DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY
St Peter’s Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Every year in celebrating Easter we relive the experience of the first disciples of Jesus, the experience of the encounter with him risen: the Gospel of John tells that they saw him appear in their midst in the Upper Room on the evening of the very day of the Resurrection, “the first day of the week”, and subsequently eight days later (John 20:19, 26). That day, later called “the Lord’s Day”, was the day of the assembly of the Christian community which gathered for its own devotion, that is, to the Eucharist, a new form of worship which from the outset differed from the Judaic worship of the Sabbath. Indeed, the celebration of the Lord’s Day is a very strong proof of Christ’s Resurrection, for only an extraordinary and overwhelming event could have induced the first Christians to begin a form of worship that differed with regard to the Jewish Sabbath.
Then, as today, Christian worship is not only a commemoration of past events nor even a specific, inner mystical experience; rather, it is essentially an encounter with the Risen Lord who lives in the dimension of God beyond time and space, and yet becomes really present amidst the community, speaks to us in the Sacred Scriptures and breaks the bread of eternal life for us.
It is through these signs that we relive what the disciples experienced, that is, the event of seeing Jesus and at the same time of not recognizing him; of touching his body, a real body and yet free from earthly bonds.
What the Gospel says is very important: namely, that Jesus, in his two appearances to the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room, repeats several times the greeting: “Peace be with you” (John 20:19, 21, 26). Here, the traditional greeting with which people wish one another shalom, peace, becomes something new: it becomes the gift of the peace that Jesus alone can give because it is the fruit of his radical victory over evil.
The “peace” that Jesus gives to his friends is the fruit of the love of God which led him to die on the cross, to pour out all his blood, as a meek and humble lamb “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
For this reason Blessed John Paul II chose to call this Sunday after Easter, Divine Mercy, with a very specific image: that of Jesus’ pierced side from which blood and water flowed, according to the account of an eyewitness, the Apostle John (cf. John 19:34-37). However Jesus is now risen and the paschal Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist flow from him, who is alive: those who receive them with faith receive the gift of eternal life.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us accept the gift of peace which the Risen Jesus offers us, let us allow our hearts to be filled with his mercy! In this way, with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead, we too can bring these Easter gifts to others. May Mary Most Holy obtain this for us.
After the Regina Caeli:
Dear brothers and sisters, I would first like to greet the pilgrims who have taken part in Holy Mass at which the Cardinal Vicar Agostino Vallini presided in the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia — welcome! — a special place for the worship of the Divine Mercy in which St Faustina Kowalska and Bl. John Paul II are venerated in a special way. I hope that you will all be witnesses of the merciful love of Christ. Thank you for coming!
I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today. In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears to his disciples and overcomes the doubts of Thomas. Through his Divine Mercy, may we always believe that Jesus is the Christ and, believing, may we have life in his name. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
I cordially greet all the Poles and in a special way those who are taking part in the liturgical celebrations of Divine Mercy Sunday at the Shrine of Łagiewniki. It was there that 10 years ago Bl. John Paul II said: “This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness! I entrust this task... to all the devotees of Divine Mercy”. Faithful to this exhortation, let us proclaim to the world the Message of the merciful Jesus, let us be his witnesses. I warmly bless you. I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you, have a good Sunday!
GREETING OF THE HOLY FATHER
Dear Armenian brothers and sisters,
On a number of occasions I have spoken of our time as a time of war, a third world war which is being fought piecemeal, one in which we daily witness savage crimes, brutal massacres and senseless destruction. Sadly, today too we hear the muffled and forgotten cry of so many of our defenceless brothers and sisters who, on account of their faith in Christ or their ethnic origin, are publicly and ruthlessly put to death – decapitated, crucified, burned alive – or forced to leave their homeland.
Today too we are experiencing a sort of genocide created by general and collective indifference, by the complicit silence of Cain, who cries out: “What does it matter to me? Am I my brother’s keeper?” (cf. Genesis 4:9; Homily in Redipuglia, 13 September 2014).
In the past century our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies. The first, which is widely considered “the first genocide of the twentieth century” (John Paul II and Karekin II, Common Declaration, Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001), struck your own Armenian people, the first Christian nation, as well as Catholic and Orthodox Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Greeks. Bishops and priests, religious, women and men, the elderly and even defenceless children and the infirm were murdered. The remaining two were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism. And more recently there have been other mass killings, like those in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia. It seems that humanity is incapable of putting a halt to the shedding of innocent blood. It seems that the enthusiasm generated at the end of the Second World War has dissipated and is now disappearing. It seems that the human family has refused to learn from its mistakes caused by the law of terror, so that today too there are those who attempt to eliminate others with the help of a few and with the complicit silence of others who simply stand by. We have not yet learned that “war is madness”, “senseless slaughter” (cf. Homily in Redipuglia, 13 September 2014).
