May Our Burdens Be Lifted
The following is the Divine Mercy Sunday homily delivered by the Most Rev. Mitchell Rozanski, bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, on April 3, 2016 at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The readings were taken from Acts 5:12-16; Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; and John 20:19-31.
My dear Friends,
For all of us who gather here today to celebrate Divine Mercy, this is a particularly poignant time. Many are able to join us through the broadcast of EWTN, Eternal Word Television Network, and I greet all of them on behalf of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, our hosts, and the thousands who are gathered here today. We remember with solemnity at this Mass Mother Angelica, who was called home to the Lord just one week ago, on Easter Sunday afternoon. She, too, was a great apostle of Divine Mercy and her love for this devotion lives on in this broadcast of the Mass from here at Eden Hill.
Secondly, we also gather with great joy for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, whose Founder, Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski, will be declared a saint on June 5, 2016, very appropriately in the middle of this great Jubilee Year of Mercy. Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski demonstrated a heroic trust in the Lord, especially in the early days of founding this religious community. But his trust has indeed been rewarded in the many dedicated vowed and ordained who have followed him in service to the Church, particularly now in fostering devotion to Divine Mercy. In Stanislaus Papczynski, we have another advocate at the throne of God, imploring for all of us on our earthly pilgrimage the mercy, compassion and forgiveness that we seek from our heavenly Father.
And how appropriate, too, that we come in such great numbers to this National Shrine of The Divine Mercy during this extraordinary Jubilee Year declared by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who urges us to dwell on the theme, "Merciful Like the Father." In a world that is so torn by violence, division and the horrible effects of humanity's sinful nature, this Jubilee Year is an oasis of hope and comfort to all who seek the peace that is rooted solely in the mercy of our loving God.
I feel confident that I speak for all of our priests when I say that there is such an affirming feeling to hear in the confessional, after the words of absolution have been spoken, the penitent responding, "Father, thank you, I feel such a burden lifted." For over these past months, since the feast of the Immaculate Conception, I have heard a few confessions of people who returned after many years, prompted by the call to seek God's mercy in this Jubilee year. For priests, being the instruments of God's mercy in hearing confessions, it is truly humbling to be able to offer counsel, encouragement and finally, those life-giving healing words, "And I absolve you from all your sins, in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!"
Each one of us certainly knows of our need to humbly seek out the mercy of God in our lives. When he declared this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote in Misericordia Vultis: "We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and Man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness." In these few lines, Pope Francis summarizes the action of mercy in our lives.
In her own life, St. Faustina Kowalska exemplified this action of mercy in her dedication to our Blessed Savior.
As she witnessed the vision of Jesus pouring out His grace upon his humble daughter-servant, St. Faustina was surrounded by the love of the Trinity, God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, united in love for each other and for us. A love so great that justice itself has been subsumed into mercy for us sinners. How overwhelmed Faustina must have felt to share in that glory of God that generates pure mercy!
Mercy: The ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. In that chapel in Krakow, St. Faustina encountered the Merciful Jesus who came to show her how to meet God in most tender of ways, within the mantle of Divine Mercy. The red and white rays reach out to us, surrounding us and inviting us in to the love of God that never forgets His people. The image of Jesus, hand raised in blessings, certainly enfolds us with blessing and concretely reminds us that He came to this earth to redeem us all from our sins. Mercy can only be obtained by our encounter with the Crucified and Risen Lord, who united Himself with our humanity in order to redeem us.
Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. On the Sunday after his election as Pope in March 2013, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Church of St. Anne, just inside Vatican City. At that Mass, in his homily he stated: "`The message of Jesus is mercy. For me and I say this with humility, it is the Lord's strongest message." How many times, brothers and sisters do we pray: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Our blessed Lord admonishes us that these cannot merely be words spoken, but truly He asks us to live them. And this, we know, is the most difficult part of mercy. We can trust in God whose divine love is perfect, but can we show mercy to one another when we have been wronged? Yet, Jesus shows us the way to forgiveness by His last words on the Cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." This is an act of mercy and pure love. May we seek to imitate that grace-filled forgiveness that the Lord has shown to us, imperfect though we are.
Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening Our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness. Why did St. Faustina go through such trials to spread the word of Divine Mercy? She wanted to follow the instruction of Jesus to help us to know how much He seeks us out, reaching out to us in mercy and giving us that forgiveness of God. This is our only hope for eternal life: that we experience God's mercy for us, washing us clean of our sins and preparing us for the life of heaven. No greater gift can be offered. No wonder that St. Faustina would hold steadfast to fostering this devotion and Pope Francis would declare this an extraordinary Year of Jubilee. For only in Divine Mercy can we ever hope to be fully united with our God forever. We know that we could not do this on our own, but only with the love and mercy our Heavenly Father has shown us in His Human face, Jesus. For Jesus is that bridge of mercy, offering us the path over the perils of this life to the promise of life everlasting. Here, on Eden Hill, we have this foretaste of the Divine Mercy of God outpoured on us. May our pilgrimage here today lead us closer to being enfolded by the Divine Mercy of God.
Let us pray to those great saints of Divine Mercy:
St. Faustina Kowalska, pray for us!
St. John Paul II, pray for us!
Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski, pray for us!
Jesus, I trust in You!