On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:19-20)
“Brothers and sisters let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God.”During a penance service at St. Peter’s Basilica last month, Pope Francis surprised many when he took the occasion to announce an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. Inspired by Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” this marks only the third extraordinary jubilee in the last century: the previous two were in 1933 (to mark the 1900th anniversary of the Resurrection in 33 A.D.) and 1983 (its 1950th anniversary). This Year of Mercy begins later this year on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 2015, and will end on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 20, 2016. Mercy is a signature theme of Pope Francis’ preaching and, by announcing this Jubilee year, he hopes to reawaken our appreciation of how mercy impels us to follow Christ, “It’s a journey that starts with a spiritual conversion… I am convinced that the whole Church will find in this Jubilee the joy needed to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which all of us are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time.”
This second Sunday of Easter we anticipate this Jubilee Year as we celebrate the feast of the Divine Mercy. Rooted in Christ’s revelations to the Polish mystic and nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, St. Pope John Paul II established this feast worldwide according to the motto which is at the heart of the gospel, “Jesus, I Trust in You.” Pope Francis has continued to champion this devotion as the basis for overcoming fear. “God is always waiting for us, He never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope — always!”
Yet fear is not easily overcome, for the forces of fear in our lives can be plentiful. We fear the loss of loved ones, the loss of employment, the loss of security and admiration. Such fears can paralyze. In the face of such fears, Pope Francis reminds us, “It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! … ‘Oh, I am a great sinner!’ ‘All the better! Go to Jesus: He likes you to tell him these things!’ He forgets, He has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, He kisses you, He embraces you and He simply says to you: ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.’ ”
Our God is a God who is more interested in our future than our past. He is a God who forgives and when we experience his mercy, trust grows in our heart. It is trust which extinguishes the fires of fear. The generosity of God’s mercy gives us the confidence to overcome our fear and trust in Him. In this Easter season, let us call down the full abundance of the Lord’s mercy on ourselves, our families and our community that we might always trust in his care and providence. ~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.