Pope Francis on Divine Mercy Sunday

In the first Divine Mercy Sunday message of his pontificate, on April 7 in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis gave a powerful teaching on God's mercy based on the Gospel of the day, John 20:19-31. He spoke of how "true peace ... comes from the experience of God's mercy," of Jesus Christ revealing Himself to us as "Mercy Incarnate," and of our call to boldly "proclaim Christ the Risen Lord" by "trusting in the mercy of the Lord forever."

Pope Francis also emphasized how Blessed John Paul II established Divine Mercy Sunday as a universal feast day and then died on its vigil.

"Today," Pope Francis said, "is Divine Mercy Sunday, by the will of Blessed John Paul II, who closed his eyes to the world on the vigil of this [feast day]."

He delivered his message in the Square before an estimated crowd of 50,000 people after praying the Regina Caeli, according to the online news service AsiaNews.

Of the Risen Lord's Easter gift of peace to His disciples and its connection with Divine Mercy, Pope Francis said:

I renew to everyone the Easter greetings with the words of the Risen Jesus: "Peace be with you!" It is not a greeting, or even a simple wish: it is a gift, indeed, the precious gift that Christ gives to his disciples after passing through death and the underworld. He gives peace, as he had promised, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you." This peace is the fruit of the victory of God over evil, it is the fruit of forgiveness. And so it is: true peace, profound peace, comes from the experience of God's mercy.

Notice here how Pope Francis teaches us that this Easter gift of peace, which "comes from the experience of God's mercy," is "the fruit of the victory of God over evil" and "the fruit of forgiveness." Thus, our Holy Father shows us the great power of Divine Mercy that is revealed in the Paschal mystery, as God has victory over evil and offers us forgiveness for our sins.

In describing Jesus Christ as "Mercy Incarnate," Pope Francis stresses our need to believe in Him and His love and mercy for us even though - unlike the Apostle Thomas in the day's Gospel - we have not had the opportunity to see the Risen Lord and examine His wounds:

The second time, eight days later, Thomas was also there. And Jesus said to him, invited him to look at the wounds, to touch them, and Thomas exclaimed, "My Lord, my God." Jesus said: "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." And who were those who believed without seeing? The other disciples, the men and women of Jerusalem who, despite not having met the risen Jesus, believed the testimony of the Apostles and the women. This is a very important word on faith, we can call it the beatitude of faith. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. At all times
and in all places blessed are those who, through the Word of God proclaimed in the Church and witnessed by Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the incarnate love of God, Mercy Incarnate. And that goes for all of us.

Here, Pope Francis is saying that the key to our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is our faith and trust in Him, as we are called to live by faith and not by sight. Through the eyes of faith, we are invited to a personal encounter with Him as Mercy Incarnate. In this light, it makes perfect sense Jesus told St. Faustina that we are asked to personally sign the Divine Mercy image with the words, "Jesus, I trust in You" (Diary of St. Faustina, 47).

Finally, Pope Francis connects the dots. It's almost as if he has the Divine Mercy image in view as he encourages us to boldly witness to our faith in the Risen Lord by "trusting in the mercy of the Lord":

... the Spirit of the Risen Christ casts out fear from the hearts of the apostles and pushes them out of the Upper Room, to bring the Gospel. We also must have more courage to witness to faith in the Risen Christ! Let us not be afraid to be Christian and live as Christians! We must have the courage to go out and proclaim Christ the Risen Lord, for he is our peace. "Trusting in the mercy of the Lord forever, because he is waiting for us, he loves us."

So, be encouraged by Pope Francis to boldly proclaim and live your faith in the Risen Christ. As you do, join me in praying, "Jesus, I trust in You!" And give thanks to the Merciful Savior for Pope Francis, who is our new Mercy Pope.

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