In celebrations for Divine Mercy Sunday, which he described as “the heart” of this year’s Jubilee, Pope Francis called for every diocese in the world to set up a special work of mercy before announcing a Europe-wide collection to help those suffering because of the war in eastern Ukraine.
“As a reminder, a ‘monument’ let’s say, to this Year of Mercy, how beautiful it would be if in every diocese there were a structural work of mercy: a hospital, a home for the aged or abandoned children, a school where there isn’t one, a home for recovering drug addicts — so many things could be done,” the Pope said at a vigil on Saturday night.
At the vigil Pope Francis prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet of St Faustina Kowalska in the company of followers of the devotion as well as participants in the World Congress of Mercy.
The following day, during the Regina Caeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square after Mass, the Pope announced a special collection in European churches on 24 April for the relatives of the killed and those displaced by the fighting in Ukraine.
“I am thinking of the ordeal of those who suffer the consequences of the violence in Ukraine: of those who continue to live in lands that are turned upside-down by hostilities that have caused thousands of deaths, and of those – over a million – who have been forced to leave due to the grave situation that persists,” he said.
“This gesture of charity, beyond alleviating material suffering, expresses my personal closeness and the solidarity of the entire Church” he said.
Reflecting at the Vigil on the Gospel account of Thomas, the apostle who needed to put his hands on the risen Christ’s wounds in order to believe, the Pope said:
A faith that is not able to touch the Lord’s wounds, is not faith! A faith that cannot be merciful, as the Lord’s wounds were a sign of mercy, is not faith: it is an idea, an ideology. Our faith is incarnated in a God who was made man, who became sin, who was wounded for us. But if we really want to believe and have faith, we must draw near and touch those wounds, caress those wounds and even lower our head and allow others to soothe our wounds.
At his homily yesterday, meanwhile, the Pope linked evangelization and mercy.
Mercy desires to reach the wounds of all, to heal them. Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters. Curing these wounds, we profess Jesus, we make him present and alive; we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as “Lord and God” (Jn 20:28), as did the Apostle Thomas. This is the mission that he entrusts to us. So many people ask to be listened to and to be understood. The Gospel of mercy, to be proclaimed and written in our daily lives, seeks people with patient and open hearts, “good Samaritans” who understand compassion and silence before the mystery of each brother and sister. The Gospel of mercy requires generous and joyful servants, people who love freely without expecting anything in return.
Texts follow of Pope Francis’s homilies at Saturday’s prayer vigil and yesterday’s Mass
POPE FRANCIS HOMILY AT PRAYER VIGIL BEFORE DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY, 2 April 2016
With joy and thanksgiving we come together to share this time of prayer that begins Mercy Sunday. It is a liturgical feast which Saint John Paul II – he left us on this day in 2005 – ardently desired as a response to the request of Sister Faustina. The testimonies offered – for which we are grateful – and the readings we have just heard provide us the light and hope needed to enter the great ocean of God’s mercy. How many are the expressions of mercy with which God encounters us? They are numerous and it is impossible to describe them all, for the mercy of God continually increases. God never tires of showing us mercy and we should never take for granted the opportunity to receive, seek and desire this mercy. It is something always new, which inspires awe and wonder as we see God’s immense creativity in the ways he comes to meet us.
God has revealed himself, on many occasions, through his name which is “merciful” (cf. Ex 34:6). How great and infinite is the nature of God, so great and infinite his mercy, to the point that it is greatly challenging to describe it in all its entirety. Through Sacred Scriptures, we find that mercy is above all the closeness of God to his people. It is a closeness expressed essentially through help and protection. It is the closeness of a father or mother reflected in the beautiful words of the prophet Hosea: “I led them with cords of compassion, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them” (11:4). A father and mother’s embrace of their child. This image is extremely evocative: God picks each one of us up and holds us to his cheek. How much tenderness and love is expressed here! Tenderness: a word almost forgotten and one which the world today needs, all of us need. I had these words of the prophet in mind when I saw the image for the Jubilee. Jesus not only carries humanity on his shoulders, but his face is so closely joined to Adam’s face that it gives the impression they are one.
We do not have a God who is incapable of understanding and sharing our weaknesses (cf. Heb 4:15). Quite the contrary! Precisely because of his mercy God became one of us: “For by his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin” (Gaudium et Spes, 22). In Jesus, therefore, we are able not only to touch the mercy of God with our hands, but we are inspired to become instruments of his mercy. It is easy to speak of mercy, yet more difficult to become its witness. This is a path that is lifelong and which should not be interrupted. Jesus has said to us that we must be “merciful as the Father” (cf. Lk 6:36). It is a lifelong endeavour.
How many expressions there are, therefore, of God’s mercy! This mercy comes to us as closeness and tenderness, and because of this, comes also as compassion and solidarity, as consolation and forgiveness. The more we receive, the more we are called to share it with others; it cannot be kept hidden or kept only for ourselves. It is something which burns within our hearts, driving us to love, thus recognizing the face of Jesus Christ, above all in those who are most distant, weak, alone, confused and marginalized. Mercy does not remain still: it seeks out the lost sheep, and when one is found, a contagious joy overflows. Mercy knows how to look into the eyes of every person; each one is precious, for each one is unique. How much pain do we feel in our hearts when we hear: “These people… these people, these poor souls, let’s throw them out, let them sleep on the streets…”. Are these words from Jesus?
