Divine Mercy: 'All of Us Need It'
The following is the homily delivered by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C., on Divine Mercy Sunday at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.:
Your Excellency Bishop McDonnell, my dear brother priests, my dear sisters and brothers in consecrated life, my sisters and brothers all in Jesus Christ our Lord, I would like to start with a story.
About 20 years ago, I was in Poland in the city of Katowice, and I was walking one evening after supper with the auxiliary bishop of that town ... who was a very holy man, known for his holiness, known for his love of the poor. For a long time he had served the Conference of Bishops in Poland in the work of taking care of the poor, and the hungry, and the dispossessed.
He said to me as we were walking along chatting, he said, "Do you know anything about the devotion to The Divine Mercy?" And I said, "No, I've never heard of it." And he began to explain to me what it was all about. He told me the story of Sr. Faustina, told me how she had received these wonderful messages from the Lord. Told me how the Lord had even given her the description of a painting that was to be venerated throughout the world. Told me that her writings and her teaching about The Divine Mercy had been shared with many people, and was really accepted in a wonderful enthusiastic way by the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II.
I became very interested in it, and he began to teach me more and more about it. When I got home, and began to read more, I was convinced of the great message that God had given us in this time, through this nun. Through Poland, through Lithuania, through Eastern Europe, and to all the world, and I was so happy that our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, having heard and known of this message, was proclaiming it in a very special way.
As we know now, when the year 2000 came and the new millennium was born, the Holy Father made today the Feast of The Divine Mercy and said when he canonized now St. Faustina, "I give you a saint for a new millennium. A saint who proclaims the trust and hope in the Risen Lord because trust and confidence will be the virtue that the world needs most as it enters the Third Millennium.
Trust and confidence. That has been the mark of The Divine Mercy. That has been the mark of what all of us who gather here today have listened to and have learned and loved.
I want to ask you a few questions. You don't have to respond verbally, but answer to yourselves. Even as I have told you, when I first heard about The Divine Mercy, when did you first hear about The Divine Mercy? When did you first learn about it?
I hope you've answered that. Now, let me ask you another question: When did you first realize how much you needed in your life The Divine Mercy? Now that's a question we can all answer the same way, I guess. Because as soon as we know the Mercy of God then look at ourselves, we realize immediately how much we need His mercy, how much we need to have confidence in His love. Confidence in His forgiveness. Confidence in His understanding of our weaknesses, of our difficulties, of our trials, of our sins, confidence in His willingness to give us what we need to start over again. To begin a new life, to begin a new chapter, to turn the page on the past and to make a difference in the future.
That's what The Divine Mercy is for us. And all of us need it. And not only do we need it, but on a special day like this, we feel the Presence of The Divine Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Father, and of the Holy Spirit. The Divine Mercy, which brings us even today, here in this place, in a very special, wonderful, grace-filled way, today, you and I, all of us, and those watching on television, will be conscious of The Divine Mercy in a way that we have never been before.
We know that because Jesus said this will happen. So be prepared.
Be prepared to be filled with the grace that comes from God's love. Be prepared to be taken up into His love in a special way today. Be prepared to note how we must be sorry for our sins and want to start over again. Be prepared to know that this day, the Lord speaks to every single one of us; promises us that in His mercy He will answer our prayers. He promises that if we strive ourselves to be what He wants us to be, He will help us. He will make us different. He will make us holy. He will give us the grace to do all the things that we know we must do to find happiness in His love. He will do this for us because He loves us.
Today, let us be filled with prayer. And today, let us be filled with that grace.
The gospel today is filled with The Divine Mercy. If you read it carefully again, you'll see it constantly on every sentence. The way the Lord treats Thomas. He comes to Thomas — Thomas had not been there the last time He was present. Maybe because he was doing something, maybe he had a job to do, maybe because he was busy, or maybe because he was afraid to face Jesus. He had walked away like the rest of them. And he had been close to the Lord. Thomas was the one who often had questions of the Lord. Who often has concerns, wants to understand what Jesus is saying. Thomas probably understood very much who Jesus was, and still he walked away. Still he didn't have the courage to stand by the cross as John did.
Thomas is really afraid to face the Lord again. But now, Jesus comes a second time and Thomas sees Him, and Thomas doesn't know what he's going to do, doesn't know if the Lord is going to be angry with him because he has said, "I'm not going to believe unless I put my finger into His hands and my hand into His side." That is enough to get Thomas even more worried. But the Lord says, "Come, Thomas. Come. Put your finder into My hand and your hand into My side. Come Thomas I need you to be a believer."
There's mercy in that, isn't there? There's love in that, isn't there? There's forgiveness, isn't there?
That's how Jesus deals with all of us. That's what His love is for every one of us.
And then secondly, of course, The Divine Mercy is present as He gives the apostles and to the whole Church the ability to, in His name, pardon sins — to forgive in His name. He gives us the Sacrament of Penance at that very moment. He gives us the opportunity, which we've had now for 2,000 years, to come again and start anew, just by confessing our sins and promising, with His help and His grace, to live a good and holy life. There's The Divine Mercy, too, in a very special way.
