The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 23, at St. Bernadette Church in Springfield.
Our God reveals Himself to us in so many ways and by many names. Today is an example of this fact, for today God's other name is "Divine Mercy." In his 2001 homily, Pope John Paul II observed: "Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity." Today, we do focus on Divine Mercy and on how God's mercy is made visible within the Church and in our lives.
Today, the Risen Christ — Divine Mercy Resurrected — shows us His sacred wounds even as He did for the disciples on that first Easter night and a week later with Thomas in their midst. "He showed them his hands and his side. Then [a week later] he said 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.' " Christ's wounds make clear to us how deeply we are loved, so deeply that He gave His life for our salvation by being nailed to a cross. From these wounds in His hands and feet and from His side pierced by the soldier's lance flow out to us endless streams of Divine Mercy. As Pope John Paul II put it, "Today the Lord also shows us his glorious wounds and his heart, an inexhaustible source of light and truth, of love and forgiveness." Are we opening our hearts to receive the mercy flowing from these sacred wounds?
The Risen Christ — Divine Mercy Resurrected — gave the passing on of His mercy to His witnesses, those first disciples then and bishops and priests now. Recall the Gospel scene just proclaimed in our hearing. "he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." The Sacrament of Divine Mercy — the Sacrament of Penance — has its origin in this revelation of Divine Mercy. Again, listen to Pope John Paul II: "Jesus entrusted to the apostles the gift of 'forgiving sins,' a gift that flows from the wounds in his hands, his feet, and especially from his pierced side. From there a wave of mercy is poured out over all humanity." Do we receive God's mercy on a regular basis through this sacramental celebration called "Confession"? He waits for us in the person of the priest in order to free us from our sins and to restore us to deeper union with Him.
The Risen Christ — Divine Mercy Resurrected — reaches out to all those who struggle to believe. How clear this is in today's Gospel. He called to Himself the doubting Thomas, who had said to his fellow disciples, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." Jesus called Thomas over and invited him to go from unbelief to faith. "Thomas answered and said to him, 'My Lord and my God.'" In our struggles to believe and to accept God's will, do we go to the Risen Jesus and allow His mercy to move us from the darkness of unbelief to the light of deepening faith?
The Risen Christ — Divine Mercy Resurrected — continually increases the members of His Family, the Church. Again, this year at the Easter Vigil, both here in this parish and throughout our diocesan Church, the newly baptized received for the first time God's own life, divine grace and the newly received into the full communion of the Catholic Church gained their full status in His Body the Church. I am delighted that our neophytes, that is, the newly baptized, and the newly received into full communion are gathered at this Eucharistic celebration. I look forward to being with them after Mass as they continue to reflect on their journey into the Catholic faith and to seek ever-deepening joy in living their faith. It was and is Divine Mercy that has led them to the joy of the Easter sacraments.
Yes, the Risen Christ reveals to us today another name for God: "Divine Mercy." Understanding more fully His Divine Mercy enables us to be formed into a living community of believers, like those described in today's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. We must be, like them, a community of believers, with one heart and mind — the heart and mind of Jesus. Then, having experienced His Divine Mercy within ourselves, we must be heralds of Divine Mercy, proclaiming "His mercy endures forever," and also instruments of Divine Mercy, offering to everyone forgiveness and reconciliation, hope, peace and joy.
Yes, God's other name is "Divine Mercy." By our daily witness, let us proclaim His Divine Mercy.