The following is the transcript of the homily given by Archbishop Allen Vigneron at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 3, 2016. Present at the Cathedral were its parishioners, and visitors from the Servants of Jesus of Divine Mercy, Knights and Dames of Malta, and many invited from the Divine Mercy Center.
How blessed we all are that God has brought us to the Cathedral this morning on the week-plus-one, the eighth day of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, so that we can by the power of God’s grace receive his blessings today.
I never like to speak of visitors to the Cathedral because while for a few of us this is our principal parish church, this is the second parish church for everyone else in the archdiocese. And so I hope you all feel very much at home. And I know that for Father J.J. Mech, for Father Greg Deters, his vicar, and for all of those who are here Sunday after Sunday, we want to thank you for being part of our celebration on this Divine Mercy Sunday. I’m especially grateful for the groups that have particular devotion to our Lord’s grace of Divine Mercy. The Servants of Jesus of Divine Mercy, the Knights and Dames of Malta, and all of you here who find great consolation in this title of Jesus, of expression of the Father’s mercy.
We are, as all of us are aware, in this great Jubilee of Mercy — this year of mercy called for by our Holy Father, Pope Francis. In establishing this as a jubilee year, the Holy Father wrote that “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy.” And he said that those words sum up the whole of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth. It’s reached its culmination in him. And the Holy Father said we should have this because we need to contemplate the mystery of God’s Mercy day-in and day-out. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy, he says, is the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy is the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers or sisters on the path of life. Mercy is the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever, despite our sinfulness. And at times, the pope writes, we are called to gaze even more intentively on mercy. That’s what he means about this year. And he says we do it so that we can become more effective signs of the Father’s action in our lives. This whole year is about mercy. And especially, most intensely on this day, the Sunday of Divine Mercy established by Saint John Paul the Great, after his experiences of awful suffering during the Second World War. You think about all the terrible things our Holy Father saw in Poland, and then the suffering of his own beloved Polish people in central and eastern Europe after the war. The Holy Father Saint John Paul recognized Saint Faustina’s message of Divine Mercy as great good news needed for our time. Commenting on this, Pope Benedict said Saint John Paul wanted this Sunday to be celebrated as a feast of Divine Mercy. In the word Mercy, Saint John Paul interpreted anew for our time the whole mystery of redemption. “He had lived under two dictatorial regimes. In his contact with poverty, neediness and violence, he had a profound experience with the powers of darkness, which also threaten the world of our time. But he had an equally strong experience of the presence of God, who opposed all these forces with his power — which is totally different and divine.”
The power of Mercy. Isn’t this what we are meditating on today and asking God to fill us with. The power of His mercy. The pope continued, “It is mercy that puts an end to evil. In it is expressed God’s special nature, God’s holiness, the power of truth and love.” And so today, especially ,do we not also recall on how it was on the Saturday vigil of this Sunday — the Sunday of Divine Mercy — Saint John Paul ended his earthly life and went home to his father, the Father of Divine Mercy. So how can we doubt that there is great grace, great blessings, wonderful things made available to all of us gathered here in the Cathedral today.
Two simple parts to my preaching, and then a coda, a conclusion. First of all, what do we mean by Divine Mercy? Second, what’s our role? And then as a coda I’d like to say some things about the Holy Eucharist.
Divine Mercy. From all eternity God has been love. Before there was even creation. Before there was the big bang. There was the love between the Father and the Son, who is the Holy Spirit. A Communion. The great ardor — the furnace of God’s love. And then there was creation, made in love. And on, sometime after the eighth day, there was sin. God made the world good, and we brought sin into this earth. And so God’s eternal undying love takes on the character of mercy — a compassion for our stupidity and the wound that we had made in ourselves and in His world, deliverance from the fruit of sin, which is death. Mercy is God’s love for sinners. And it isn’t simply a futile, a sterile, sentiment. God’s mercy for us sinners, for us wounded men and women, is powerful to heal. It is his way to deliver us, to heal the wounds that we cause — we beginning with Adam and Eve, and all of us in the human race until today.
And so Divine Mercy is a Passover gift, a pascal gift, a gift of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Because in the total self-giving of Jesus Christ to his Father, and the Father’s acceptance of Jesus’ self-gift on Easter, Mercy has triumphed. Mercy is unleashed on the world. Where does this Mercy come from? Where is its seat? What’s ground-zero for Divine Mercy? The very core, the very heart of Jesus Christ. Saint John makes that clear to us. He makes it clear to us in the Gospel we heard today. Because Jesus breathes the spirit of forgiveness, the spirit of Divine Mercy out of his very self. That first Easter night, Jesus Christ —who, less than 24 hours earlier, in his flesh, there was a cadaver in that tomb — but sometime early before the dawn on the first day of the week, the spirit was sent back to the Son by the Father. And now he holds the Spirit in Himself, and he breathes it forth into the world, unto the Apostles, unto the Church. We might say that the Divine Mercy is the very life breath of the eternal living Jesus Christ. And on Good Friday, Saint John also made it clear that the Divine Mercy is seated, has its dwelling place in the heart of the Son of God incarnate. Because it was on Good Friday, when he lay dead on the cross, that the soldier opened Jesus’ side with the lance and there came out blood and water — symbols of the sacraments, baptism and the Eucharist, by which we are immersed in God’s mercy. And so we can say that it’s the wounded heart, the open heart of Jesus that is the true door of Divine Mercy. Our Divine Mercy door here in the cathedral, outside of the Blessed Sacrament is simply a sign of the real door of mercy, the wounded heart of Christ. And the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the love between the Father and the Son, he is the power of Christ’s mercy.
