This is Divine Mercy Sunday – a celebration of God’s goodness that means that whatever our sins, we can always repent and have a new beginning with him. No better example than the Prodigal Son. In the icon of Divine Mercy as Jesus manifested himself to St Faustina Kowalska, we can see that he is moving towards us as one foot is in front of another.
At this celebration last year, Pope Francis canonised both Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. Here is an extract of his homily on that occasion which is based on today’s gospel of Jesus’ appearance in the Upper Room:
“The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: ‘by his wounds you have been healed’.
“John XXIII and John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side”, exclaimed Pope Francis. “They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalised by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother, because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia [boldness] of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.
“They were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother.
“In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy. The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.