Dear Armenian Christians, today, with hearts filled with pain but at the same time with great hope in the risen Lord, we recall the centenary of that tragic event, that immense and senseless slaughter whose cruelty your forebears had to endure. It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honour their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester. Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it!
I greet you with affection and I thank you for your witness.
With gratitude for his presence, I greet Mr Serž Sargsyan, the President of the Republic of Armenia.
My cordial greeting goes also to my brother Patriarchs and Bishops: His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians; His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics; and Catholicosates of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Patriarchate of the Armenian Catholic Church.
In the firm certainty that evil never comes from God, who is infinitely good, and standing firm in faith, let us profess that cruelty may never be considered God’s work and, what is more, can find absolutely no justification in his Holy Name. Let us continue this celebration by fixing our gaze on Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, victor over death and evil!
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Saint John, who was in the Upper Room with the other disciples on the evening of the first day after the Sabbath, tells us that Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you!” and he showed them his hands and his side (John 20:19-20); he showed them his wounds. And in this way they realized that it was not an apparition: it was truly him, the Lord, and they were filled with joy.
On the eighth day Jesus came once again into the Upper Room and showed his wounds to Thomas, so that he could touch them as he had wished to, in order to believe and thus become himself a witness to the Resurrection.
To us also, on this Sunday which Saint John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, the Lord shows us, through the Gospel, his wounds. They are wounds of mercy. It is true: the wounds of Jesus are wounds of mercy. “With his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Jesus invites us to behold these wounds, to touch them as Thomas did, to heal our lack of belief. Above all, he invites us to enter into the mystery of these wounds, which is the mystery of his merciful love.
Through these wounds, as in a light-filled opening, we can see the entire mystery of Christ and of God: his Passion, his earthly life – filled with compassion for the weak and the sick – his incarnation in the womb of Mary. And we can retrace the whole history of salvation: the prophecies – especially about the Servant of the Lord, the Psalms, the Law and the Covenant; to the liberation from Egypt, to the first Passover and to the blood of the slaughtered lambs; and again from the Patriarchs to Abraham, and then all the way back to Abel, whose blood cried out from the earth. All of this we can see in the wounds of Jesus, crucified and risen; with Mary, in her Magnificat, we can perceive that, “His mercy extends from generation to generation” (cf. Luke 1:50).
Faced with the tragic events of human history we can feel crushed at times, asking ourselves, “Why?”. Humanity’s evil can appear in the world like an abyss, a great void: empty of love, empty of goodness, empty of life. And so we ask: how can we fill this abyss? For us it is impossible; only God can fill this emptiness that evil brings to our hearts and to human history. It is Jesus, God made man, who died on the Cross and who fills the abyss of sin with the depth of his mercy.
Saint Bernard, in one of his commentaries on the Canticle of Canticles (Sermon 61, 3-5: Opera Omnia, 2, 150-151), reflects precisely on the mystery of the Lord’s wounds, using forceful and even bold expressions which we do well to repeat today. He says that “through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of [Christ’s] heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high”.
Brothers and sisters, behold the way which God has opened for us to finally go out from our slavery to sin and death, and thus enter into the land of life and peace. Jesus, crucified and risen, is the way and his wounds are especially full of mercy.
The saints teach us that the world is changed beginning with the conversion of one’s own heart, and that this happens through the mercy of God. And so, whether faced with my own sins or the great tragedies of the world, “my conscience would be distressed, but it would not be in turmoil, for I would recall the wounds of the Lord: ‘he was wounded for our iniquities’ (Isaiah 53:5). What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ?” (ibid.).
Keeping our gaze on the wounds of the Risen Jesus, we can sing with the Church: “His love endures forever” (Psalm 117:2); eternal is his mercy. And with these words impressed on our hearts, let us go forth along the paths of history, led by the hand of our Lord and Saviour, our life and our hope.
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today is the eighth day after Easter, and the Gospel according to John documents for us the two appearances of the Risen Jesus to the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room, where on the evening of Easter Thomas was absent, and eight days later, he was present. The first time, the Lord showed them the wounds to his body, breathed on them and said: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21). He imparts his same mission, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
But that night Thomas, who did not want to believe what the others witnessed, was not there. “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side”, he said, “I will not believe” (cf. John 20:25). Eight days later — which is precisely today — Jesus returned to stand among them and turned immediately to Thomas, inviting him to touch the wounds in his hands and his side. He faced his incredulity so that, through the signs of the passion, he was able to reach the fullness of faith in the Paschal Mystery, namely faith in the Resurrection of Jesus.