And how often does He say at this time, and so often in His life, "Do not be afraid!" Do not be afraid. That's the call of The Divine Mercy. Do not be afraid because you have a Lord who loves you. Do not be afraid because you have a Lord who forgives. Do not be afraid because you have a Lord who wants to forget your sins and live with you in joyful, grace-filled happiness. Do not be afraid because He has gone to the cross for you. Do not be afraid because His love for you is the greatest love in the world, and because He invites you to love Him, too.
The gospels are filled with The Divine Mercy because in a real perfect sense, The Divine Mercy is at the heart of all that we believe. We believe in a God who loves us. We believe in a God who is Father. We believe in a God who cares. We believe in a God who forgives. We believe in a God who gives us always a second chance. We believe in a God who, by His grace, calls us into holiness, calls us into love, calls us into forgiveness, calls us into grace.
Our Holy Father Pope Benedict [XVI] in that wonderful encyclical that we have just received, Spe Salvi, that we are saved by hope, talks about these great virtues that are all part of The Divine Mercy.
We begin with faith. Unless we believe that God is merciful, unless we believe that there is a God who is Father who loves, us, then our faith is worthless.
And so, this is the basis of our faith. And faith springs into hope, doesn't it? If you know and believe with all your heart as we will say in our Creed, that God is present and that ... He does save us — then, you have to have confidence in His love. "Jesu, ufam tobie," the Lord said to Faustina. Pray this prayer, "Jesus, I trust in You." I put my trust in You. I have confidence in You. You are my friend. You are my beloved. And You love me. And You will forgive me, and you will bless me, and You will strengthen me, and You will give me the grace that I need.
That is the confidence which is the basis of all our faith and the product of all our believing and love. Because it is all about love. As Benedict XVI, our Holy Father, said in his first encyclical, quoting the great epistle of John, "God is love." There's no better way to describe Him; God is love. And because God is love, when we believe in that love, when we have the gift of faith that makes that love alive in us, then there springs in all our hearts that confidence, that trust, that hope. How blessed we are.
And what does it do for us? It allows us really to pray with all our hearts. That's why we come here today. On a cold day in March. We come and ask the Lord to help us pray together.
I have another story that I want to tell you. It's apropos only in a little sense. It's a story about Pope John Paul II.
He came to Newark, N.J., when I was Archbishop. It was 1995, the Feast of St. Francis, Oct. 4. And he came, and he already had some health problems, and he had been ill. And he came, and the schedule that he had was terrible. He arrived, he made a speech, listened to President Clinton talk, met the hundreds of people who were waiting at the airport, got into a limousine, came to the Cathedral, met for an hour with the President, met many people, some secret service and others who had gathered because they wanted so much to kiss his hand and to greet him. He then went into the church, presided over vespers. He must have been exhausted at the end of it all. And I was walking with him as he was going out, and the people were all standing there and clapping. And I had put the Blessed Sacrament in a side chapel because I knew he always would love to visit the Blessed Sacrament in any church he went to. So as he passed it on his way into the sacristy, he looked, and I said to him, "Yes, Holy Father, the Blessed Sacrament is there." And he grunted. He was a great grunter. He went over, and there I had placed a prie dieu before the tabernacle, and he knelt there. And it was my thought that I would maybe kneel a yard or so behind him and pray with him. And I couldn't. There was a sacred space around that person that I couldn't violate. There was such a sense of prayerfulness that all the people around there suddenly became absolutely silent. I moved a few yards away and stood by one of the pillars of the cathedral and watched. And immediately the Pope was in conversation with the Lord. There was obviously a conversation going. He was obviously not with us anymore; he was with the Lord.
And everybody could feel that. It went on for 5 or 10 minutes maybe. Then, Monsignor Dziwisz, now the Cardinal in Cracow, who was his secretary came in and gently put his hand under the Holy Father's elbow, and the Holy Father came back to us, and stood up, and turned to the people, and smiled and waved.
And they didn't know what to do. They were so affected by the depth of the prayer of this holy man. You know where that comes from? It comes from a confidence in God's mercy. It comes from the sense of God's presence in our lives.
That's the gift we celebrate today, dear friends. That's the blessing that God has given us in The Divine Mercy. It is the gift that should change our lives. "Jesu Ufam Tobie" — Jesus, I trust in You! You are my friend, You are my brother, You are my Lord and My God — as Thomas tells us today. You are the one in whom I put my trust. In whom I put my life. You are the one in whom I place everything that I have, everything I will be, everything that is part of me.
This is the kind of prayer we make today, dear friends. We are in God's presence so much today. We ask Him to be with us. To be with us in the wonder of His love. To be with us in His caring.
And as each of us brings today our own petitions, our own needs, our own fears, our own concerns, to this Mass let us be sure that He hears us. Let us be sure that He knows intimately and deeply everything that we need. And let us never lack the confidence that allows us to say, "Jesus I love you. Jesus I believe in You. Jesus I trust in You."
And with that prayer we move deeply into the very Heart of Christ. Amen.