Thursday, 27 March 2008

Divine Mercy Sunday - Year A

Acts 2:42-47; 1Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

The prayer Jesus I trust in you is the heart of the Divine Mercy devotion.

The mercy of God is our only hope - and every day, as we walk the difficult paths of life, we learn to whisper over and over again, deep down in our hearts: Jesus, I trust in you! Jesus, I trust in you. This simple prayer of faith, this grace of confident trust, is a gift from the merciful God which gives us power to do all sorts of things in our spiritual lives.

I come from the Latrobe Valley, in Victoria, and live very close to a huge power station called Loy Yang. This power station sends energy all over Victoria and provides the energy for new growth and development all over the State. And this simple prayer, Jesus I trust in you, is a power station for our spiritual life. But we have to mean it and live it. It means: Jesus, I trust in your merciful love for me.

When we can truly make this prayer the way Saint Faustina made it, we are saying to God: You lead, I’ll follow, because I trust in you! Now this makes the world of difference to the way we live our lives. You lead, I’ll follow, because I trust in you! So for the rest of this time let’s reflect on what kind of power this prayer, this powerhouse, makes possible for us in our lives.

Firstly, it enables us to repent of our sins by taking from us the fear that we will be humiliated or rejected. Now this is a really big issue and there are many people who hold back in this area because it is so painful and scary and difficult for them - but not when we say, Jesus, I trust in you!

If we knew the doctor could not help us, or was going to scream abuse at us for getting sick, or was going to say, 'Get out of my office, your disease disgusts me!' would we bother going to see him? Would we bother telling him where it hurts? Of course not. It would be a waste of time. But when we trust the doctor we tell him everything:
  • What’s the problem? I have this itch. How long have you had it? Two weeks. Where is it? Under my arm. Which arm? My left arm. Show me. Have you been in the garden recently? Yes, we've just moved in to a new house. Ah ha! I think you've been bitten by something. Try this for 7 days and come back if it doesn’t clear up and we’ll have a further look. Thank you, Doctor!
Now I will interrupt myself and ask you at this point: Can Jesus cure spider bites? Yes? Of course he can. So why does he send us to a doctor? Why all this messing around? Why can’t we just kneel down beside our bed, say a prayer of petition, and have Jesus cure our spider bite? Why does he send us to the doctor?

Why did Moses have to lead the people out of Egypt? Couldn’t God have done that himself?

Why did Moses have to stretch out his hand and hold the staff over the waters of the Red Sea before God parted the waters?

Why did he have to strike the rock with his staff before God let the water come out of the rock?

When Jesus cured the ten lepers why did he command them: Go and show yourselves to the priest?

The answer to all these questions is the same as the answer to the question - Why do we have to confess our sins to a priest?

We let the priest baptise us, confirm us, bring the Body and Blood of Jesus onto the altar at Mass and give it to us in Holy Communion, marry us, and anoint us, but many of us won’t let him forgive our sins. We invent weak excuses to justify our behaviour. How sad!

We all know that before we can be cured we have to identify the disease - and so it is for our soul.
Maybe for some this is the scariest part. Looking at what they have done - admitting that this is their sin.
  • I’ve had an abortion, or maybe two or three ... I’ve been unfaithful to my wife, my husband … I’ve slept with my boyfriend … I’ve committed homosexual acts … I’ve stolen money … I’ve sexually interfered with someone … I’ve had a vasectomy, or a tubal ligation, or I’m on the pill… I murdered someone’s good name … I refuse to forgive my mother, my father, or someone else … I’ve taken drugs … I've spent all our money on gambling ...
Yes, it’s hard to admit our sins; let’s not pretend about this, we need a special grace, a special simple humility and trust. St Faustina says in one of her poems: And a soul all black will turn into snow. The Mercy of God is waiting for us to say YES! And having washed us clean it will lead us on to salvation.

Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18)

Jesus said to St Faustina: Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even 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. At the same time he said to her, speaking about the Feast of Mercy: The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.

Go to Confession to a priest - face to face - telling him each one of your sins - beginning with the ones you don’t want to tell him - the grave ones - not making excuses - not minimising - not trying to hide the big one in amongst the little ones - but simply, honestly, humbly confessing. Name your sin and claim your sin and be forgiven. And then receive him in Holy Communion!
As I said at the beginning: to be able to say Jesus I trust in you is to be able to confess your sins confidently at the Throne of Divine Mercy, which is the Sacrament of Confession. There you will hear no recriminations, no accusations, no gasps of shock or looks of surprise, just the Divine Mercy of God poured into your heart through the words of the priest: I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

As a priest I have a certain deep respect for those who come regularly to confession and bring the same sins over and over again. They are my heroes. I respect and love them dearly. They are such brave and humble souls. Sometimes they have habits of sin they cannot yet break, serious sin, sometimes less serious sin. But week after week or month after month they come, humbly, stubbornly confessing, asking forgiveness and healing again and again, trusting that God will forgive and one day set them free. And I have seen many of them set free.

Let me now, briefly, point out some other areas of our life where deep trust in the Divine Mercy of God gives us energy to live the Christian life. It give us power to believe all that the Catholic Church teaches. There is a great need for this today. How many people are there in the Church who consider themselves Catholics in good standing but who say 'But I don’t believe this, and I don’t believe that'? And what damage are these people doing to the Church and to the souls of those who listen to them!

Today there is this strange phenomenon where people judge reality and truth by what they themselves can understand with their mind. So they say 'Oh, I don’t understand that so it can’t be true!'

What pride! What lack of trust in Jesus and in the Church he established to bring us his truth! What error! - to reduce reality to the level of our own IQ.

Today we need people who can say Jesus I trust in you and I trust you would not allow your Church to teach me error. I don’t understand this or that teaching but I trust in your Church to tell me the truth because she is YOUR Church and I trust in you. It enables us to believe what the Church teaches us because it is His Church.

Our prayer of trust in the Divine Mercy of God also gives us power to deal with the sufferings of our life. Do you have a child who is in moral danger, walking the wrong road? You pray for your child but there seems to be no improvement? Jesus, I trust in you!

Is there a shortage of money in the house? Poverty? Unemployment? Jesus, I trust in you!

Do you, or someone close to you, have a terminal illness and are dreading the moment of death or the process of dying? Jesus, I trust in you!

Do you look to the future with great fear and anxiety for some reason? Jesus, I trust in you!
Have you been humiliated, abandoned, rejected, accused, punished unjustly? Jesus, I trust in you!

There is no human situation which we cannot face if we truly trust in the Divine Mercy of Jesus!

Finally, trust in Jesus gives us power and permission to be silent and to suffer with him in silence. When we can’t yet trust we are always complaining and telling people our worries. 'Oh, my son this, and my daughter that, and my wife, such and such'

Deep trust causes deep, powerful silence in our hearts and we find ourselves more and more ready to share our pain only with him.

The Christian life is a life of struggle and we should not give up. The fruits of trust are seasonal. They will come in due season if we continue to struggle trustingly. I pray today that you will learn to trust the Divine Mercy of God and that you will begin again, with renewed resolve, to walk your life with him.

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