Fr. Bryan Howard
Divine Mercy Sunday – Year B – 8 April 2018
Pope St. John Paul II named the second Sunday of Easter Divine Mercy Sunday in the year 2000, which is why I have the image of the Divine Mercy placed here in the sanctuary. In the 1930s our Lord appeared to a sister of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow, Poland, Sr. Faustina Kowalska. Jesus spoke to Sr. Faustina, now St. Faustina, of His mercy, His desire to pour out His mercy on all peoples, and that people should draw close to Him. He told her to have a painting done of what she saw, Jesus, with His hand pointing to His heart, and red and white rays coming from His heart, with the inscription, “Jesus, I trust in You.”
The rays of light are meant to remind us of the grace of God the poured from Christ on the Cross. They represent the water and blood that flowed from His side when He was pierced by a lance on the Cross. He told St. Faustina, “The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls.”
Of course, an image by itself can’t do anything. It is what the image stands for that has the power. This image is meant to raise our minds to God and help us think about His love for us, His grace, and what He did for us on the Cross. God is the source of all grace, and all graces flow from the Cross.
We talk a lot about grace in the Church, but have you ever wondered, “What is grace?” The word grace means “gift.” Grace is a gift freely given by God and it is meant to draw us closer to Him. It is simply God acting in our lives. Graces can cause us to think about God or heavenly things, they can help us to resist temptation, and they can strengthen us to do what we know is right. Grace never forces us to do anything, because God respects our free will; grace only suggests, encourages, and calls, like Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio.
You were probably taught as a child that it’s rude to ask people for a gift. When it comes to grace you need to get over that instinct. If you were starving to death would you just sit waiting for someone to bring you some food, or would you go out and find some? Well, we need grace to nourish us spiritually just as surely as we need food to nourish us physically. There are some graces that God will give you regardless, but there are some that you’ll only get if you make yourself ready for them.
The first thing you can do to get more grace, is to ask for it. It’s like a child asking mom for more vegetables; there’s no way she’s going to say no. So, when we ask God for grace, He will give it to us. Think about what sins you struggle with the most, or what virtues you need to grow in the most, and ask God for those things specifically. This is an act of humility, and God will respond by giving you grace.
Second, respond to grace. As I said earlier, grace is an invitation or a suggestion. It’s takes work and effort on our part, too. But, what you do respond to God’s grace, you get more of it. Here’s an example that happens pretty often. I sit in the confession for about 20 minutes before every weekend Mass, starting half an hour before Mass and ending 10 minutes before Mass. So, if you’ve never seen the confession light on, you just need to get here a little earlier. A lot of the times, I’ll hear 1 or 2 or no confessions, so most of the time I’m just sitting in there, but I’m sitting in there with that green light on, and people see that light, week after week, reminding them that I’m there. That light is an opportunity for grace, and invitation from God. If someone responds to that invitation, then they also get the graces of the Sacrament of Confession, which leads to more graces calling them to fight harder against there sins, or giving them the motivation to start praying more and trying to improve their relationship with God. But if you never respond to that first grace, then you never get any of those other graces.
Something as simple as a light, or an image, or as profound as the Eucharist, is an opportunity for grace and an invitation from God. During this week, pay attention to those things. What invitation is God giving you, and how are you responding to it?
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.