Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"Apostles of the Lord: Living Witnesses of His Love"
Homily for
Divine Mercy Sunday
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon

1 May 2011
Year A 

In November of 2004, on the eve of my 24th birthday, a late night phone call from a friend disturbed my blissful slumber. He had called to tell me to meet him after Morning Prayer and Mass with the seminary community and a group of us were invited to join the trustees of the John Paul II Cultural Center in their private audience with the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. At first I thought that I was dreaming but when I arrived in chapel my friend told me to quickly go put on my cassock and meet him out front. At that I knew this was the real thing. We met the trustees outside the Vatican Museum and we were escorted through a side door and brought straight to the Sistine Chapel. What an amazing start to this already joyful day – a private tour of the Sistine Chapel! After about 30 minutes of praying in the chapel and admiring Michelangelo’s masterpiece ceiling, we were escorted out of the museum and on to the St. Peter’s Square – the Bronze Doors to be exact, the entrance to the Papal Palace. It was long walk up the steep flight of stairs to the Clementine Chapel in the Holy Father’s residence, but I think I ran the whole way! One of the Swiss Guards led us to the chapel where there were just enough chairs for all of us – Bishops and trustees of the Cultural Center as well as us guests. It seemed like we sat there waiting for the Holy Father for hours. As he was wheeled into the chapel, we stood, cheered and clapped but I felt frozen in my seat. My heart was pounding through my chest, I could not believe that I was in such close proximity to the Vicar of Christ! I could have died a happy then, but it only got better! One of the members of the trustees addressed the Holy Father and gave him a gift. The Holy Father then responded, in perfect English, thanking them for their work. When he was finished I noticed that people were getting up and approaching him, shaking hands, and receiving his blessing. I couldn’t believe it and the next thing I knew it was my turn. What lasted only a few seconds seemed much longer. I knelt before the Holy Father, took his hand and kissed his ring. He gave me his blessing and that was it.

Already today, Pope Benedict XVI has bestowed upon this man the title “Blessed” and enrolled him among the blessed in heaven. What I perceived to probably be true some day has become a reality, Pope John Paul II is on his way to sainthood! I shook hands with a saint!

The beatification of Pope John Paul II affords us the opportunity to reflect upon what it means to be an apostle. The bishops throughout the world are the successors of the Apostles and the Holy Father is the successor of St. Peter himself. In our Gospel reading, Jesus gives us the meaning the term ‘apostle’ when He says: “As the Father has sent me so I send you…” The term, ‘apostle’ then, literally means, ‘to be sent.’ Sent to do what? Jesus declares to them: “as the Father sent me…” The Father sent His only Son into the world not to condemn the world but to save it, to bring salvation, healing and forgiveness to all. This is the mission of Christ and it is now the mission of the Apostles. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they are to carry this mission to the ends of the earth. From this day forward, they become not just hearers of the Word – listeners of Jesus – but rather they become an extension of His person. The appearance of Jesus to Apostles in today’s Gospel confirms what He began in them at the Last Supper. With the new found courage and zeal given by Christ in the Holy Spirit they devoted themselves to the living hope that came through the resurrection of Jesus, to that undefiled, imperishable inheritance that is held in heaven. This is a mission that continues to this very day in the person of our current Holy Father and the bishops throughout the world – united in teaching, in the Eucharist, and in the common prayer of the Church – sent to the four corners of the world to be the person of Christ for their people bringing them to salvation, healing and forgiveness. They are living witnesses of His love.

To be an apostle, then, means to be a living witness. Though the Pope and bishops are the successors of the Apostles, being a living witness is not limited to them only. We too are those living witnesses, we too are called by God and sent to be bearers of His name and witnesses of His love – to our families, workplaces, friends, neighbors, schools, communities, and so on. As is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, we too must devote ourselves to the teaching of apostles – a teaching that is passed on to us through the Tradition of the Church but inscribed in our hearts, teaching that informs us on Who God is, how He communicates His love to us, how we communicate with Him, and how to live in His friendship by moral and virtuous living – caring for one another in works of charity, to being committed to daily prayer and above all, encountering Him here, in the Eucharist – the breaking of the bread.

Today we also celebrate the Feast of the Divine Mercy – a feast instituted by Blessed Pope John Paul II. Of His mercy St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote: “Mercy consists in bringing a thing of non-being into being.” We see this concretely in the life of the Early Church in their devotion to the Eucharist, each other, prayer and the teachings of the apostles. We see this too, in our own lifetime, when we have the courage to bring God into the forefront of our lives by our own devotion to the teachings of the Church, the Sacrifice of the Mass every Sunday, our own prayer and showing charity towards our neighbor. By these actions, Christ breathes His life into us, shows us His mercy and sends us to be His witnesses, to carry His out mission in our daily lives. We can all be apostles, indeed we are, but do we have the courage to go forth from this place – sent by Christ – to be selfless and generous in sincerity of heart, to be a living witness? As we experience the great gift of His mercy in this Holy Eucharist, may we not shrink from the task of carrying out His mission of mercy into our daily lives.



Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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