Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Divine Mercy Sunday

Father John J. Lombardi

"He (the Resurrected Jesus) breathed on them and said: 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive shall be forgiven'…" (Jn. 20:24). This is the Church's message the First Sunday after Easter: Mercy!

Here are two seeming opposites: Divine Mercy and Zacharias Moussaoui. Well, perhaps they go together. Read on…

Zacharias Moussaoui is now being sentenced for a role in the devastating 9/11 tragedy. I read with absolute astonishment his comments (full disclosure: this doesn't happen much these days to this priest) in The Frederick News Post (Apr 14: Good Friday) with the headline: "Suspect wishes pain for victims." Wow. But read on: "'So you would be happy to see 9/11 again,' the prosecutor asked. Moussaoui said: 'Every day until we get you.' He told jurors that he has 'no regret, no remorse,' and was disgusted by the heart-rendering testimony of victims and relatives and only wished they have suffered more." Have you read any more tragic thoughts and wishes? When this Chaplain describes the words and actions as "evil," they are objectively-wanting to murder people, and to plague them with more harm and rub it in their lives is an evil thing. Subjectively, perhaps, Zacharias Moussouai is mentally deranged and not totally culpable for his words and actions-we don't know--as a matter of fact: this was questioned both ways in his sentencing by his defense team and the prosecutor.

Point: Mercy is just for such people-the free offer of God to seek forgiveness and reconciliation, even the harshest of offenders, like Zacharias Moussouai. We need to pray for him to ask for and receive God's pardon and love. This man and his sentiments are just one more reason why Jesus came to Earth-to save souls, even the most overtly plagued ones.

Divine Mercy is the offer of Jesus Christ, the God-Man, giving us His forgiveness and compassion, especially thru the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is a devotion promulgated by the late great Pope John Paul II, thru the private revelations of Saint Faustina Kawalska, a Polish nun. It is a Call to Forgiveness, confession, to God's ever-flowing Mercy which is a "font of blood and water" ready to wash us clean of sin and evil. It is an appeal to both God and each soul for reconciliation-re-connecting what has been broken by sin and evil actions and thoughts.

In 1931 Jesus Christ appeared to Saint Faustina. She wrote: "I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in the gesture of blessing; the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale....After a while Jesus said to me, 'Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature, 'Jesus; I trust in You'….I want this image to be solemnly blessed on the First Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy.'" Jesus later said to St. Faustina: "Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My merciful heart." (Source: "Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul: 1999, Stockbridge).

Yes: Jesus Christ wishes to heal mankind, to bring us to His Saving Love and shed His Mercy upon us. Is there a more important message today?

What are elements of Divine Mercy? The most important one is Sacramental Confession. Why stay away? In the Sacrament of Reconciliation Jesus Himself offers you His mercy-if you confess your sins to the priest, who is Jesus' representative on earth. Hurry, now, go and make a good, heartfelt confession of all your sins and remember: "Jesus: I trust in you!" …Also, elements of Divine Mercy include reparation for sinners-just like at Lourdes (1858) when Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette. We are called to make atonement for other sinners, Moussaoui included, and make sacrifices for them to be converted, healed, and sanctified. Sacrifices: we are called to do penance for others and ourselves-like the valiant children of Fatima…Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy: the essence of this, prayed on the decade beads of a Rosary, is: "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion: Have mercy on us and on the whole world.." Pray this prayer for all souls-especially those away from Jesus and His Mercy…Recall and radiate His Message of Mercy to others-all are called to receive His forgiveness and healing Love: so don't keep it to yourself-remember the principle: "If you want to keep it, give it away." …Hour of Mercy: Make a Holy Hour (wherever you can! - esp. at three o'clock, when Jesus died on the Cross) and appeal to Jesus' Mercy upon the world…Perform merciful acts of mercy toward others-selflessly. Don't forget: actions speak louder than words.

Missed Mercy means that, in the last few decades some in the Catholic Church have not promoted the call to Mercy and Reconciliation appropriately. Some have said that confession is no longer needed; that sin doesn't exist as much; that "God loves us just the way we are," etc. Also, as I myself have witnessed, communal absolution was offered illegitimately: people were encouraged to forego oral confession of sins and merely receive sacramental forgiveness en masse, in large groups. This has been very detrimental to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and we are still recovering from this abuse. Some have actually said: "You mean you still have to go to confession for forgiveness today?" Bottom line: Go to confession soon-because you are going to Jesus' Divine Mercy!

"Mercy under our noses." When I think of how I learned mercy, I look under my "proverbial" nose. What I mean is: my parents have been married fifty-one years and they have had to forgive each other daily. Fifty-one years-that's a long, long time of forgiving, reconciling, overlooking faults and failures. And they taught Mercy to my four siblings and me thru their explicit and implicit actions and words. They were, are, witnessing compassion and God's Love in very human, concrete ways. So: look under "your nose" and see how God is teaching you His Mercy-right where you are-in your home, your workplace, in your neighborhood and Church. Learn how mercy is shed all around you: be thankful and teach it to others.

Why Do We need Divine Mercy today? Here's a partial list-make it part of your prayer intention for Divine Mercy thru the year: Abortions (one every twelve minutes in the USA alone). Those who have procured abortions who don't feel they can be reconciled, forgiven. The rampant drug culture today afflicting our families and land. Enron-style-big business scandals which financially reap benefits off "the small guy." The loss of Catholic culture and identity in our schools, churches and nation. The loss of God and prayer in our public life; the denigration of God and His Commandments and Ways; the loss of the Sabbath; His Holy Name derided. The killing of the elderly thru euthanasia; stem cell research which cannibalizes children-fetuses. Promotion of homsexualism and same-sex unions. Rejection and neglect of the family as God designed it. Violence pervasively peddled to children. The Seven Capital Sins: pride, anger, gluttony, avarice (greed), lust, envy, sloth-lukewarmness. Upshot: pray for Jesus to shed His mercy upon us and for sinners to come to Him!

Look: if the notorious sinners can make a "spiritual rebound conversion"-like St Augustine, Mary Magdalene, and Bernard Nathanson (who killed over sixty thousand babies thru abortion and recently repented and became Catholic), so can we, if we trust in Jesus' Divine Mercy. Keep repeating: "Jesus: I trust in you!" Say it, repeat it, mean it, and make it count- thank God for His Mercy!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi