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05 Divine Mercy Decimates Darkness

posted Apr 25, 2019, 5:54 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated ]
The Feast of the Divine Mercy, which we celebrate each year on the Sunday following Easter, reinforces the message of the Resurrection and the depth of God's boundless mercy and love that are made accessible to us through the events of Holy Week culminating in Christ's powerful breakthrough into Life and Light. In the words of St Pope John Paul II: "Divine Mercy is the Easter gift that the Church receives through the Risen Christ and offers to humanity" (Homily, April 22, 2001).

The Gospel proclaimed on this Sunday is always the story of doubting Thomas, but more importantly, of the disciples who have locked themselves up in the Upper Room out of fear. The tomb is open, but the doors to the hearts of the disciples remain closed. Easter may come and go, but the infinite outpouring of God's mercy may fail to move us. Our existential concerns may have trapped us in narrow spaces, from which we struggle to liberate ourselves. We fail to find the courage to face those painful and life-long wounds that we try to keep buried deep within us. Perhaps, like the disciples, we are afraid of disappointment, afraid of being judged, afraid of failing.

But closed doors and trapped hearts cannot keep Jesus away! The Risen Christ passes through closed doors, and unlocks them from within. He invites us to once again 'go out' and thus unchain those millstones we have attached to ourselves. Our understanding of the mercy of Christ is key to our relationship with Him, and the key to becoming 'disciples'. It is only when we fathom the profound implications of God's mercy for our salvation, will we desire to become 'missionaries of mercy' ourselves, showcasing the merciful face of God to others. Mercy is the greatest form of evangelisation.

As we ponder the mercy of God, we may feel contradicted by the twin tragedies that struck the world last week. The iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris suffered extensive damage in a devastating fire on April 15. And then last Sunday, in what is being referred to as the Easter Bombings, eight blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, leaving more than 200 dead, and countless more maimed and scarred. Sadly, this has become an ugly and predictable dynamic, where violence is unleashed on worshippers gathered to celebrate the central mysteries of their faith. In 2016, 75 people died, and at least 300 were injured, when bombs exploded in a park in the heavily Christian neighbourhood of Lahore in Pakistan, as people were celebrating after Easter services. In 2017, bombings at two Coptic Christian Churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday left 45 people dead.

Death unleashed on a day of New Life can leave us bewildered about the meaning of Resurrection in our lives. However, the Resurrection is itself the greatest sign and sacrament, which reveals to us how God's life and mercy can blossom in the midst of death and suffering. The killing of Graham Staines, Sr Rani Maria and many present day martyrs has led to a conversion of hearts and a blossoming of the faith. The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.

After fire-fighters had put out the fire at Notre Dame, the main doors of the cathedral were opened, to reveal the Cross high above the main altar, gleaming over the smouldering embers of the interior, illuminated by a ray of light pouring in from one of the iconic stained-glass windows. This was a powerful image of God's mercy in the midst of destruction and a tragic sense of loss. Like the two rays St Faustina saw emanating from the Heart of Christ, the Cross in the cathedral is a reminder to us that God's mercy withstands all evil, fear, tragedy and hopelessness.

Where was God when the Notre Dame was up in flames? "He was everywhere and in everyone", said Fr James Martin SJ, "God was in the Fire chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier, who rushed into the burning cathedral to save the most precious relic that it held, what is considered to be the 'crown of thorns' that was placed on Jesus' head." God rushes into the arms of death to save what is most precious to Him – you and me! That is the most potent image of the Divine Mercy.

As we become painfully aware of the continuous attacks on our Christian brothers and sisters at home and abroad, we offer their sacrifice and souls into the hands of our Merciful God, and pray that the blood of martyrdom may bring peace to our troubled world.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on the Editorial Board of The Examiner.