Picture this if you dare: Christ standing before his heavenly Father and pleading for us, still bearing his wounds.
Yesterday, I read this from the homily I was present for during the very hour that my friend — and friend to many here — Kate O’Beirne, former Washington editor of National Review and president of the National Review Institute — died on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2017. Since Easter moves around, so does Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday after Easter. This year it was yesterday. Mercy is certainly something we could use more of. One of the plagues of our politics today is how merciless it can be — on both/all sides — and the abuse and misuse of the word “mercy.”
Divine Mercy Sunday was instituted by John Paul II, who said:
“Through the mystery of this wounded heart, the restorative tide of God’s merciful love continues to spread over the men and women of our time. Here alone can those who long for true and lasting happiness find its secret.”
But back to 2017. I had been up until near-morning keeping vigil with friends by the bedside of Kate. Her family was so generous in welcoming a few of us to be there with them. I slept a little and went to the noon Mass at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. My friend Archbishop Augustine Di Noia was in from Rome celebrating the Mass, and just as Mass began I took a last look on my phone to learn that Kate had just died. And so, I cried with “Alleluia!” “Alleluia!” “Alleluia” in the background.
Archbishop Di Noia said:
The experience of the Apostle Thomas is in an important sense exemplary for us. “Rest in Christ’s passion and live willingly in his holy wounds. Had we but with Thomas put our finders into the print of his nails and thrust our hands into his side…the joys and miseries of life would soon become indifferent to us.” The wounds of Jesus are wounds of mercy. Where is there safety and sure rest for us except in the Savior’s wounds? “There the security of my dwelling depends on the greatness of his saving power…. I have sinned gravely, my conscience is disturbed but not confounded, because I shall remember the wounds of the Lord.” The wounds of Christ are a refuge for us, as they were to Thomas. “When it seems to you that your suffering exceeds your strength, contemplate my wounds.” Thus in the Anima Christi we pray, “Within Thy wounds hide me.”
Divine Mercy Sunday can be such a powerhouse of grace.
Fr. Roger Landry wrote on the feast this year, quoting from a Pope Francis testimony from his youth:
“For me,” he said, “feeling oneself a sinner is one of the most beautiful things that can happen, if it leads to its ultimate consequences. . . . When a person becomes conscious that he is a sinner and is saved by Jesus, he proclaims this truth to himself and discovers the pearl of great price, the treasure buried in the field. He discovers the greatest thing in life: that there is someone who loves him profoundly, who gave his life for him.”
(Fr. Landry wasn’t always into the Divine Mercy devotion. But he has his conversion story.)
One of the things that I think gets lost when people see Christians (and sometimes that is our fault) is that we know ourselves to be sinners. We need God so we can get out of the enslavement to that which is not of God. I notice this a lot praying outside abortion clinics — people think we are judging them. To the contrary, I’m gushing with sorrow for how we have failed these young girls and women. “Pray for us sinners,” in fact, we pray.
I still miss Kate dearly. But it’s the knowledge of God’s mercy for us all, and His creating us for Himself, that gives me hope in all kinds of sorrow. I’ve had painful deaths before and after this, and will continue to. We all will. It can be unbearable enough with faith! I pray for all those who struggle to know God, or simply don’t, because it has got to be so much harder.
Goodness, thinking of what Easter is about is so life-giving. It is the source of such hope. And that image Archbishop Di Noia gives us — Christ advocating for us now, still bearing the marks of His tremendous love for us.
After this year and change of the coronavirus pandemic, isn’t humbly excepting nothing of this world safety worth considering and truly living for those of us who say we are Christians? Could there be some Judeo-Christian/Abrahamic faiths/ecumenical unity in proclaiming that there is more to life than politics and earthly comfort?
By the way, that and other beautiful sermons are collected in the book, Grace in Season: The Riches of the Gospel in Seventy Sermons, which I highly recommend.