Bishop Douglas J. Lucia blesses the Syracuse Diocese with the Blessed Sacrament from the steps of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception during a Divine Mercy Sunday holy hour April 19. (Sun photo | Chuck Wainwright)
Bishop Douglas J. Lucia celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday April 19 with a special Hour of Mercy, livestreamed from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The hour-long devotion included exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and a blessing by the bishop.
Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated the first Sunday after Easter. St. Faustina Kowalska, considered a mystic, spread the message of Christ’s Divine Mercy in her personal journal, “Divine Mercy in My Soul,” which recounts the messages Jesus shared with her. During the homily for her canonization on April 30, 2000, St. John Paul II declared Divine Mercy Sunday to be celebrated worldwide.
The Divine Mercy message is simple, say the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. “It is that God loves us — all of us. And, He wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy.”
On Sunday, the Cathedral sanctuary was adorned with Easter flowers and a simple wooden cross draped in white cloth. Behind that, a large image of the Divine Mercy: Jesus, with rays of light symbolizing the waters of baptism and his own blood emanating from his heart, standing above the words delivered to St. Faustina — “Jesus, I Trust in You.”
The pews were empty but for those assisting Bishop Lucia with the celebration: music minister Jeremy Bobak; lector Sister Laura Bufano, CSJ; and altar server Brendan Foley, a diocesan seminarian.
In his homily, Bishop Lucia said the Divine Mercy image has grown to be one of his favorite images of Jesus, one to which “I turn to again and again in the most difficult moments of life. So how appropriate it is to have it here before is this Lord’s Day in the midst of the challenges and suffering of the coronavirus pandemic.”
“In a series of revelations, Jesus taught St. Faustina that his mercy is unlimited and available even to the greatest sinners, and he revealed special ways for people to respond to his mercy,” this bishop explained. “The real question for all of us here today is, ‘Do we really understand Christ’s mercy?’”
Bishop Lucia drew on three stories to illustrate the concept: First, the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter, in which Jesus appears to the disciples hiding behind closed doors. Second, the parable of the Prodigal Son, read moments before. Third, a story told about the days following the French Revolution: A former soldier in Napoleon’s army, injured in the war, is now an old man reduced to begging across the French countryside. He comes upon a church, where the priest invites him in for breakfast and shows him great kindness and love. The beggar asks the priest for confession. He confesses that he had been a trusted servant to an aristocratic family, but that he had betrayed them. All but the youngest son, who somehow escaped, were sent to the guillotine. After hearing the old man’s confession, the priest reveals, “I am the youngest son, my friend, and I forgive you.”
“Sisters and brothers, what does such boundless mercy do for our troubled and afflicted lives in the here and now? What does Christ want it to do?” Bishop Lucia asked. What did it do for each of the two sons in the parable, or for Jesus’ friends locked in the upper room?
“Whichever Gospel reading we choose to refer to this afternoon, it comes down to one fact: ‘Everything I have is yours.’ Everything I have is yours. That is the mercy of God,” Bishop Lucia said.
Sister Faustina heard the risen Jesus say, “‘My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy,’” the bishop said, quoting from the saint’s diary. “‘I desire that the feast of mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. Let no soul fear to draw near to me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity…. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the fount of my mercy.’”
“Our fears, our anxiety, frustration, and stress can all be traced back to doubts,” Bishop Lucia continued. “Doubts of our own worthiness, or doubts about the power and goodness of God, about his desire or ability to forgive us, to fix our mistakes, to bring victory out of failure, and good out of evil, and life out of death. This afternoon you and I are being invited to doubt no longer, but to believe. Even in the midst of a pandemic, to believe in God’s mercy available to us, especially through his Church and its sacraments.”
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, the bishop said, “God reminds us of his mercy. And with that he says to each of us, just as he said to his apostles some 20 centuries ago — those confused, frightened, anxious, and doubting apostles — ‘Peace be with you. Doubt no longer, but believe.’”
St. Faustina recounts similar words from Jesus, he continued, again quoting from the saint’s diary: “Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting for you there. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul.”
The faithful are invited to put their complete trust in Jesus Christ, Bishop Lucia said, and “as we do so, to rejoice in God’s love for you and me which is continually poured out upon us by the gift of the Holy Spirit — a spirit that sends us forth to be images of Divine Mercy for others, in which the limitless ocean of God’s mercy overwhelms the puny ocean of our misery.”
Bishop Lucia then led prayer of the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, followed by intercessions for world leaders, the faithful, parents, and peace.
As the Cathedral’s bells rang, Bishop Lucia processed with the Blessed Sacrament down the center aisle and out the church’s front doors. Standing on the Cathedral steps, he raised the monstrance high and blessed the diocese and its people with the Blessed Sacrament.
Watch video of the Hour of Mercy below, courtesy Syracuse Catholic Television.