(Acts 5:12-16; Rev.1:9-13, 17-19; Jn.20:19-31)
On the Secrets of Divine Mercy
We all want peace, don’t we? Sadly, there’s more fear, mistrust and tension around us than peace. What can we do about it?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus enters the locked room where his disciples are hiding and says, ‘peace be with you’. He also says something similar in our second reading to St John, who’s exiled on the island of Patmos. Jesus says, ‘Do not be afraid’.
Jesus often speaks of peace, but the peace he refers to isn’t just restful calm or a beach holiday. It’s much deeper than that. Jesus’ peace comes from a life of love and joy that’s only available from God.
So many saints have shown us that a life filled with God’s love is not only liberating and transforming and dynamic, but it’s also peaceful.
Consider the Apostles after Jesus’ resurrection. They’re totally transformed as they finally start understanding Jesus’ message about God’s love. And when Jesus says, ‘As my Father has sent me, so I send you’, they go out and start telling everyone about God’s unconditional love and mercy. And despite the obvious dangers, they’re peaceful inside.
The early Christians understood this. They knew the parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Shepherd. They understood that God’s love isn’t just the pardon of a merciful judge; it’s actually the warm embrace of a loving father.
Sadly, people have been forgetting this, but Jesus doesn’t give up easily. He wants everyone to understand God’s love, and that’s why he keeps working through the saints to remind us.
In the 1200s, St Gertrude and St Mechtilde in Germany encouraged people to recognise the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the symbol of God’s love. Their beautiful prayers and devotions helped many people to find peace.
In the 1670s, in France, Jesus revealed to St Margaret Mary Alacoque the secrets of his Sacred Heart and again many Christians discovered peace, love and joy. Every first Friday millions of people prayed with the words ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus I trust in Thee’ on their lips and in their hearts.
As time passed, however, these too seemed to be forgotten. But Jesus doesn’t give up.
Jesus wants a personal relationship with each of us, not just in our heads, but deep in our hearts.
In February 1931, Jesus appeared to a humble nun, Sr Maria Faustina Kowalska, in Poland. He appeared as the ‘King of Divine Mercy’, wearing a white garment, with rays of white and red light shining from his heart. He told Sr Faustina to paint this image, with the words: ‘Jesus, I trust in You’. He said he wanted this image venerated, first in her chapel, and then throughout the world. And he promised that anyone who venerates this image will not perish.
In several revelations, Jesus taught her the secrets of his Divine Mercy, saying that it’s unlimited and available to even the greatest sinners. And he said he wanted the Sunday after Easter to be celebrated as the Feast of Divine Mercy.
Sr. Faustina was surprised that he wanted this Feast of Divine Mercy. She asked, ‘Isn’t there one already?’ But Jesus replied, ‘Who knows anything about this feast? No one! Even those who should be proclaiming my mercy and teaching the people about it, often don’t know about it themselves’.
Why does this worry Jesus?
Well, we should remember the Pharisees. In Matthew 15:8, Jesus calls them hypocrites and says, ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’. The Pharisees had forgotten the meaning of their prayers and their rituals, and their worship became very superficial. Nothing they did touched their hearts. They had no relationship with God, so it’s not surprising that they didn’t recognise Jesus when he arrived.
Jesus doesn’t want that to happen to us. He wants a personal relationship with each of us, not just in our heads, but deep in our hearts.
For four years Faustina Kowalska kept a diary of her contact with Jesus. The result is the book ‘Divine Mercy in My Soul’ – 600 pages about God’s merciful love for us and how he wants us to live and pray.
In April 2000, Pope St John Paul II canonised Sr Faustina and established the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. That’s what we celebrate today.
So, let’s pray for peace – the unfathomable peace we all need deep in our hearts.
The peace that only comes from truly loving, trusting and understanding the tender loving and merciful heart of our God.