Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


2nd Sunday of Easter
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
April 27th, 2014
Year A

In the Church throughout the world today we are celebrating a feast instituted by the newly canonized Pope St. John Paul II – the Feast of the Divine Mercy. This message of mercy was first made known to a polish nun – Sr. Faustina – in private conversations with our Lord from 1931 – 1938. These conversations are recorded in her diary. In one such entry she writes about a vision of hell, in which she saw the torturous sufferings of the condemned. She wrote afterwards that God had given her this vision “so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like.” She also wrote, “I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me” (Diary, 741). This is precisely why Jesus told her: “Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity...tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near” (Diary, 965). On April 30, 2000 Pope John Paul II canonized Sr. Faustina enrolling her among the number of saints in heaven. At the canonization Mass he announced the institution of this feast day – Divine Mercy Sunday. Our Lord’s command to His trusted servant, St. Faustina, was fulfilled. A day dedicated to the Lord’s infinite mercy is celebrated in the Church.

What is mercy? What do we mean when we use this term? The term ‘mercy’ finds its origin in the Latin ‘miserere.’ Most notably, we associate the term with ‘misererecordia’ or misery of the heart. Often we associate mercy with forgiveness. It is, however, much more than that. Mercy refers to compassion, tenderness, kindness, benevolence, healing of the soul. There is then, an obvious connection between mercy and the whole Easter message of atonement and redemption. Pope John Paul highlighted this connection in his homily at the canonization Mass of Faustina. Commenting on the responsorial psalm he said: “The Church sings … as if receiving from Christ's lips these words of the Psalm. ‘Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His steadfast love (= mercy) endures forever’ (Ps 118:1).” He went on to say that this is what “[comes] from the lips of the risen Christ, who bears the great message of Divine Mercy and entrusts its ministry to the Apostles in the Upper Room: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you. … Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (Homily April 30, 2000).
Jesus once told Sr. Faustina that compared to His mercy her miseries were like a twig that is burned up in a roaring fire. This is precisely what we experience in the Sacrament of Penance – in confession. Our sins are burned up in the fire of His mercy. His compassion and kindness towards us purifies our souls, heals the wounds left on hearts due to our sins, and strengthens our will to conform our lives to Him. His mercy embraces our weakness and heals our broken hearts.

When I was in my first year of seminary, I had the honor of meeting Pope St. John Paul. What a day, what a meeting that was! I remember praying and going over in my head what I would say when I finally got to shake his hand and say something to him. Well, I couldn’t muster up the courage to say anything. I was simply in awe of him. He gave off an aura of holiness. As I knelt before him, the only thing I could do was look into his eyes. He had piercing blue eyes. In those eyes, I could see the mercy of God. I saw the tenderness of Christ. I saw the love of a father for his child. In his eyes, I felt loved by God.

The mercy of God, His love and benevolence toward us has constantly been made manifest in lives of the two popes canonized today – Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. Pope St. John XXIII, known as “Good Pope John,” used to make pastoral visits to the sick and those in prison in the city of Rome. He made the papacy accessible to the citizens of Rome while Pope St. John Paul II made the papacy accessible to the whole world. More importantly, they made God’s Fatherly love – His mercy – known and felt among all peoples, not just Catholics.

When I reflect upon the time I had got to meet a saint and the meaning of today’s feast or mercy, a tremendous sense of peacefulness envelops my heart – as it did when I was shaking hands with the then future saint. It is no wonder that Jesus says to His disciples, three times in the gospel: “Peace be with you.” Perhaps we can add this to our list of meanings for mercy: peace. This type of peace is not worldly peace, an absence of conflict, but a deeply held peacefulness within; a calmness of soul. This is the fruit of mercy; it is the sign of His grace and part of the Easter message, Easter joy. It is evident in the lives of these two saints – John XXIII and John Paul II. It is evident in the life of our current Holy Father, Francis. And it is found in the gift of penance and the Holy Eucharist.

It is fitting, then, that these two Popes – now saints – John Paul II and John XXIII be canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday because both men brought such mercy into the world. They were a living example of God’s immense love for us all and demonstrated a way of humble leadership that can transform the world. Let us pray that through their intercession as saints, the heavens will open wide and even the most hardened hearts will accept God’s gift of Divine Mercy.

Lord, we thank You for the holy examples of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. Through their intercession, may we be led ever deeper into the fullness of Your love, so that we can reflect that love to all Your children here on Earth, and eventually be united with You and all the saints in heaven. Amen.

Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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