Divine Mercy Sunday

2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday: Gospel – John 20:19-31

This Gospel passage featuring “doubting Thomas” is appropriate for Divine Mercy Sunday.

When revealing the unfathomable depths of His mercy to St Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s, Jesus emphasized how much He longs for us to trust Him, and how our lack of trust grieves Him.

Just as Jesus showed His wounds to Thomas as proof of His resurrection, so does He remind us of His wounds as a pledge of His mercy:

Remember My Passion, and if you do not believe My words, at least believe My wounds.

— Diary of St Faustina, paragraph 379.

Thus Jesus implores us to entrust ourselves to His merciful Heart, especially today, Divine Mercy Sunday. This feast was not established because of a personal inspiration on the part of St John Paul II, nor is it just a matter of one’s own spiritual tastes.

Jesus Himself is the Author of Divine Mercy Sunday. In His revelations to St Faustina, the Lord requested that the second Sunday of Easter be dedicated as the Feast of Divine Mercy:

I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.

The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flows are opened.

Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity (699).

Just as He ordered the Feast, so did Jesus call for the Divine Mercy image to be painted, depicting the rays of mercy streaming from His Heart:

The two rays denote Blood and Water…These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross (299).

Jesus commissioned St. Faustina to spread the Divine Mercy devotion throughout the world, asking us to confide in His infinite love for us:

I came down from heaven out of love for you, I lived for you, I died for you, and I created the heavens for you (853).

Love has brought Me here, and love keeps Me here (576).

I dwell in the tabernacle as King of Mercy (367a).

Question for reflection: When has the Lord in His mercy helped me through a struggle of faith?

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Difficulties in Prayer: Feeling Unheard

Based upon Catechism paragraphs 2734-37:

How many times have we prayed for something, or someone, and felt that God did not hear us? Have we feared that God would not even listen to us, or that He has in some way abandoned us?

Such feelings may prompt us to stop praying altogether because it doesn’t “work.”

If we view prayer that way, then we aren’t praying to God in a loving relationship, but instead trying to use Him to get “results.”

Whenever we feel that our prayers are unheard, we must step back and remember Who God Is. Trusting that the Lord loves us beyond our wildest imagination, we know that He never ignores or abandons us. God hears us as a Father listens to His beloved children. As the infinitely good Father, He knows what is best for us.

But we, as His little ones, do not. We may believe with all our hearts that it would be right and good for the Lord to grant us our prayer, for ourselves or our loved ones. Yet in truth, we cannot understand the full implications of what we ask for, how our request may ultimately affect our earthly life or our eternal welfare.

When God appears silent, He is not rejecting us, but rather inviting us to greater trust in His will.

This is an opportunity for us to reflect and to grow in faith. Are we honestly seeking to do God’s will, or are we instead demanding that God do our will? Is our petition arising from a faulty desire or improper intention? Or is our prayer a true and sincere pursuit of the good?

God may not give us the “answer” we want, but He does answer us out of His tender mercy. We can please God greatly, and delight His Heart, if we trust in Him in spite of all the tensions and uncertainties we feel while waiting. God will bless us abundantly for our faithfulness in ways that we might not expect.

As the fourth-century theologian Evagrius Ponticus wrote, “Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask Him; for He desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to Him in prayer.”

Difficulties in Prayer: Lack of Faith

Based upon Catechism paragraph 2732.

A lack of faith is “the most common yet most hidden temptation” in our prayer, according to the Catechism, because it isn’t as straightforward as simple disbelief. Instead, lack of faith is something more insidious and subtle, which is why we may have trouble recognizing it for what it truly is.

Do we turn to God only as a “last resort,” after all else fails? That implies that we didn’t have the faith to go to Him right away in our distress, but thought that we, or others, could handle it.

On the other hand, we can be tempted to treat God as the cosmic Being Who caters to our wishes, and arranges everything just the way we’d like. In that case, our prayer devolves into telling God what we want Him to do for us. That’s not faith in God, but presumption.

While the Lord obviously wants us to ask Him for our needs, we must do so in the humble spirit of creatures who don’t really know what’s best for us, or for our eternal destiny. True faith means that we turn our needs over to the Lord in prayer, while submitting ourselves to His will, in an attitude of radical trust in His loving providence.

