Pope says Divine Mercy does not abandon those left behind, warns of the virus of selfish indifference
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Church of the Holy Spirit in the Saxon District, in private, due to the quarantine imposed by the pandemic. The Feast of Divine Mercy was established 20 years ago by John Paul II. “The Lord waits for us to offer him our failings so that he can help us experience his mercy,” said the Pope. During this pandemic, “there is a danger that we will forget those who are left behind.” Instead, “the time has come to eliminate inequalities, to heal the injustice that is undermining the health of the entire human family!” To this end, “let us not think only of our interests, our vested interests.” Lest we forget, “without an all-embracing vision, there will be no future for anyone.” The pontiff extended his Easter greetings to the Eastern Churches.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis celebrated Mass today, Divine Mercy Sunday. In his address, he noted that Divine Mercy “does not abandon those who stay behind,” people like Saint Thomas. Today, in the “slow and arduous recovery from the pandemic,” there is a risk “that we may [. . .] be struck by an even worse virus, that of selfish indifference” whereby we select “one person over another, discarding the poor, and sacrificing those left behind on the altar of progress.”
Pope Francis thus linked the Feast of Divine Mercy, which falls today, the second Sunday of Easter, to the coronavirus epidemic and the attempt to jumpstart society and the economy, after a long period of quarantine that is severely testing the prospects of prosperity and work in the world community.
The Feast of Divine Mercy was established 20 years ago by John Paul II, following the canonisation of Sister Faustina Kowalska. The Polish pope also chose the Chiesa del Santo Spirito in Sassia (Church of the Holy Spirit in the Saxon District), a few hundred metres from St Peter’s Basilica, as the church of Divine Mercy. It is here, today, that Pope Francis celebrated Mass without people, streamed live because of the quarantine imposed by the ongoing pandemic.
In his homily, the pontiff spoke first of the mercy that raises the disciple. Referring to the Apostle Thomas, who did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus and was absent from the upper room (cf. John 20, 19-31), he said: “The resurrection of his disciple begins here, from this faithful and patient mercy, from the discovery that God never tires of reaching out to lift us up when we fall. He wants us to see him, not as a taskmaster with whom we have to settle accounts, but as our Father who always raises us up.”
“You may object: ‘But I keep falling!’ The Lord knows this and he is always ready to raise you up. He does not want us to keep thinking about our failings; rather, he wants us to look to him. For when we fall, he sees children needing to be put back on their feet; in our failings he sees children in need of his merciful love.”
The pope mentioned an incident in Saint Faustina’s life, when Jesus asked her to give him everything, even her “failings,” adding “We too can ask ourselves: ‘Have I given my failings to the Lord? Have I let him see me fall so that he can raise me up?’ Or is there something I still keep inside me? A sin, a regret from the past, a wound that I have inside, a grudge against someone, an idea about a particular person . . . The Lord waits for us to offer him our failings so that he can help us experience his mercy.”
Turning to the current situation, the pontiff said: “Dear brothers and sisters, in the time of trial that we are presently undergoing, we too, like Thomas, with our fears and our doubts, have experienced our frailty. We need the Lord, who sees beyond that frailty an irrepressible beauty.”
“On this feast of Divine Mercy, the most beautiful message comes from Thomas, the disciple who arrived late; he was the only one missing. But the Lord waited for Thomas. Mercy does not abandon those who stay behind. Now, while we are looking forward to a slow and arduous recovery from the pandemic, there is a danger that we will forget those who are left behind. The risk is that we may then be struck by an even worse virus, that of selfish indifference.”
“May we be profoundly shaken by what is happening all around us: the time has come to eliminate inequalities, to heal the injustice that is undermining the health of the entire human family! Let us learn from the early Christian community described in the Acts of the Apostles. It received mercy and lived with mercy: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45). This is not some ideology: it is Christianity.”
“Saint Faustina, after meeting Jesus, wrote: ‘In a soul that is suffering we should see Jesus on the cross, not a parasite and a burden. . . [Lord] you give us the chance to practise deeds of mercy, and we practise making judgements’ (Diary, 6 September 1937). Yet she herself complained one day to Jesus that, in being merciful, one is thought to be naive. She said, ‘Lord, they often abuse my goodness’. And Jesus replied: ‘Never mind, don’t let it bother you, just be merciful to everyone always’ (24 December 1937). To everyone: let us not think only of our interests, our vested interests. Let us welcome this time of trial as an opportunity to prepare for our collective future, a future for all without discarding anyone. Because without an all-embracing vision, there will be no future for anyone.”
After communion, before the Regina Caeli antiphon, Francis stressed that "compassionate love between us and towards everyone" is not “pietism, nor welfarism, but compassion, which comes from the heart. Divine Mercy comes from the Heart of Christ, the Risen Christ.”
He added that “Christian mercy also inspires proper sharing between peoples and their institutions, to face the current crisis in solidarity.”
Noting that Orthodox Easter is celebrated today (according to the Julian calendar), the pontiff extended his greetings to “to the brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches who are celebrating Easter today. Together we proclaim that ‘The Lord has truly been raised’ (Lk 24:34).”
“Especially at this time of trial, we feel as a great gift the hope that comes from being raised with Christ! In particular, I rejoice with the Eastern Catholic communities which, for ecumenical reasons, celebrate Easter together with the Orthodox ones. May this brotherhood be of comfort [in places] where Christians are a small minority.”