Introduction to Mass
Today is “Divine Mercy Sunday”. It’s very rare for the Catholic Church to recognise a claimed vision of Jesus or Mary in its official prayers, but that’s what has happened today. St Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who lived 100 years ago, was shown an image of Jesus as Divine Mercy, with a pale ray of baptismal water and a red ray of his Precious Blood streaming from his breast. Jesus asked that we celebrate this Sunday, the Sunday after Easter Sunday, as a day in honour of his mercy, saying:
On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.
What Jesus is offering is a gift equivalent to a second baptism. We know that if an adult were to be baptised and died immediately afterwards, they would go straight to heaven. Once we’re baptised, when we confess our sins we know we are restored to friendship with God but we still need to be purified when we die. That purification can be so painful that it feels like a punishment, but we can also be purified by the prayers of those who love us, which the Church calls an indulgence. What Jesus offers us on this day is his own gift of being purified without any trace of punishment.
Now normally on Divine Mercy Sunday I would lead my congregation in the special prayers straight after Mass and then sit in the confessional so anyone who wished could make their confession. Today, of course, we will be able to receive neither Holy Communion nor the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But the Church is flexible, and in these times says we can still receive an Indulgence through praying today and deciding, in our hearts, that we will go to communion and confession as soon as that becomes practically possible. While we are waiting for confession we should make an act of perfect contrition, which means we tell God we are sorry for our sins – and not just because we are scared of the consequences, but because we love God and want to come to be perfectly happy with him in a place free from all sin.
So now, let us prepare to receive God’s great gift of mercy by calling to mind our sins.
Lord Jesus, you showed yourself to your friends and followers. Lord, have mercy!
Lord Jesus, you wish to free us from all our sins and from all punishment. Christ, have mercy!
Lord Jesus, the very depths of Your tender mercy are open. Lord, have mercy!
Homily to members and friends of Sion Community for Divine Mercy Sunday, 2020
Have you ever felt left out? Have you ever had the experience of Not Being Picked for something you really wanted to be involved in? I have.
At school, I was that tubby kid who was always the last pick for any sports team. I didn’t mind that – I didn’t particularly want to be running around the field anyway. But when they started a School Council, and I wasn’t picked for that, it hurt. So I kindly but firmly pointed out that it wasn’t fair for one person to represent the whole Sixth Form – there should be reps for upper and lower sixth. The staff agreed! They opened up an extra position, for which I was eligible. And guess what? I was Not Picked again! Ouch!
Or there was one time at home when we had visitors. My family didn’t often have uncles and aunties to come and visit. I must have been about 5 or 6 years old when we did have visitors once. Mum shouted ‘tea is ready!’ and I came down. I can remember what I had – chocolate pudding with tapioca! But why do I remember that day? It was because I expected to have tea with the grown-ups, but I was given my tea on my own. Why was I being left out? Wasn’t I old enough to eat with the visitors? That hurt!
I know that right now, we’re not allowed to have visitors. Everyone is staying at home. In some places that means grown-ups have no-one else with them, and that’s tough… but it can also be lonely when you’re stuck at home with a family. Maybe there’s someone else in the house who needs more looking after – a baby brother or a sick granny. Maybe you’re wondering how you can get a bit of attention from Mum or from Dad or whoever is looking after you right now.
Don’t be afraid to just ask! When I’m hearing children’s confessions in school and a child tells me they’re feeling left out, here’s what I say.
Wait until Mum, or Dad, or whoever you need to talk to is having a quiet moment. Don’t interrupt them in the middle of something else. Then just say to them – let’s imagine it’s Mum for a moment – ‘Mum, I need to talk to you about something. When can we have a chat?’ Now, that’s a very grown-up kind of thing to say so your Mum might be surprised. But she’ll either say ‘Right now!’ or if she’s tired or needs to do something for work she’ll tell you when, and she’ll make it happen. Remind her that you need a chat if nothing happens after a day or two. Once you’ve got that chat time with Mum, just tell her how you’re feeling. Don’t blame her for the other ‘busy’ things she’s doing, that’ll only make her feel bad; you know she cares about you so just talk about yourself. ‘Mum, I know there are lots of things you have to do at the moment, but I’m feeling really left out right now.’ And trust that Mum – or Dad – or whoever is looking after you, will care enough to find a way to give you your fair share of what you need.
