Him ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’[3] This is God’s plan for His message of mercy. We are God’s plan for His message of mercy.

In 1959 St. John XXIII called for the great ecumenical council we now call Vatican II.  Most councils, throughout history, were called to discern and answer some great question of dogma or respond to a crises – this council was different – it was called together in 1962 to discern how the Church could relate to the people of the day – to look within Herself and renew what needed renewing and modify what needed to be modified so it could proclaim the timeless message of Christ.  Vatican II was convened to revitalize its most important mission – how to meet the world where it was and bring mankind to where God wanted them to be. In short how to evangelize within and without.

Live, radiate, attract
Our part in the Church’s evangelizing mission is the most important – it is to affect it.  The structures and hierarchy of the Church are there to protect the message and to teach, strengthen, and encourage us – but it is up to the faithful to put it into action – we are the verb! And we do this best by how we live our life; this is how we are most effective in our ministry.  People read and listen for only so long about the Gospel – but they will take notice and be more curious about it by how we live it; proof is in the pudding, so they say.

As I mentioned earlier we are Christ’s vehicle for Mercy today. But to truly proclaim this by our lives we need to interiorize, make our own this Divine Mercy, and only then will it radiate out, in a believable way, to those around us. Wow – not a small task! I ask myself how can we do this; how can we become vessels of mercy?  With all the societal pressures, opinions and influences how can we hope to know what living a life of mercy is truly like?

Our Guides
My brothers and sisters, today we celebrate the Canonization of two modern Popes: St. John XXIII called ‘Good Pope John’ for his humor and humility, and also called ‘The Council Pope’ for initiating Vatican II; and of course St. John Paul the Great called ‘The Divine Mercy Pope’, and ‘The Pope of the Family’; names that try to summarize the flavor, if you will, of their papacies.   They are fresh in many of our minds, they are current examples of what it means to live a life in Christ; let us look to them for insight in how to live this life as well.  They were world leaders, true, but they were still men. They still looked to God for strength in living a life well; look to them as mentors.  Let’s celebrate their lives by living as they did – living a life of Mercy, Divine Mercy. When we do then we will find a future that is built on what Jesus wished for His disciples in today’s Gospel “Peace be with you.”[4]

It is this peace, Christ himself – Divine Mercy, none other, that will bring mankind the future he was intended to have. Friends, let Christ find us, find us with hearts open to His Divine Mercy; the future depends on our decision and our actions, and as St. John Paul the Great said: ‘The future starts today, not tomorrow.’[5]
[1] 1 Peter 1:3
[2] St. John Paul the Great: Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium
[3] Luke 6:36
[4] John 20:19
[5] St. John Paul the Great

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