OUR HEARTS ARE RESTLESS...
On the Sunday after Easter the Catholic Church, directed by St. John Paul II in a Vatican decree of May 5, 2000, celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday. While the Pope did not mandate that there be extra prayer services on that day, many parishes do offer a special hour of prayer and usually provide the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka confession) on Sunday afternoon.
The Feast of Divine Mercy comes from revelations from Jesus to a Polish nun, now St. Faustina, that took place in the 1930s. She kept a diary of what He told her. She said Jesus asked her to spread the word that many people are perishing (i.e., going to Hell) in spite of the great suffering He endured in His Passion, but that He will pour out His mercy on any sinners who will go to confession (which can be done before the Divine Mercy Sunday) and received Holy Communion on the Feast of Mercy (which can be done at the regular Sunday Mass in a parish on that day).
It’s no secret that a great number of Catholics, probably a majority, rarely if ever go to confession in our day. Many probably think, “I don’t do any terrible things to anyone. I’m basically a good person.” That’s probably true, but we are not called just to be “good persons.” We are called to be saints, which means living in intimate relationship with God through Jesus.
There is a great scandal in the Church today … and I don’t mean the clergy abuse scandal. The clergy abuse situation is not really a “scandal,” because a scandal means something that makes it easier for people to sin. I don’t think anyone—outside of the abusers themselves—thinks that sexually abusing people is a good thing and that we should imitate the behavior of abusers. Just the opposite!
No, the scandal in the Church today is the great number of Catholics who do not go to Mass on Sunday, giving their children bad example and training … it is the number of Catholics who receive Holy Communion when they are in the state of mortal sin … those who live together outside marriage, putting themselves in danger of immoral sexual behavior … those who ignore the needs of the poor and disadvantaged while living in relative luxury themselves … those who publicly line themselves up with the opponents of the Church’s teaching while professing to be Catholic. Any kind of behavior or attitude which says to others, “It’s okay, you don’t have to follow the teaching of the Church to be a good Catholic,” is a scandal which encourages others to imitate them.
But it’s not only within the Church that there is a need for Christ’s mercy. Our world is filled with violence, lack of respect for God and for human beings, greed and selfishness expressed in social injustice, anger and vengeance, and a disregard for what will happen to us after we die. Only someone not paying attention to reality could think that all is well between the human race and God.
We need to recall the words of Jesus when He first went out to proclaim His message:
The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel
[Mark 1:15]. When we look at the way life is lived in our world, can we honestly say that the most important thing for human beings is living according to the kingdom of God?
The mercy and love of Jesus is great and overflowing for those who seek it. But Jesus isn’t naïve; He knows there is sin in the world—and too frequently even in our own hearts—because that’s why He died a terrible death to overcome the power of sin to lead us away from God. Although our contemporary culture doesn’t seem to believe in making judgments (unless they are talking about someone else making judgments about them), Jesus as no qualms in telling us that He is going to come to judge the world and establish the justice of God. We ignore Him at our own peril.
I encourage you, then, to celebrate in some way the Feast on Divine Mercy which Jesus asked St. Faustina to work to establish. Open your heart to His mercy and love, for He thirsts for your friendship and love for Him. Go to confession and receive Holy Communion as He asks you to do. And may God bless you!