Dear brothers and sisters, mercy never allows us to feel satisfied. It is the love of Christ which makes us restless until we reach the goal; it impels us to embrace, welcome and include those who need mercy, so that all may be reconciled with the Father (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-20). We ought not to fear for it is a love which comes to us and involves us to such an extent that we go beyond ourselves, enabling us to see his face in our brothers and sisters. Let us allow ourselves to be humbly guided by this love; then we will become merciful as the Father is merciful.
We have heard the Gospel: Thomas was hard-headed. He did not believe. And he found his faith at precisely the moment he touched the wounds of the Lord. A faith that is not able to touch the Lord’s wounds, is not faith! A faith that cannot be merciful, as the Lord’s wounds were a sign of mercy, is not faith: it is an idea, an ideology. Our faith is incarnated in a God who was made man, who became sin, who was wounded for us. But if we really want to believe and have faith, we must draw near and touch those wounds, caress those wounds and even lower our head and allow others to soothe our wounds.
It is good that it is the Holy Spirit who guides us: he is love, he is the mercy that is poured into our hearts. May we not place obstacles to his life-giving work but with docility follow the path he shows us. Let us open our hearts so that the Spirit can transform us; thus forgiven, reconciled, and sheltered in our Lord’s wounds, we will become witnesses to the joy that brims over on finding the risen Lord, alive among us.
POPE FRANCIS HOMILY AT DIVINE MERCY MASS IN ST PETER’S, 3 April 20126
“Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book” (Jn 20:30). The Gospel is the book of God’s mercy, to be read and reread, because everything that Jesus said and did is an expression of the Father’s mercy. Not everything, however, was written down; the Gospel of mercy remains an open book, in which the signs of Christ’s disciples – concrete acts of love and the best witness to mercy – continue to be written. We are all called to become living writers of the Gospel, heralds of the Good News to all men and women of today. We do this by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which are the hallmarks of the Christian life. By means of these simple yet powerful gestures, even when unseen, we can accompany the needy, bringing God’s tenderness and consolation. Thus continues the great work of Jesus on Easter day, when he poured into the hearts of his fearful disciples the Father’s mercy, bringing them the Holy Spirit who forgives sins and bestows joy.
At the same time, the story we have just heard presents an evident contrast: there is the fear of the disciples, who gathered behind closed doors; and then there is the mission of Jesus, who sends them into the world to proclaim the message of forgiveness. This contrast may also be present in us, experienced as an interior struggle between a closed heart and the call of love to open doors closed by sin. It is a call that frees us to go out of ourselves. Christ, who for love entered through doors barred by sin, death and the powers of hell, wants to enter into each one of us to break open the locked doors of our hearts. Jesus, who by his resurrection has overcome the fear and dread which imprison us, wishes to throw open our closed doors and send us out. The path that the Risen Master shows us is a one way street, it goes in only one direction: this means that we must move beyond ourselves to witness to the healing power of love that has conquered us. We see before us a humanity that is often wounded and fearful, a humanity that bears the scars of pain and uncertainty. Before the anguished cry for mercy and peace, we hear Jesus’ inspiring invitation: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21).
In God’s mercy, all of our infirmities find healing. His mercy, in fact, does not keep a distance: it seeks to encounter all forms of poverty and to free this world of so many types of slavery. Mercy desires to reach the wounds of all, to heal them. Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters. Curing these wounds, we profess Jesus, we make him present and alive; we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as “Lord and God” (Jn 20:28), as did the Apostle Thomas. This is the mission that he entrusts to us. So many people ask to be listened to and to be understood. The Gospel of mercy, to be proclaimed and written in our daily lives, seeks people with patient and open hearts, “good Samaritans” who understand compassion and silence before the mystery of each brother and sister. The Gospel of mercy requires generous and joyful servants, people who love freely without expecting anything in return.
“Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:21) is the greeting of Jesus to his disciples; this same peace awaits men and women of our own day. It is not a negotiated peace, it is not the absence of conflict: it is his peace, the peace that comes from the heart of the Risen Lord, the peace that has defeated sin, fear and death. It is a peace that does not divide but unites; it is a peace that does not abandon us but makes us feel listened to and loved; it is a peace that persists even in pain and enables hope to blossom. This peace, as on the day of Easter, is born ever anew by the forgiveness of God which calms our anxious hearts. To be bearers of his peace: this is the mission entrusted to the Church on Easter day. In Christ, we are born to be instruments of reconciliation, to bring the Father’s forgiveness to everyone, to reveal his loving face through concrete gestures of mercy.
In the responsorial Psalm we heard these words: “His love endures forever” (Ps 117/118:2). Truly, God’s mercy is forever; it never ends, it never runs out, it never gives up when faced with closed doors, and it never tires. In this forever we find strength in moments of trial and weakness because we are sure that God does not abandon us. He remains with us forever. Let us give thanks for so great a love, which we find impossible to grasp; it is immense! Let us pray for the grace to never grow tired of drawing from the well of the Father’s mercy and bringing it to the world. Let us ask that we too may be merciful, to spread the power of the Gospel everywhere, and to write those pages of the Gospel which John the Apostle did not write.