Sometimes a lack of faith creeps in when we try to pray, but remember other things that we have to do. At that moment, do we resolutely remain with the Lord, and put our other action-items aside for a more appropriate time? Or do we put the Lord aside?

If we’re jumping up to help someone in urgent need who depends upon us, we are serving the Lord in that person. But otherwise, if we’re just dropping prayer to do something that could wait, we’re effectively telling the Lord that He doesn’t take priority in our lives.

We may not say it, but our actions reflect that we are prioritizing something other than God. The Catechism describes this as “the moment of truth for the heart: what is its real love?”

Engaging the Gospel – Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday: Gospel – John 20:19-31

St. John Paul II established the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.

In his encyclical Dives in Misericordia (“rich in mercy”), JPII wrote that Jesus makes God’s mercy “incarnate and personifies it” (2). Expressing the Father’s love and mercy thus becomes “the fundamental touchstone of His mission as the Messiah” (3).

This is especially visible in the Paschal Mystery: “In His resurrection, Christ has revealed the God of merciful love, precisely because He accepted the cross as the way to the resurrection,” proving that the Father’s love “is more powerful than death” and “more powerful than sin” (8).

Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite….Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man, only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent.

— ibid.,13.

And yet even when we put up obstacles, the Lord still seeks us out, and offers us a way to trust in Him.

We see this clearly in today’s Gospel passage about “doubting Thomas,” which speaks to us in three important ways, according to Benedict XVI:

First, because it comforts us in our insecurity; second, because it shows us that every doubt can lead to an outcome brighter than any uncertainty; and, lastly, because the words that Jesus addressed to him remind us of the true meaning of mature faith and encourage us to persevere, despite the difficulty, along our journey of adhesion to him.

The figure of Thomas shows us that we have “the right, so to speak, to ask Jesus for explanations” —

Let us be brave enough to say: ‘I do not understand you, Lord; listen to me, help me to understand.’

General Audience of September 27, 2006.

Question for reflection: When has the Lord brought His mercy home to me in a personal way?

Thanksgiving

The term “Eucharist” is derived from the Greek for “thanksgiving.” This form of prayer reaches its apex in the celebration of the Eucharist, in which we participate in Christ’s offering of Himself to the Father, in a salvific work that encompasses the entire cosmos.

As the Catechism explains, “in the work of salvation, Christ sets creation free from sin and death to consecrate it anew and make it return to the Father, for His glory.”

Because Christ is the Head and we are the members of His Body, we too are integrally involved in this action. When we make our own offerings at Mass – of our time, resources, and most of all ourselves – all are taken up and absorbed into Jesus’ perfect sacrifice of thanksgiving.

But our thanksgiving is not limited to the Mass itself. Anything that we experience can become an occasion for thanksgiving. Although it is obviously easier to render thanks in happy circumstances, we should also learn to thank God even in our trials. St. Paul exhorts us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18).

By offering thanksgiving to God in the midst of difficulties, we grow in trust, knowing that the Lord is ordering all things for our eternal welfare. In this way we keep our earthly lives in the proper perspective of our ultimate destiny.

God did not have to create us at all, or share with us His own divine life. If we maintain a spirit of gratitude for God’s great works of creation, redemption, and sanctification – which we could never merit on our own – we can better shoulder the burdens of daily life.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2637-38.

“Our Father”

Following the introductory post on the “Our Father,” we now begin our consideration of the prayer.

We have such an intimate relationship with the God of the universe, that we can rightly call upon Him as Father! Jesus has revealed this extraordinary truth to us, with profound implications for how we relate to God and to each other.

God is the perfect Father, Who loves us beyond all imagining, and seeks our faithful love in return. Ideally, this divine Fatherhood should have been reflected in a way by our human fathers; but if they failed, and left us with wounded images of fatherhood, let us always remember that God is Love.

Filled with this “certainty of being loved” by God, we speak to Him with “filial trust, joyous assurance, humble boldness” (Catechism paragraph 2778).

By seeing God as Father, we recognize ourselves as little children, dependent upon Him for our very being, our sustenance, everything we have. Because God is “our” Father, we see the entire human family as our brothers and sisters.

We address God as being “in heaven” to describe His sublime majesty, His transcendence beyond our limited horizon. That does not imply that He is far away and remote; rather, God is nearer to us than we can grasp.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2777-2802.