Sunday, April 19, 2009

Divine Mercy Sunday - homily

This was the homily I gave on this feast last year; still applies!
I have a great deal for you! It has to do with today’s feast. The Church has been celebrating the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday since 2000. It is also the eighth day of the Easter octave, so it’s the ‘grand finale’ of our eight day Easter celebration. In general, Divine Mercy Sunday celebrates God’s infinite and tender mercy which we experience most fully through the death and resurrection of Christ. But, the specific opportunity we have today is incredible! It is a sweet deal!

Today, any Catholic can receive a plenary indulgence. A plenary indulgence removes all punishment due to sin. To understand this, let’s use an example of someone committing the sin of gluttony (overeating or overdrinking). The person who commits this sin needs to do two things to be right with God again: they need to be forgiven (go to Confession) and they need to make satisfaction for their sin. To make satisfaction is commonly understood as serving some type of punishment and this is usually done by time in Purgatory.

Each sin carries some type of temporal punishment. Let’s say for the sin of gluttony, the punishment is 10 days in Purgatory. Now, “days” in Purgatory may not be 24 hours, but they are some increment of time. And, let’s say that the person commits the sin of gluttony 50 times in his or her lifetime. That would be 500 days in Purgatory for that sin alone. Some of us can expect a long stay in Purgatory (which would be fine because it means we’re going to Heaven)!

A plenary indulgence removes all that punishment, all that time in Purgatory. We can apply the indulgence to ourselves or to someone who has died. If we apply it to ourselves, then all punishment is removed for sins we have committed to this point. If we apply it to someone who is in Purgatory, then it sends them straight to Heaven! In order for a Catholic to gain a plenary indulgence on a feast like today, he or she has to do three things within eight days: 1) go to Confession, 2) receive Holy Communion, and 3) say prayers for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI – commonly this is an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. In order to give you a better chance to receive the plenary indulgence, I will be hearing confessions after Mass and from 12:30 – 2:30 today. May you take advantage of this great deal!

Much of what we celebrate on Divine Mercy Sunday coincides with what Our Lord revealed to St. Faustina in the 1930s. He told her to remind people of his great mercy in specific and extraordinary ways. Of course, we already know of his incredible mercy from Scripture and Tradition. We know that his whole life is a mission of mercy. Was this mercy only offered to the people of his time, the people who lived 2000 years ago? No. We know that his mercy is offered to all people, including us.

As we just heard in the Gospel, he hands on his mission of mercy to the first priests, the Apostles, for them to continue. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”. He gives them his power to forgive sins: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained”. Was the opportunity for people to go to priests for Confession only for the people who lived 2000 years ago? No. We know that the power to forgive sins has been passed down from the first priests all the way to current priests.

As a reminder for us that it’s really Jesus in the confessional and it’s really his power of forgiveness that is given through the priest, our Lord said to St. Faustina, “When you approach the confessional, know this, that I myself am waiting there for you”.

Finally, we hear in the first reading about the life of the first Christian community who experience God’s great mercy. It was a community filled with joy, happiness, and unity. If you picked up on it (it was said twice in the reading), they were centered on the breaking of bread - the Eucharist. I see similarities between their community and our parish community. May we continue to grow as a community centered on the Eucharist. May we continue to grow in unity open to the Mercy of God as we continue to attain the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.


At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I missed it somewhere in this text, but the message of Divine Mercy that always stuck with me is that God's mercy is greater than our sins.

That's quite a message.

At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question that will probably sound stupid to many- but what is the purpose of novena? How is it different to any other form of prayer?

At 9:58 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

Sometimes when I’m at Adoration I think of my maternal grandfather, whom I’d never met because he died in 1948, when my mother was a pre-teen. (My poor mom, she was the one who found him dead.) Based on comments my mother has made over the years, I believe he died of alcoholism.

My mother’s family was far too poor to own a camera, thus the only picture I’ve seen of this grandfather was taken on the day my mother was baptized (which wasn’t until she was nearly four years old…my Lutheran grandmother was battling her Catholic mother-in-law about in which church the baptism should take place.) Because my grandmother was so much her own person, proud of her independence, it never occurred to my sister or to me to ask about our grandfather. It wasn’t until after Grandma had died that I realized just how incurious we had been: we came across my grandfather’s social security card while clearing out her Baltimore row-house after her death in 1996 (yes, Grandma was a pack-rat) – and that was when my sister and I learned our grandfather’s name.

I suspect my grandfather wasn’t a particularly devout Catholic (else Grandma wouldn’t have won the Baptism Battle) but if anyone in my family could use a plenary indulgence, it is he, who (probably) drank himself to death. I can’t help him out on the indulgence front, but I can hope that Chester Louis has found peace.

At 11:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How could anyone know this -- that God forgives sins for accomplishing this "to do" list during this window of time? I understand that the Church learns some things through divine inspiration, but this really seems like a stretch -- to claim that God will do something when a person performs such specific tasks.

At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is a healing Mass? How is it set-up? Has anyone ever been to one?

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

Indulgences aren't about forgiveness of sins. They're about forgiveness of punishment.

The Church can claim that forgiveness of punishment happens under certain circumstances because, as yesterday's Gospel records, Jesus has given her the power of binding and loosing.

Indulgences aren't a Divine quirk the Church discovered somehow. They are promises the Church makes, and God therefore keeps, to individuals.

At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I go to confession to seek this plenary indulgence, should I tell the priest?

At 11:22 PM, Blogger fran said...

I attended a healing mass many years ago ( 12 or so ) so I don't know if things have changed since then.

At that time, there was a mass, followed by a healing ceremony/service. Those in the congregation who wished to participate, stood around the altar. The priest then placed his hands on the head and forehead of the participants and said a prayer or blessing, can't remember entirely.

This part I found a little interesting. There were other people called "catchers" standing behind each person to be healed. Some of those people would actually fall backwards, after the imposition of the priests hands, and had to literally be "caught," so that they would not get hurt. ( I did not experience the falling part. )

Hope that helps.


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