The superabundance of Divine Mercy

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Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on the Second Sunday of Easter at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

"Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father's Mercy" (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, n.1). By now, most of us are very familiar with this opening sentence of Pope Francis' letter announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which began last December 8 and will conclude on November 20. Of course, we give an affirmation to this sentence, but do we really understand its full meaning? "Jesus Christ, by his words, his actions and his entire person reveals the mercy of God" (cf. Ibid.). In other words, what is God really like? How does He act towards us? The answer: Look to Jesus Christ; He makes God visible and God made visible is mercy visible.

Today, on this Second Sunday of Easter, we are celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday. Saint John Paul II established this feast in response to the request of Sister Faustina, the Polish sister to whom Our Lord appeared, revealing in a very tangible way His mercy - Divine Mercy. He explicitly asked through Sister Faustina - now herself a canonized saint - that this Sunday be set aside to proclaim more intentionally to all the infinite and unchanging mercy of God reveled in Jesus Christ. Yesterday, Pope Francis stated: "How many are the expressions of mercy with which God encounters us? They are numerous and it is impossible to describe them all, for the mercy of God continually increases. God never tires of showing us mercy and we should never take for granted the opportunity to receive, seek and desire this mercy … Through Sacred Scriptures, we find that mercy is above all the closeness of God to his people. It is a closeness expressed essentially through help and protection. It is the closeness of a father or mother. … This image is extremely evocative: God picks each one of us up and holds us to his cheek. How much tenderness and love is expressed here!" (cf. Prayer Vigil for Jubilee Celebration of Divine Mercy, Saint Peter's Square, Rome, March 2, 2016).

You who are fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, recall what you experienced as you picked up your little infant or grandchild and held him or her to your cheek. That is how God in His mercy holds us - every one of us, regardless of our sins.

I invite us today to reflect on several tangible signs or symbols of God's mercy, so that being in contact with these, we may more easily and clearly understand the depth of God's mercy, how we may experience it and how we may share it.

First, there is the Holy Door. In the past, whenever a Jubilee Year was celebrated, pilgrims went to Rome in order to pass through the Holy Door at Saint Peter's Basilica and thereby gain a plenary indulgence. During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis stated that in every cathedral throughout the world, a Holy Door of Mercy was to be opened so that the faithful who pass through it "will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope" (cf. Op.Cit., n.3). I invite you to pass through the Holy Door of Mercy here in our Cathedral. These Holy Doors are located at the Cathedral's entrance. Read and take to heart what is written there: "Let us pass through this door and experience God's abundant mercy." Yes, the Holy Door is a tangible sign of Divine Mercy.

Secondly, look at the Paschal Candle. Into the darkened Cathedral at the Easter Vigil, the newly-lit and newly-blessed Paschal Candle was carried, symbolizing Christ the Light. Yes, we are often in darkness: the darkness of confusion, uncertainty, grief, depression, loneliness and sinfulness. All these experiences cry out for mercy! Let Christ the Light enter into our minds and hearts, bringing the light of His truth and the warmth of His love. The Paschal Candle is a tangible sign of Divine Mercy!

During the Easter Vigil, water was blessed and then sprinkled upon us as a memorial of our Baptism and of the promises we renewed. Every time, we enter a Catholic Church, there is a holy water font available to us. We enter, seeking the God of mercy. Let the blessed water and the sign of the cross we make with it remind us of divine mercy, since here in this holy place, the Lord's Dying and Rising is celebrated and in the Tabernacle Jesus, truly present, remains among us. Here too, we receive the Sacrament of Penance, whereby we are embraced by God's divine mercy. The Holy Mass, confession, and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle: These are also tangible signs of Divine Mercy.

In today's Gospel account, Thomas the Apostle plays a dominant role. He is absent on Easter night, when the Risen Jesus appears to the disciples, and will not believe them when he is told that the Risen Lord Jesus was present among them. However, a week later, when Jesus returns, Thomas is present. Jesus invites him to verify His presence by touching the wounds in His hands and His side. Thomas then proclaims with faith: "My Lord and my God!" Thomas was in need of God's mercy with which to be freed from the darkness of doubt and disbelief, He needed the touch of Divine Mercy to be forgiven, healed, restored to spiritual sight. And mercy came through the Risen Lord Jesus, Who is "the Face of the Father's mercy!"

Every one of us here is in such need of God's mercy in our lives. Perhaps some among us do not feel that we deserve His mercy. The Lord tells us to throw away that doubt and come closer to touch His wounds. Perhaps some among us are afraid to ask for mercy, because we will need to share mercy with others. He tells us to be not afraid, to draw closer and to let Him strengthen us to be "missionary disciples," "aflame with fire" - the fire of God's mercy. Perhaps others among us do not yet believe in God Who is Merciful. Like Thomas, we need to touch Christ in His woundedness and to surrender in contrition to the absolute fact of His Divine Mercy.

Yes, each one of us today must reaffirm and renew our conviction about Divine Mercy and seek ways to share His mercy with others, with those most in need. Then, we can - and we must - proclaim: "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His Mercy endures forever!"

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016