Please remember that ‘fair shares’ aren’t always ‘equal shares’. A small baby or a sick person will need more looking after, and that’s when we have to be brave and accept that we might not get as much as we’d like. But if you need something, just ask. If you’re feeling left out, just say so. And if you’ve got an idea for something Dad, or Mum, or your big brother or sister can do that won’t take much time but could make a big difference, speak up!
Now, a word to the parents and carers. I know this is a difficult time. I know you are stretched right now looking after the people under your own roof and connecting with lots of others by phone. You want give more time to your own family – but when you can’t give more, you can give smarter. Remember that each family member is an individual and we all experience love in different ways. Maybe you’re already familiar with the concept of ‘love languages’. We’re all wired differently, so there are different things that might fill up our need to be ‘cared for’. One child might need a lot of quality time, either just talking or doing something practical where you serve their needs. Other will be happy spending most of their time on their own if they receive a small gift (maybe home-made), or the right words, spoken or written down to show you care, or a big cuddle. But remember that each child needs a share of you – their own personal share. If you don’t know what one thing is best at saying “I care” to each member of the household, maybe it’s time for a family conversation!
Remember, as well, that we’re not going to make everyone happy all the time. Jesus didn’t make Thomas happy, at first. And St Thomas had good reason to grumble. He had been a loyal apostle! When the other disciples thought it would be too dangerous for Jesus to visit the sick Lazarus, it was Thomas who said ‘Let’s go, even if we have to die with him!’ But now Thomas gets rewarded by what he feels is an insult. Jesus is risen from the dead: He is Lord, and can do whatever he wants. Jesus chooses to appear when the other 10 Apostles are all in one place – and surely the Lord knows that Thomas won’t be there! If it feels bad not being picked for the school football team, how much worse not to be picked by the King of the Universe to witness a miracle!
Jesus had a plan, but what he did was difficult for his friends. His own Mother had to see him die on a Cross! All the apostles, except John, were so scared they ran away that day. Now Thomas ends up feeling left out – but a week later, Jesus gives him a special gift. Touch! See! Know that I am risen from the dead! Thomas, like each one of us, gets his own experience of what happened to Jesus: “The stone that the builders rejected becomes the cornerstone!”
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. Normally I would be saying how Jesus wants us all to go to confession today, so that we can receive the special gift not only of forgiveness, but of total cleansing from the consequences of our sins. We know that this year, we can’t go to confession. In today’s Gospel, too, the Apostles are given the power to forgive sins – but they can’t use it yet! They are locked in, in the Upper Room, and won’t be able to go out to minister until the Holy Sprit comes at Pentecost!
Jesus is still merciful, so today, let’s make an Act of Perfect Contrition. First, decide in your heart that you want to live your life God’s way. Next, decide to forgive everyone. You might need to forgive a grown-up who hasn’t been there for you. You might need to forgive yourself for getting your priorities wrong – or for imagining you can do more than you really can. Get ready to tell God you are sorry for all times you chose to do things your heart knew were wrong.
Now, if you wish, just say after me:
Jesus, I love you.
Jesus, I forgive everyone who’s let me down.
Jesus, I forgive everyone who’s hurt me.
Jesus, I’m sorry for all my wrong choices.
Jesus, take on yourself all the consequences of my sins.
Jesus, teach me to love the way you love.
Jesus, I trust in you.
Prayers Following Mass
What the Church asks of us to honour the Divine Mercy today is that we pray one Our Father, the Creed, and a devout prayer in honour of the Divine Mercy. So please join me:
Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into hell; on the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.
Now, regard the image of the merciful Jesus, and pray with me, three times,
Jesus, I trust in you!
Jesus, I trust in you!
Jesus, I trust in you!
To receive the Gift of the Indulgence, we are also asked to pray for the Holy Father’s intentions. Often this is done through an Our Father and a Creed, but we’ve just prayed those already and we are free to pray for the Pope in any way we wish. Actually, the Pope’s intentions are published each month, and this month Pope Francis has asked us to pray “that those suffering from addiction may be helped and accompanied”. We know that right now, many addicts will be locked in with a great stash of temptation. Many other addicts, who cannot access what they crave, will be going through withdrawal symptoms, possibly alone. So I’m going to lead us now in one Hail Mary, where we will ask the Mother of God to remember all addicts at this time.
Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Now brothers and sisters, if you have made a good act of sorrow for your sins in your hearts, you have done everything within your power which you can do today. If you are firmly resolved to go to confession and receive Holy Communion as soon as that becomes possible, then be confident in your hearts that you have received the full gift of Divine Mercy Sunday today. Peace be with you.