Divine Mercy and Your Family
4/1/2016Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori
Rooted in the sacraments, families are called to be agents of mercy in their homes and in the world
As you and your family arrived at your parish church for Easter Sunday Mass, you may have noticed that the parking lot was more crowded than usual. In fact, the church was probably filled to overflowing. As I celebrate Easter Sunday Mass, I am always happy to see so many people filling the pews. Yet, in many parishes, especially in North America, the crowds are gone on the following Sunday. It has been traditionally called “Low Sunday,” and more than a few pastors have dubbed it “low-attendance” Sunday!
Since Pope John Paul II canonized St. Faustina Kowalska in April 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter has officially become known as Divine Mercy Sunday, and it is a wonderful key to the Church’s extended celebration of Easter. During Holy Week and on Easter Sunday, the Church remembers, and in a certain sense relives, the Lord’s victory over sin and death. Easter is a celebration of the Lord’s merciful love — a love that is tender and personal, and yet a love that is so strong that it triumphs over sin and death.
MERCY IN OUR TIME
After Easter Sunday, we don’t want to simply return to “business as usual” — living as if the Lord had not come into the world; living as if he had not died for our sins; living as if he did not rise up in triumph, giving us the possibility of finding mercy, forgiveness, the restoration of true joy in our lives.
In an era when Mass attendance is in decline, Knights of Columbus families should make it a priority to take part in Mass every Sunday and encourage our extended families to participate in Sunday Mass as well. It’s easy to imagine Father McGivney telling parishioners at St. Mary’s Church that he missed seeing them if they weren’t at Mass. From his place in eternity, Father McGivney should see all of us in church every Sunday!
How easy it is to forget even God’s greatest gifts — and no gift is greater than his Son, who is “Mercy Incarnate.” Or as Pope Francis put it in announcing the Year of Mercy, Jesus Christ is “the face of the Father’s mercy.”
In Poland in the 1930s, Sister Faustina Kowalska was given extraordinary revelations concerning the mercy of God. She received this message of Divine Mercy at a time when the world was beset by wars and totalitarian governments. This message is no less crucial in our conflicted times, amid threats of terrorism, religious persecution and an unmerciful secularism.
I think of how concerned my brother Knights must be as they see their children and grandchildren growing up in a world that, for all its many blessings, has also become a harsher, less civil place. In the words of the late Cardinal Francis George, we live in a world that “permits everything and forgives nothing.” How important that all of us, including Knights of Columbus families, tap into the power of God’s mercy as we seek to live the principles of the Order and build our broken world into a true civilization of love.
THE FAMILY: A SCHOOL OF LOVE
Just as the Church exists to share God’s self-giving and merciful love, so too the domestic church, the family, is called to share God’s self-giving and merciful love. Husbands and wives know from experience how important it is to share God’s love with each other, and also with their children. The family is a school of love, a school wherein young people learn how to give of themselves to others and where they learn how to be forgiven and to forgive in turn.
No doubt such formation in love and mercy is easier said than done. Pope Francis accurately identified the challenges which young people face in learning the art of self-giving through love that knows how to forgive and be forgiven. Speaking of the beauty and goodness of the vocation of marriage, the Holy Father said to young people, “In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘forever,’ because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries … to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love.”
All of this leads us back to what we celebrate in Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday. As with every Sunday, we celebrate in holy Mass the triumph of God’s mercy. But this season is also a time when many more people receive the sacrament of penance, take part in adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together. In addition to attending Mass every Sunday, families have the opportunity to experience such devotions outside of Mass. Given the chance to encounter Christ’s sacramental presence in these ways, many young people will open their hearts to him.
Here is a graced moment to experience God’s merciful love, the very love parents are called to hand on to their children. My prayer is that you and your family will rejoice in the power of God’s merciful love and become agents of his mercy in our world!