Fr. John Corapi tells a remarkable story about divine mercy. After serving as a Green Beret, he became a successful real estate salesman with a yacht, Ferrari and home on the ocean. But his inner emptiness led him to a cocaine addiction. On account of it he lost his job, home - and wound up a destitute wandering the streets of Los Angeles. Due to the prayers of his mother - and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin - he began to change. Finally he made the step of approaching a priest for confession. After telling his sins, he announced to the confessor, "Father, I think I am being called to the priesthood."
The priest was obviously taken aback, but something else caught his attention. He looked at his watch and said, "John, it is exactly three o'clock. The Hour of the Divine Mercy!"
John Corapi did enter the seminary and although he desired to devote himself to contemplative prayer, his superiors recognized his gift of Apostolic Preaching (to teach the truths of the Faith with such authority and clarity that even the hardest hearts might be brought closer to God). Fr. Corapi has indeed become on of the foremost apostles of the Divine Mercy.
Before speaking about how Fr. Corapi's story relates to this Sunday's liturgy, let me first try to describe what mercy means. Even though the word is common, especially in the Bible and in Christian rituals, its meaning is far from evident. I remember once explaining to someone how to say the Novena of Divine Mercy. When I finished, I asked if he had any questions.
He said, "Just one, Father. What is mercy?"
After some fumbling, I finally recalled its etymology. "Mercy," I said, "comes from the Latin misericordia. It has two parts miseri which means "pity" and cordia meaning "heart." Mercy is a heart full of pity or compassion for another's suffering."
The man seemed satisfied enough with that definition - a heart full of pity - but the conversation provoked me to do some further research. It turns out mercy is also a legal term:
The total or partial remission of a punishment to which a convict is subject. When the whole punishment is remitted, it is called a pardon; when only a part of the punishment is remitted, it is frequently a conditional pardon; or before sentence, it is called clemency or mercy.
I once testified at a young man's sentencing. He had taken part in the cruel murder of a teenage boy. I had no desire to say anything on his behalf, but his mom begged me to come. When it came my turn to speak, I mentioned the grief of slain boy's parents and that his murderers deserved the maximum penalty. However, I also asked the judge to consider killer's mom. I then told some circumstances of her life. In the end the judge did give a reduced sentence.
You and I are in situation similar to that young man. Not that we have physically murdered someone. But our sins have contributed to the death of the only innocent man in human history. We ask clemency, not because we deserve it, but because of Jesus himself.
Those participating in the Divine Mercy Novena, have said this prayer: "For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world." What a beautiful prayer! It says everything.
In this Sunday's readings we see that mercy is not just a legal concept. It is our share in the very life of God. After he rose from the dead, the first thing Jesus said to the Apostles was:
John Corapi received the Divine Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation - and he became an apostle of that grace. We will have a chance to hear his message because he is coming to Holy Family this October. Like Fr. Corapi you and I are also called to experience Jesus' Heart, full of pity for us humans, and to likewise become channels of the greatest gift: God's life, the Divine Mercy.
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (St. Faustina, Sr. Mary Clare, Baptism Classes)
Catholicism Is the Answer