By His Wounds We Receive Mercy - Divine Mercy Sunday

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > By His Wounds We Receive Mercy - Divine Mercy Sunday

Today is the octave day of Easter. The Church gives us the account of the doubt of Thomas – “unless I put my hand in the holes the nails have made” - and then his wonderful profession of faith – “My Lord and my God”.

This Sunday has been declared Divine Mercy Sunday by Blessed John Paul II. Today this celebration has particular significance as Pope John Paul II is to be canonised a saint at St Peter’s in the Vatican in a few hours time.

Today we have these themes running through this liturgy – the Easter appearances of the risen Lord to the disciples, the revelation made to St Faustina of the Divine Mercy and the canonisation of a pope of such recent memory.

On a personal note this day has significance for me as it was Pope John Paul II who chose me as bishop and shortly after my ordination as bishop I had the honour and blessing of meeting him personally in Rome. I have always had deep admiration for Pope John Paul II. I describe him as “the Pope of my priesthood”. He was the inspiration for the years of my priestly ministry and so often his teaching and example inspired my own pastoral ministry. To him I am personally deeply indebted.

Let us go the Gospel we have just read. 

When the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples he was clearly transformed. On a number of occasions the Scriptures reveal that his closest disciples did not recognise him immediately. Yet the Risen Lord though now glorious and transcendent carried the marks of the wounds on his body. They were clearly in evidence. The risen Lord who appeared to them was the same Jesus of Nazareth who died on Calvary.

It is significant that the Risen Lord continues to carry the marks of his passion. The Resurrection did not eliminate these marks. The Lord carries them as a constant reminder as to who he is and to what he did. He is the one who was the incarnate Word of God. He was the one who offered his life for our salvation. The full identity of Christ is found in the one who suffered and died. The marks declare: “I am the crucified one”. Or using the Scriptural image: “I am the Lamb of God, the lamb who was sacrificed”.

At Mass as we prepare to receive the Risen Lord in Holy Communion we declare, “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us”. When we think of the image of the Lamb of God we immediately declare him to be the sacrificed lamb who has taken away the sins of the world. Believing this we become conscious of our own need and we humbly implore him, “have mercy on us”. What we are saying is: “Jesus, Lamb of God, let your mercy flow upon my soul, for I am a sinner and you died for me”. We know Christ the Risen Lord as the one who suffered and died for us.

Thus, when the Lord appeared to St Faustina his wounds were in evidence. The focus was particularly on the pierced heart of Jesus from which the streams of red and white light flowed. The hands were pierced, the feet showed the marks of the nails. It is the heart that most expresses the meaning of the passion. He had his heart opened by a spear, blood and water flowed out. His heart gave everything – the last drops of blood flowed from his body. Now from his open heart flows the grace of mercy. Streams of new life, streams of transforming grace, flow from the heart that sacrificed all for us.

We recall the words of the prophet, “by his wounds we are healed”. (Is 53:4-5) Today we can say “by his wounds we receive mercy”. From the pierced heart of Jesus flow the streams of mercy.

The death of Christ on the cross opened the floodgates of mercy. The love of God for humanity found its ultimate expression at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High God. Mankind was redeemed and grace flowed forth. The Resurrection was God’s vindication of the sacrifice of his Son, but it was also the declaration that his risen Son would become the source of transforming grace and mercy. Those who turn to him will receive the fruits of the passion.

We saw in the Gospel today that the decisive act of the Risen Lord when he appeared on the eve of the Resurrection was to bestow on them the power to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven”. Jesus, risen and glorious, proclaims that now his disciples can mediate the forgiveness – the mercy of God – won on Calvary.

Divine Mercy Sunday draws us into the meaning of the death and resurrection of the Lord for us. Mankind is redeemed, but we do need to appropriate this reality to our own lives. It is not just a theological truth or a dogmatic statement, it is a power active in our lives. This explains why the Sacrament of Penance is so strongly linked to the Feast of Divine Mercy. This Sacrament is the pre-eminent means by which the mercy of God comes to us.

We commemorate the Resurrection with great joy: “Alleluia, the Lord is risen as he said”. But there is a further step that we should take. The Easter cry is not just on our lips, but we long for the risen life to flow into our hearts and lives.
Divine Mercy Sunday invites us to seek and obtain the mercy gained for us on Calvary. It is a day to seek God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that the light of mercy can flood our souls. It is a day in which we venerate the image of Divine Mercy, making a personal response to Christ in saying, “Jesus, I trust in you”. It is a day on which we can say the chaplet invoking the mercy of God not only on ourselves, but on the whole world.

When the risen Lord appeared on the octave day of the Resurrection he singled out Thomas and said to him, “doubt no longer but believe”. On this Sunday the Lord says to each of us: “believe in me, trust in me, surrender yourself to me, let me pour out my divine mercy upon you”.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 27 April 2014