So these are the graces, the gifts, that you and I have received through the sacraments, through baptism… and when we sin against our baptism vows, through the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, which is kind of a second baptism for sinners, a renewal… and above all in the Holy Eucharist.
But we are not — and if you’re taking notes, this is “part two,” Roman numeral II — we are not simply recipients of this mercy. But like Jesus himself, into whom we have been baptized, into whom we must be incorporated, we too must be agents of mercy. We continue the service of mercy that Jesus began in his earthly life. We see that in the first reading today, in the Acts of the Apostles. That’s what Peter and the other of the 11 were busy about — spreading the mercy, being agents of Christ’s mercy. And certainly today the world needs this service from us. It’s not something that we have the luxury of refusing to do, like sometimes you might use coupons or you might not, you might go to Walmart or you might go to Meijer. We don’t have those kinds of options. The world needs us. The world needs the disciples of Jesus because our world is wounded. And there are the kinds of wounds that get a lot of play in the media. And no one begrudges that. The deep sort of world-wide wounds of refugees and poverty, victims of natural disasters. But there’s our own kind of domestic wounds, which are powerful and hurtful nonetheless. The wounds of our families. The wounds of infidelity. The wounds of dependence on substances. The wounds of rancor and grudges that are never ended. All of this needs to be our business — not as busybodies, but as servants of God’s mercy. However we can mediate this love to our neighbors, to our families, husbands and wives each to each other, pastors to parishioners, parishioners to pastor — we need to show mercy to one another. Not my mercy. Not Allen’s mercy. But the mercy of Jesus Christ. This is a form of evangelization. We speak in this Archdiocese about the need to Unleash the Gospel. Above all, we must unleash the good news that God is merciful, and his mercy is broad and available to those who are wounded and hurting. Again quoting Pope Benedict, “Mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message. It is the very name of God, the face with which He himself revealed himself in the Old Covenant, and then in the last days fully in Jesus Christ. Divine Mercy brings peace to hearts, genuine peace flows from Divine Mercy into the world.”
We are called upon by Pope Francis in this year to be rededicated, as his sons and daughters, as his brothers and sisters, to stand with him in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. But the prime work of mercy is to unleash the good news of mercy. To speak to others that God’s mercy, to testify that this mercy is in our midst and available to us — if only we ask, we can be healed; we don’t have to carry around the junk and the woundedness — God wants us to be whole and to be happy. And we are his agents, to witness to this truth and be ministers of his love.
I would offer this figure of speech: Each of us is called to create, I might say, an oasis of mercy. The world can look pretty dead, pretty desiccated, in some places. And we are called to bring forth the water of Christ’s mercy. We sang about water at the beginning of Mass. The choir sang in Latin, “I saw water coming forth from the temple, from the right side. And all those to whom that water came said Alleluia because they were saved.” That’s the water that comes from the real temple, the right side of Jesus. And each of us is called to be kind of a well, to sink a well, to let that water well up and heal the world. I’ts about this water that Jesus said to the Samaritan woman: Whoever drinks this water I shall give will never thirst. That’s what we have to do. Make this water, who is the Holy Spirit of Jesus, available. And later in Saint John’s Gospel, on the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed that everyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from within him. He meant the Holy Spirit.
We have not only been washed in that water, filled with the spirit. But we must be, as Jesus says, wellsprings of that water. And especially, let us do that in our homes. Seems to me that some of the worst wounds and the greatest misery that so many people live through are wounds that come at home. And we need to be oases, fonts, wells for the water of the mercy of Jesus to bubble up and bring healing to hearts and homes. And from that then, there will be healing and new life where we work and in our communities and in our nation. This is what God invites us to do in the year of grace 2016: to unleash the Gospel of Mercy, to unleash the gift of Mercy itself. Finally, about this Eucharist, this is where mercy becomes, Sunday after Sunday, day after day, visible for us Christians. Under the appearances of bread and wine, the merciful self-offering, all-loving Jesus is present in our midst. The Eucharist is the consummation of our baptism and the consummation of the renewal of our baptism in the confessional. It is to be able to come here and be with Jesus that he has given us mercy. What do we do then? We eat mercy and we drink mercy. It can’t be any closer to us — his mercy, his merciful self as it is in the Eucharist. This is how we are saturated with mercy. It is by receiving him in the Holy Eucharist, above all, that we pass through the true door of mercy. We pass through the wound into the very heart of Jesus. There to be burnt up in whatever’s wrong in us, and made aflame with His very love. This is a kind of a recruitment station here today on Woodward Avenue. I hope you’re all ready to sign up. I recruit you to be agents of mercy. To be agents of the Gospel, of the new evangelization, and to spread this new water, this love and mercy of Jesus Christ to the world — because the world is waiting. It doesn’t always know it’s waiting. Sometimes it even pretends to be dismissive. But God knows the world, his world, is waiting. And it falls to us, today, as inept as we sometimes are, it falls to us to be servants of God’s mercy.
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His mercy endures forever.