Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Easter Sunday: Vehicles of Divine Mercy
In our church as well as in many churches there is a Divine Mercy Image. It is fitting to have a continual reminder of the Mercy of God. Sometimes we get so bogged down in the events of the world that we forget that God is in charge. He has the answers to the questions that plague us as a world, as a country and as individuals. On the bottom of the painting there are the words, “Jesus, I trust in you.” No matter what difficulties confront us, we need to trust in the Lord.
His mercy is greater than our fondest hope. He came into our world to restore life to a people that had freely chosen death. Before Jesus, there was no spiritual life, there was only physical life. The spiritual had been rejected. God had been pushed aside. Turning from the Lord of Life, people turned towards death. Mankind lived in a state of life that was purely physically. We call this state, original sin. Of course, some people were committed to serving God, and did everything they could to live good moral lives. They would be saved from original sin by the Lord who, as the Creed tells us, descended into hell before he rose again on the third day. There were and are many people who do not know Christ but who are saved by their desire to serve God. We call their baptism without water the baptism of desire. A merciful God does not reject good people. But even good people cannot provide spiritual life for themselves. All people need the Mercy of God to pour His Life upon them.
We are freed from original sin by our baptism. Baptism isn’t just a liturgical action; it is the reception of the Life of God. We baptize our babies because we want them to share in the Life of God that is the center of our families. We baptize adults, because they have made the commitment to live the Life that they are receiving.
The world desperately needs the Life of God. The world is in anguish as it is attacked by the forces of evil originating from the evil one, and perpetuated by hatred and bigotry and the determination to create a god out of materialism. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen concludes his sermons on the Seven Last Words by saying that Jesus brought life to the world. Now he tells us to spread it.
John Newton understood this mandate. He was a fervent Christian preacher of 18th century England. His sermons attracted thousands. But he was not always committed to Christ. In fact, he was a promoter of the world of death. Newton was born in 1725 and impressed into the hard life of a British seaman serving on a man of war. He was abused and flogged. In 1748, he requested that he be exchanged into service on a slave ship. In time he became the captain of his own slaver. He did everything he could to make a profit on the sale of human lives. He was not concerned about those lives that were lost in the horrible holding racks. If the cramped conditions resulted in many of the slaves dying, the profit from the increased number of slaves that could be held there would make up for the loss. He was even less concerned that the men, women and children in the hold were kidnaped, stolen from their families. The slaves were chattel, good only for whatever profit they could bring. He was an inhuman profiteer and a devotee of the god of materialism. But on a homeward voyage, while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, he experienced what he was to refer to later as his “great deliverance.” He recorded in his journal that when all seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, he exclaimed, “Lord, have mercy upon us.” And the ship was saved. Later in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and began to believe that God had addressed him through the storm. Grace had begun to work on him. Newton spent the rest of his life serving God, fighting slavery, and proclaiming God’s Mercy. We still sing the hymn he composed, Amazing Grace. Newton inspired William Wilberforce who successfully fought for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire over thirty years before slavery was abolished in the United States. John Newton received God’s mercy. He was baptized, and he received the life of God. Then he spent the rest of his life spreading the Life of the Lord.
Back to the Divine Mercy Image. There are two streams flowing from the heart of the Lord in the picture. One is white; one is red. The white stream represents baptism and the life we receive through baptism. The red stream represents the blood of the Lord. This is the blood that was shed for us to destroy the grip of death on the world. Death was conquered by death. Jesus’ physical death resulted in the New Life of the Spiritual. The red stream represents the Blood of the Eucharist. The death of Christ nourishes us through the Eucharist so we can overflow with the life of the Lord. “Overflow in me, My Lord,” Matt Maher sings, “Let your people bless you as your cup is poured; overflow in me My Lord.” © CCLI License #2368115
And Mary Magdalene went to the tomb looking for Jesus who was crucified. But he wasn't there. He had been raised. Death has been conquered. The new world has begun. The celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord is the celebration of our hope, our joy, our sharing in the New Life of Christ. Easter is the celebration of the Mercy of God.
Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead, and so are we! "Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with Him through baptism into death so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” That is the first New testament reading fo the Easter Season. It proclaims our union with the death and resurrection of the Lord. He has called us out of this darkness and death and has given us each the ability to make his presence real for others. He has called us to share His Divine Mercy.
The tomb is empty, Mary Magdalene. But the world is full. The Savior Lives. He looks upon the world in the grip of death with all its pain and suffering and he has mercy on us. He gives us His Life. He calls us to share this Life with all around us.
May we have the courage to be vehicles of Divine Mercy.