Following is the prepared text from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s homily for Divine Mercy Sunday.
April 8, 2018
Throughout the Bible and especially in the Psalms and the four accounts of the Gospel of God, the Lord accentuates the quality that best exemplifies His attitude towards us and all His creation: His mercy. For example, in Psalm 118, the same phrase is repeated over and over, “His mercy endures forever.” “Let the house of Israel say… Let the house of Aaron say… Let those who fear the Lord say…” Psalm 135 reads like a Litany of God’s wondrous deeds down through history. After each phrase that marvels at God’s wondrous deeds, one refrain is repeated 26 times: “…for His mercy endures forever.” We who believe in God never tire of singing these inspired words, because mercy is the most distinctive quality of God: He is faithful, loyal, steadfast, forgiving and so forth; above all, His mercy endures forever. How appropriate then, that on the Sunday after Easter, we celebrate Divine Mercy.
The purpose of the Divine Mercy devotion is expressed well in St. Faustina’s famous DIARY, #1059, where she records Christ’s words to her: “Encourage souls to place great trust in My fathomless mercy. Let the weak, sinful soul have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins than there are grains of sand in the world, all will be drowned in the immeasurable depths of My mercy.”
St. Paul captures the heart of the message that the Church wishes to shout from the housetops on this Divine Mercy Sunday. In Romans 5:20, he writes, “…where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.” Wherever God allows evil to occur, He pours out even greater mercy.
The abundant mercy of Jesus far-surpassed the betrayals, the denials, the failures in faith and other sins of the Apostles. We see this dramatically on display, in the Gospel passage where the Risen Lord Jesus appeared to the Apostles in the Upper Room and says to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” The wounds of Jesus manifest the suffering of Jesus caused by our sins, but the Risen Lord has transformed them into signs of His abundant mercy, which is stronger then sin and more powerful than death.
God’s mercy reaches perfection in weakness. Our own weakness, more than our strength, disposes us to turn to the Lord for His mercy. And the weakness and injustice that Jesus suffered, as shown by the wounds in His hands and side, makes even more evident the rich mercy of our Lord. As the Apostles gazed in awe upon the wounds of Jesus, they began to see even more the depth of His love, the greatness of His mercy.
The Risen Lord also said to the Apostles, after He appeared to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jesus wanted His Apostles to receive and rejoice in the mercy of God so that they would have a tender and compassionate heart for others, whom they would serve in His Holy Name. He also wanted to give the Apostles and, through them, leave with His Church the great Sacrament of His mercy that we call Confession. In the confessional, you and I come to our loving Lord, weighed down with the misery of our sins and covered with shame. While this shame is certainly unpleasant, it carries within it a grace that is very helpful for our life in Christ. For it helps us to grow in awareness of being sinners, standing in grave need of God’s forgiveness. This awareness, in turn, deepens our longing for a Savior and gratitude that He came into our world to suffer and die to redeem sinners. It is a great grace to recognize oneself as a sinner in need of the forgiveness of Christ. Then, we deeply appreciate the Sacrament of Confession where Christ puts far away from us our sins and shame, and then replaces them with the light of His tender mercy.
Mercy restores our dignity, that sin takes away. It restores our trust in our true identity as beloved sons and daughters of God.
This experience of God’s mercy helps us to grow in trust in Christ in our daily life. In fact, this is one of the primary requests that Jesus made to St. Faustina: to promote devotion to Divine Mercy so that followers of Christ might have a radical confidence in God’s mercy, and then be ready to say every day, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
True devotion to Divine Mercy inevitably lead us to practice what have come be known as the ABCs of Mercy, three ways for us to be channels of His mercy for others:
- Ask for His mercy, by confessing our sins and beseeching the Lord to pour out His mercy on the whole world;
- Be merciful to others, extending the mercy we receive from God;
- Completely trust in Jesus, for the more we trust Christ the more we receive.
Devotion to Divine Mercy is not just a pious exercise for our own personal enrichment. True devotion inspires us to serve others by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It helps us to be faithful stewards of the mercy of God.