Sunday, April 27, 2014

Two New Saints on Divine Mercy Sunday

Terry Wynne was a parishioner at St. Anthony’s whom we often saw here at the 5 p.m. Mass. Although she was infirm, one of her daughters would faithfully bring her to Mass each Sunday.

She died early on Easter morning. At her funeral yesterday there were four priests concelebrating. Thanking us, her daughter Joan said “Mom would be so pleased to see four priests on the altar, she’d think she’d died and gone to heaven!”

Needless to say, the congregation roared with laughter. The words were a wonderful reminder that heaven’s never far from a Christian’s thoughts, and that faith and hope relieve even the painful loss of loved ones.

In today’s Gospel we meet Jesus Christ who is both wounded and risen—crucified yet glorified. In his homily earlier today, Pope Francis stated that “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,” the Pope explained. They remain as “the enduring sign of God’s love for us.”

Our new saints 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”, Pope Francis said. They were not scandalized by his cross, despite all the sufferings they had seen and experienced.

Although they had lived through the tragic events of the twentieth century, “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.”

These words of Pope Francis make us deeply grateful to God for the witness and teaching of the two new saints. But the two canonizations must also lead us to imitate St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II. Their examples inspire us to live the faith as they did—first with trust in God’s mercy, and second with trust in God’s message.

What a picture of Christian life is painted in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles! As the Holy Father said in his homily this morning, the earliest community of believers “lived the heart of the Gospel, love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.”

Among them were people who surely had lost hope for a time. But the risen Lord restored that hope.

Some of us lose hope for a time—briefly, or even for a season of our lives. There is really only one answer to that, and St. Peter proclaims it in our second reading: By God’s “great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

On this remarkable day in the history of the Church, I can’t help feeling amazed at the fact that I have met one of her canonized saints. But at the same time, I find myself thinking that it’s not so strange at all—all the time I meet future saints in their lifetimes and celebrate their funerals when they die.

These women and men will never be canonized, but many of them have “lived the heart of the Gospel, love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.” Many of them, like St. John and St. John Paul, experienced tragic events in the world and in their lives 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.”

Together with Pope Francis, we pray that both our new saints may “teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy.” At the same time, let us also be inspired by the saints among us in our own parish, who strive to live the faith of the early Church in present-day circumstances.

This glorious Sunday of Divine Mercy has a message for us as individual Christians, since we need both to receive mercy and to show it to others. But it also speaks to us as members of the Church, the Body of Christ, which itself has been wounded much in recent years.

Today, let us all rejoice that God is greater than our greatest trial, and that the mercy of God is more powerful than our greatest weakness.

You never know—if we fully live our Easter joy, we might even feel like we’ve died and gone to heaven!

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