Yesterday seven men became deacons at St. Pius in Redwood City, ordained by Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu. Among them were Michael Rocha, who was one of my faithful altar boys while I was pastor in Modesto. I joked with him yesterday that many hearts were broken yesterday; and young Catholic women across the archdiocese were in mourning because seven good Catholic men had made vows of perpetual celibacy. Giving up a wife and family is not easy for a priest, but it’s not the greatest sacrifice to which God calls us. To bring Divine Mercy to an unbelieving world will cost us much suffering.
Immediately after ordaining these men, Bishop Silva embraced them with these words: “peace be with you.” Our Divine Lord, in today’s Gospel, says those same words four times to His newly-ordained priests. It was Easter Sunday night, and these eleven men were cowering in the upper room, afraid that the Jewish authorities would arrest them as they did Jesus. They were also afraid that the Messiah had actually come back from the dead. What would He who was able to raise Himself from complete death do to them, who had all deserted Him? A priest will always, to some degree, betray and desert the Lord, but Jesus passes through the locked doors and utters His post-Resurrection first words: Peace be with you. He says it four times to reassure the disciples. And then He gives them the authority to forgive as He forgives them. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Whose sins you lose are loosed, and yes, whose sins you retain are retained.” He gives them the charism of divine mercy, which includes the charism of moral authority. In God, mercy and truth are one act of divine love, guiding us gently to heaven.
In 1931 a poor Polish nun received a vision of the Risen Christ, which she described in her diary: "In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing, the other was touching his garment at the breast. … there came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord; ... After a while Jesus said to me, 'paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.'" One hand raised in blessing, in mercy, His infinite outpouring love for us; the other hand at His breast, pointing to His heart slashed open on the cross, the price of that mercy.
Sr. Faustina, born Helen Kowalska, grew up in southern Poland just after World War I. The nations of Europe had turned on each other like wolves, and God was apparently silent as 41 million people suffered death and destruction. Europe had been so traumatized by World War I that when Adolph Hitler began arming Germany again, no one had the strength to resist. It was at this time, in 1931, that God spoke to a poor, uneducated farm girl, assuring us that God is not silent, and that love, not hateful fear, moves the world. In the year 2000, St. John Paul II canonized this farm girl and established the Feast of Divine Mercy, always to be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. Mercy, God’s tender love, is the only thing that will remain at the end of human history.
Do not doubt but believe
But let’s return to the Gospel. The Apostle Thomas refused to let go of his bitter disappointment. As in the Great War, God was silent as His Son died in agony on Calvary. A week after Jesus’ first visit to the upper room on Easter, that is, today, Jesus returns to that room and goes straight to Thomas: Touch me, and believe. Let go of your fear. Trust in me. Thomas surrenders, and so becomes a saint on the spot: “My Lord and my God.” Paint an image, Jesus told Sr. Faustina, according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.
Let us also trust in Jesus’ Divine Mercy. I finish with Sr. Faustina’s own prayers to Jesus. “Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue. Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all. Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful, so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. May your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me.”