Message: By his Divine Mercy, Jesus invites us to take the first step in the journey to hope.
Last Sunday I invited you to join me on an Easter journey - a journey of hope. We saw that to take the first step a person has to overcome a certain fear. To help you take that first step, I would like to tell you about a remarkable journey of hope.
The story involves a Jewish child who was separated from her parents when the Nazis took over Poland. Little Edith was sent to a work camp at Czestochowa. She somehow survived until the Germans began to retreat from Poland. Still wearing his prison uniform, she made her made her way to a town near Krakow. Emaciated and cold, she huddled in a corner. A young man, wearing a black robe, approached her. "What are you doing?" he asked. She said she was going to Krakow to look for her parents. The seminarian brought her tea and some bread with cheese.
"Try to stand," he said. When she tried and failed, he told her to put her arms around his neck and her carried her on his back, holding her bag in his hand. At Krakow they separated and she went to look for her parents. Eventually she learned they had died - murdered at the Belzec death camp.
Edith eventually emigrated to Israel. Thirty-three years later, she was watching the news about the election of pope. They announced the name, Karol Wojtyla. When she heard him say, "Do not be afraid," she recognized the voice - the same man who showed her kindness when she was abandoned. She wrote to Pope John Paul and they eventually met again. After the conversation, the pope placed his hand on her head to bless her and said, "Come back, my child."
Edith Zierer made a remarkable journey. A beautiful act of kindness helped her overcome despair, fear and abandonment. Pope John Paul made mercy the core of his priesthood. He saw mercy as a light against darkness. And has the world known darker times than when the Nazis and Communists oppressed millions of people?
Today John Paul along with John the Twenty-Third become officially recognized as a saint. It is no accident that this canonization happens on Divine Mercy Sunday. We hear Jesus' words, "Peace be with you." He's saying to Peter and the other apostles, "Do not fear. I know you have let me down. Yes, you abandoned me, but I did not abandon you. Peace be with you. Are you ready to pick up and make a journey with me? Just as I forgive you, I give you authority to forgive men's sins in my name."
Jesus invites the apostles to begin the journey anew. St. John XXIII invited us to take a new journey when he called the Second Vatican Council. People have different interpretations of the Council - and there's still a lot that we have yet to apply to our lives. But, you know, when St. John XXIII called us on that journey, he did not forget the Divine Mercy. Speaking of the Council he said:
"God knows that I opened my small soul to this great inspiration with the utmost simplicity. Will he grant me enough time to finish it? May he be praised if he does not grant it. I shall see the happy conclusion from heaven, where I hope, and am even certain, Divine Mercy will allow me to enter."
Well, today we recognize him in heaven with St. John Paul. In their own ways they both underline the Divine Mercy. The Divine Mercy enables us to overcome fear - the fear of judgment and condemnation. This is just the beginning. There's more to come, much more. Please keep coming back.
I told you that Pastor Rick Warren had inspired me to give this series on hope. I like him because he has gone through much personal suffering, but he shows clear joy. He also has a nice appreciation of the Catholic Church. He and his wife watch EWTN and use the Divine Mercy Chaplet as part of their worship. His friendship with Bishop Kevin Vann has led them to work together on a Mental Health initiative. (More about that next week.) Pastor Warren has a way of helping people revive hope. Recently he said, "It’s so easy to think God wouldn't help us because of the mess we've made. But the great news is – no matter what you've done – Jesus wants you to come to Him for help just as you are!"
No one knew this better than Peter. He had betrayed Jesus in way that you and I could never do. After all, he heard Jesus' teaching, saw his miracles and was privileged to be with him at overwhelming moments such as the Transfiguration. Yet Peter turned his back on Jesus, "I do not know the man." You and I have have sinned, we have denied Jesus, but not to the degree of Simon Peter. But Jesus says to him, "Peace, I want you to begin a fresh journey with me." By his Divine Mercy, Jesus invites us to take the first step in the journey to hope. Let me conclude with Peter's own words:
From Archives (Divine Mercy Sunday Homilies):
Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
Fr. Jim's Homilies
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru