In my previous life, but then again that almost makes it sound like I believe in reincarnation so maybe I should say, in my 40 year business career, prior to my full time church ministry, I would always like to begin by defining my terms and that habit is hard to break. So when I hear the word mercy and want to talk about it in detail, I got my faithful dictionary out and found that it means a number of things when it is used in the context of something God has and expects we have, I found it means:
1. Kind and compassionate treatment.
2. A disposition to be forgiving.
3. Something for which to be thankful.
4. Alleviation of distress.
Looking at each of those definitions, without question all four fit divine mercy but often human mercy doesn't match up to divine mercy and I am sure each of us can think of an instance where a person didn't have "A disposition to be forgiving." As an example of that: there was a priest who was pulled over for speeding and as the policeman was about to write a ticket, the priest said to him, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." And as the policeman handed him the ticket he said: "Go and sin no more." Both knew their scriptures but at least the policeman didn't believe in mercy in that instance, but hopefully the priest listened to the scripture the policeman had quoted.
Our Gospel reading today is chuck full of examples of divine mercy and an instruction of how we are to be merciful. Jesus without question was "kind and compassionate" toward the apostles and gave them something for which for which to be thankful, and "alleviated a good part of their distress" when he appeared in the room and showed them that he really had risen from the dead, of course, that came after the initial shock of him saying, "Peace be with you" having come into the locked room without the need for opening the door or having a key. Then he went on to help them and us to understand what mercy means as regards to forgiveness. In spite of what each of them had done, he had mercy on them and gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit reflecting his forgiveness and then went on to make them aware of how they can have a disposition of being forgiving by giving them the power to forgive sins by saying: "Whose sins ... retained." Then the scripture goes on to tell us how he had mercy on doubting Thomas and each of us doubting Thomases.
Not only did he give us himself as a mode of mercy but not too many years back, in 1931 during the period of the Nazi holocaust, a period in which mercy was not being shown to the Jews, the Christians, the handicapped, and many others, Jesus appeared to a young Polish nun, who since 2000 we call St. Maria Faustina. He spoke to her about his Divine Mercy, directing her to propagate devotion to His Divine Mercy by way of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, instructed her to make a painting of his divine image, a copy of which we have here, and designated that the 1st Sunday after Easter, today, as Divine Mercy Sunday. The Chaplet is a beautiful prayer which is said using ordinary rosary beads and one to which is attached the promise of unimaginable graces to those who recite this special prayer and who trust in his mercy especially at the hour of death.
The painting of the divine image which she was instructed to produce shows Our Lord in white with white and red rays emanating from his heart. The white rays representing the sacraments of Baptism and Penance, sacraments in which our sins are washed away, and the red rays representing the Eucharist.
Just as with doubting Thomas, there were many doubters of St. Faustina. Slow progress was made in having people believe and begin praying the Chaplet, but four years after Christ's appearance, thousands in Poland participated in the movement and today, with the support of Pope John Paul II, it is a worldwide movement. It is a great prayer in which we petition for God's mercy, remember the mercy he always have for each of us and the fact that we are called to imitate his mercy.