Sunday, March 30, 2008

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter. In 2000, the second Sunday of Easter received the second name of "Divine Mercy Sunday." Emphasizing the message of mercy explicit in the Paschal Mystery and the Easter season, and finding a particular expression in the private revelations of St. Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy Sunday is a wonderful celebration of the Lord's infinite love and his restorative forgiveness.

You can find a very helpful document from the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy
(an apostolate of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, based at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Eden Hill, Stockbridge, MA) which discusses Divine Mercy here. Let me highlight one portion of that document that deals with the Eucharist:

Rev. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, explains to us clearly in his booklet The
Divine Mercy
: Message and Devotion another, pastoral intention that the Lord
seems to have had in promising extraordinary graces on this Feast day:

Our Lord is also emphasizing, through this promise, the infinite value of Confession and Communion as miracles of mercy. He wants us to realize that since the Eucharist is His own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, it is the “Fountain of Life” (Diary, 300). The Eucharist is Jesus, Himself, the Living God, longing to pour Himself as Mercy into our hearts.

Why would Our Lord feel the need to emphasize this? Because so many people do
not really understand it. They either see no need to receive Holy Communion, or
they receive it simply out of habit. As St. Paul explains in his letter to the Corinthians, they eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, “without recognizing the body of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27-29).

In His revelations to St. Faustina Our Lord makes it very clear what He is
offering us in Holy Communion and how much it hurts Him when we treat His
presence with indifference:

My great delight is to unite Myself with souls. … When I come to
a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul. But souls do not even pay any attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things. Oh, how sad I am that souls do not recognize Love! They treat Me as a dead object (1385; also see 1288 and 1447).

So, Our Lord’s promise of complete forgiveness is both a reminder and a call.
It is a reminder that He is truly present and truly alive in the Eucharist, filled with
love for us and waiting for us to turn to Him with trust. And it is a call for us all
to be washed clean in His Love through Confession and Holy Communion — no matter how terrible our sins — and begin our lives again. He is offering us a new start.

There is much here, but the part that most grabs my attention is: "But souls do not even pay any attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things. Oh, how sad I am that souls do not recognize Love! They treat Me as a dead object." How true this is, for myself as well as others. I find many things to busy myself with during my days rather drawing closer to the Lord. Often times when I think about going to Eucharistic adoration I don't go because I think "I have too much to do." This is especially true when I am work. I try to get to adoration periodically on my lunch hour, but too often I don't go because I feel that there are more pressing things to do. It is also frighteningly true that we do not recognize love. Think of how often we look for love in all the wrong places, as the country song goes. And most penetrating to me is the comment that we treat him as a dead object. If only we could see him with eyes of faith. So hard to do, yet so essential.

The Gospel reading for today is taken from John. It speaks of mercy, since it includes Jesus' giving the apostles the ability to forgive sins (John 20:21-23). It also contains the passage about Thomas' refusal to believe that Jesus has risen from the dead "without putting my finger in the nail-marks and my hand into his side" (John 20:25). When Jesus comes a week later and Thomas finally sees him, Thomas gives the response that we give silently at mass during the elevation of the body and blood during the consecration: "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Jesus is pleased with Thomas' act of faith, but he lets Thomas and us know that we are asked to have a still deeper faith: "Jesus said to him, 'Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.'" (John 20:29).

So hard to do, yet so essential.

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