Apr 5, 2016
This morning I put on my favorite shirt. Let me describe it to you. It's short sleeved and black. And a white collar goes right here. The reason it is my favorite is because it is the least faded of all my clerical shirts, as in, it is the most black. Why do priests where black? It is a sign of repentance, penance, and sacrifice. In the Old Testament, people wore sack cloth and ashes as a sign of repentance. Still today, all of us are called to make sacrifices, but Catholic priests are asked to make their lives a sacrifice to God in two unique ways. One, they give up the right to get married. They choose celibacy as a way of following Jesus and serving the Kingdom of Heaven. Two, they offer the sacrifice of the Mass when they "do this in remembrance of" Jesus life, death, and resurrection. Well, this morning I looked at my stained white collars and thought to myself, I need to clean these up. So I pour some bleach in a pan and soaked some of my collars to make them pure white again. It worked very well until, as I was wiping them off, the bleach splattered my very black shirt. "Hello spots!" Then I began to reflect, when we get to heaven we will not be wearing black anymore. We will all be wearing white as signified by baptismal gowns. Since that is the case, we should all be diving into an ocean of spiritual bleach to be made pure white again. We should all take a swim in the ocean of Divine Mercy to be readied for heaven.
What is Divine Mercy? According to Vinny Flynn, it is a devotion. It is the prayers prescribed by Jesus to St. Faustina for the whole world. But if that is all it is, it will do little good. Divine Mercy is a message. It is the Gospel of God's love shared with the whole world. Yet, if it is just a message, it will not be effective in fulfilling its promise of eternal life. Divine Mercy is a way of life. Lets take a look at the image of Divine Mercy for a couple clues as to what I mean.
The image of Divine Mercy to us is meant to make us the image of Divine Mercy to the whole world. Look at Jesus right hand. He is reflecting the fatherly love of God as it is raised in the gesture of blessing. If there is anything God does, it is that He blesses; He gives of Himself; He loves. The Father shares His Divine Mercy with us through His Son who is the perfect reflection of the Father. When we look at Jesus, we see the Father!
Jesus left hand is giving us an invitation. "Come into my heart. I welcome you here." If Jesus' hand was not pointing to His heart there would still be light coming from it. The light isn't only to be showered upon us wherever we are. It is meant to attract us to come closer. When I am in a dark room my eyes are naturally drawn to the light. If I want to get out of the darkness, I will naturally walk towards the light. Isn't this the common theme of those who experience near death experiences? It is also our experience when we aren in a dark room wanting to get out. The left hand is showing us the way back to God the Father, "come into my heart." To sum up with images from our Gospel, Jesus blesses his disciples by saying to them, "Peace be with you." And he invites all of us into his heart when he tells Thomas, "put your hand into my side." And when we do, we should have the same response, "My Lord and My God!"
How does God bless us, that is, love us? According to the Acts of the Apostles He heals us and casts out demons. But lets go deeper into this great mystery by first looking at how we tend to love. Have any of you ever been on a date? What attracted you to the person to go out with? It was something they did. Maybe they smiled at you, opened the door for you, or just showed you a twinkle in their eye. They made you feel good and you wanted to get to know them better. Fast forward a little bit, then you began to love them based on their performance or behavior. We have been trained to love backwards. God's love is different. He loves us because of who we are. He sees Jesus in each one of us. He doesn't love us because of our behavior; He loves us because we are His, made in His image and likeness. To give a better idea of this recall the Gospel about workers going out into the vineyard. Some of them began in the morning, others started at noon, and a few even came to work in the last hour of the day. Then they lined up for their pay and each received a full days wage. To us we say, "That's not fair!" We give according to performance. But God gives all of Himself to anyone who turns to Him, because He loves them for who they are. Mother Teresa was a great example of seeing Jesus in people and loving them for who they were.
I want to also mention the word "prodigal." Immediately we think of the Prodigal Son, as we should. But the word prodigal does not mean "bad". It means, "squander." The younger son squandered his inheritance on frivolous living. But the father is also a squanderer. He squanders his love on his sons. He hold nothing back for either son regardless of their behaviors. He gives an over abundance of love to them because they are his sons. So too, God squanders his love and mercy on each of us.
My last point today. John was instructed to write down everything he saw in the vision described in our second reading. St. Faustina was asked to write down all she heard from Jesus. This was in order to share the devotion, the message, and the way of life of Divine Mercy. You and I are also called to share Divine Mercy with others. You and I are to become the image of Divine Mercy for the whole world. We need to, as Pope Francis tells us, as the bible tells us, "Be merciful as your Father in Heaven is merciful." We need to bless people - our families, our neighbors, and complete strangers. Not because they deserve it, but because of who they are - children of God. But first we need to accept the invitation to crawl into the Sacred Heart of Jesus from which comes Divine Mercy. In fact, I invite you to imagine and put yourselves along with all your worries and concerns into the chalice during the consecration. Take a swim in the ocean of Mercy. It is in the ocean of Divine Mercy you and I will become perfectly bleached with the purity of Christ that we may be assured eternal life.