Thomas was one who was not satisfied and seeks, intending to confirm himself, to have his own personal experience. After initial resistance and apprehension, in the end even he was able to believe, even though through effort, he came to believe. Jesus waited for him patiently and offered himself to the difficulties and uncertainty of the last to arrive. The Lord proclaimed “blessed”, those who believe without seeing (cf. v. 29) the first of which is Mary his Mother. He also met the needs of the doubting disciple: “Put your finger here, and see my hands...” (v. 27). In the redeeming contact with the wounds of the Risen One, Thomas showed his own wounds, his own injuries, his own lacerations, his own humiliation; in the print of the nails he found the decisive proof that he was loved, that he was expected, that he was understood. He found himself before the Messiah filled with kindness, mercy, tenderness. This was the Lord he was searching for, he, in the hidden depths of his being, for he had always known He was like this. And how many of us are searching deep in our heart to meet Jesus, just as He is: kind, merciful, tender! For we know, deep down, that He is like this. Having rediscovered personal contact with Christ who is amiable and mercifully patient, Thomas understood the profound significance of his Resurrection and, intimately transformed, he declared his full and total faith in Him exclaiming: “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28). Beautiful, Thomas’ expression is beautiful!
He was able to “touch” the Paschal Mystery which fully demonstrated God’s redeeming love (cf. Ephesians 2:4). All of us too are like Thomas: on this second Sunday of Easter we are called to contemplate, in the wounds of the Risen One, Divine Mercy, which overcomes all human limitations and shines on the darkness of evil and of sin. The upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy will be an intense and extended time to welcome the immeasurable wealth of God’s love and mercy, the Bull of Indiction for which I promulgated yesterday evening here, in St Peter’s Basilica. That Bull begins with the words: “Misericordiae Vultus”: Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy. Let us keep our gaze turned to Him, who always seeks us, waits for us, forgives us; so merciful, He is not afraid of our wretchedness. In his wounds He heals us and forgives all of our sins. May the Virgin Mother help us to be merciful with others as Jesus is with us.
After the Regina Caeli:
Dear brothers and sisters, I cordially greet all of you faithful from Rome and you who have come from so many parts of the world. I greet the pilgrims from the Diocese of Metuchen in the United States, the Handmaids of the Child Jesus from Croatia, the Daughters of Divine Charity, the parish groups from Forlì and Gravina in Puglia and all the young men and young women present, especially students from “Figlie di Gesù” school in Modena, those from “Liceo Verga” in Adriano and the confirmands from Palestrina. I greet the pilgrims who attended the Holy Mass presided at by the Cardinal Vicar of Rome in the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, the centre of devotion to Divine Mercy.
I greet the Neocatechumenal communities of Rome, who today are beginning a special mission in the city’s squares to pray and bear witness to the faith.
I address a cordial greeting to the faithful of the Eastern Churches who, in accordance with their calendar, are celebrating Holy Pascha today. I join in their joy of proclaiming the Risen Christ: Christós anésti! Let us greet our brothers and sisters of the East with applause on this day of their Easter, everyone!
I also address a heartfelt greeting to the Armenian faithful, who came to Rome and attended Holy Mass with the presence of my brothers, the three Patriarchs, and numerous Bishops.
In the past weeks, many messages of Easter greetings have come to me from every part of the world. With gratitude I reciprocate them to all. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the children, the elderly, the families, dioceses, parish and religious communities, the entities and the many associations, who wanted to show me affection and closeness. Please continue to pray for me!
I wish a happy Sunday to all of you. Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci!
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI & Pope Francis I, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
14 June 2015. 15:00 SGT
ECUMENICAL COMMEMORATION OF THE WITNESSES TO THE FAITH
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II
Third Sunday of Easter, 7 May 2000
1. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). With these words on the eve of his Passion, Jesus foretells his glorification through his death. We have just heard this challenging truth in the Gospel acclamation. It resounds forcefully tonight in this significant place, where we remember the “witnesses to the faith in the twentieth century”.
Christ is the grain of wheat who by dying has borne fruits of everlasting life. And down the centuries his disciples have followed in the footsteps of the Crucified King, becoming a numberless multitude “from every nation, race, people and language”: apostles and confessors of the faith, virgins and martyrs, bold heralds of the Gospel and silent servants of the Kingdom.
Dear Brothers and Sisters united by faith in Jesus Christ! I am especially happy today to offer you my brotherly embrace of peace, as we commemorate together the witnesses to the faith in the twentieth century. I warmly greet the representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of the other Orthodox Sister Churches, as well as those of the ancient Churches of the East. I likewise thank the representatives of the Anglican Communion, of the worldwide Christian Communities of the West and of the Ecumenical Organizations for their fraternal presence.
Gathered as we are at the Colosseum for this meaningful jubilee celebration, our coming together this evening is for all of us a source of great emotion. The monuments and ruins of ancient Rome speak to humanity of the sufferings and persecutions endured with fortitude by our forebears in the faith, the Christians of the first generations. These ancient remains remind us how true are the words of Tertullian who wrote: “sanguis martyrum semen christianorum” — the blood of the martyrs is the seed of new Christians (Apol., 50,13: CCL 1, 171).
2. The experience of the martyrs and the witnesses to the faith is not a characteristic only of the Church’s beginnings but marks every epoch of her history. In the twentieth century, and maybe even more than in the first period of Christianity, there has been a vast number of men and women who bore witness to the faith through sufferings that were often heroic. How many Christians in the course of the twentieth century, on every continent, showed their love of Christ by the shedding of blood! They underwent forms of persecution both old and new, they experienced hatred and exclusion, violence and murder. Many countries of ancient Christian tradition once more became lands where fidelity to the Gospel demanded a very high price. In our century “the witness to Christ borne even to the shedding of blood has become a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 37).
The generation to which I belong experienced the horror of war, the concentration camps, persecution. In my homeland, during the Second World War, priests and Christians were deported to extermination camps. In Dachau alone some three thousand priests were interned. Their sacrifice was joined to that of many Christians from other European countries, some of whom belonged to other Churches and Ecclesial Communities.
I myself am a witness of much pain and many trials, having seen these in the years of my youth. My priesthood, from its very beginning, was marked “by the great sacrifice of countless men and women of my generation” (Gift and Mystery, p. 39). The experience of the Second World War and of the years following brought me to consider carefully and with gratitude the shining example of those who, from the beginning of the twentieth century to its end, met persecution, violence, death, because of their faith and because their behaviour was inspired by the truth of Christ.
3. And there are so many of them! They must not be forgotten, rather they must be remembered and their lives documented. The names of many are unknown; the names of some have been denigrated by their persecutors, who tried to add disgrace to martyrdom; the names of others have been concealed by their executioners. But Christians preserve the memory of a great number of them. This is shown by the numerous replies to the invitation not to forget, received by the “New Martyrs” Commission within the Committee for the Great Jubilee. The Commission has worked hard to enrich and update the Church’s memory with the witness of all those people, even those who are unknown, who “risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26). Yes, as the Orthodox Metropolitan Benjamin of Saint Petersburg, martyred in 1922, wrote on the eve of his execution: “The times have changed and it has become possible to suffer much for love of Christ . . .”. With the same conviction, from his cell in Buchenwald, the Lutheran Pastor Paul Schneider asserted once more in the presence of his prison guards: “Thus says the Lord, ‘I am the resurrection and the life!’”.
The presence of representatives of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities gives today’s celebration particular significance and eloquence in this Jubilee Year 2000. It shows that the example of the heroic witnesses to the faith is truly precious for all Christians. In the twentieth century, almost all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities have known persecution, uniting Christians in their places of suffering and making their shared sacrifice a sign of hope for times still to come.
These brothers and sisters of ours in faith, to whom we turn today in gratitude and veneration, stand as a vast panorama of Christian humanity in the twentieth century, a panorama of the Gospel of the Beatitudes, lived even to the shedding of blood.
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5 July 2015. 12:00 SGT
Third Sunday of Easter, First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19
Peter said to the people: ‘You are Israelites, and it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus, the same Jesus you handed over and then disowned in the presence of Pilate after Pilate had decided to release him. It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses.
‘Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer. Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.’
Third Sunday of Easter, Responsorial: Psalm 4:2, 4, 7, 9
Response: Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord.
When I call, answer me, O God of justice;
from anguish you released me, have mercy and hear me!
It is the Lord who grants favours to those whom he loves;
the Lord hears me whenever I call him.
‘What can bring us happiness?’ many say.
Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord.
I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once
for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Third Sunday of Easter, Second Reading: 1 John 2:1-5
I am writing this, my children, to stop you sinning;
but if anyone should sin, we have our advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ, who is just; he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away,
and not only ours, but the whole world’s.
We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments.
Anyone who says, ‘I know him’, and does not keep his commandments,
is a liar, refusing to admit the truth.
But when anyone does obey what he has said,
God’s love comes to perfection in him.
cf. Luke 24:32
Lord Jesus, explain the Scriptures to us.
Make our hearts burn within us as you talk to us.
Third Sunday of Easter, Gospel Reading: Luke 24:35-48
The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread.
They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’
In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost.
But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’
And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet.
Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’
And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.
Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’
He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’
It was the 3rd Sunday of Easter on 19 April 2015.
The Readings that were read in the Eucharistic Celebrations all over the world on the same day are shown above:
1st Reading: Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19,
Responsorial: Psalm 4:2, 4, 7, 9,
2nd Reading: 1 John 2:1-5 &
Gospel Reading: Luke 24:35-48.
We have extracted the Homilies Blessed Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI & Pope Francis I based on the aforesaid Readings to share with you, so that you could similarly be encouraged: