Second Sunday of Easter

Once upon a time there was a thief, we don’t know much about him, we don’t know what he stole, we do know that he was sentenced to die on the cross.  What was he thinking of on his way to his death?  Maybe he was thinking of his wife and his family; maybe he was thinking of the failure that he had been.  When he was on the cross, when he was dying everything changed. He was crucified beside an innocent man. He saw his behaviour and he heard him speak, and something touched him deep inside.  That’s when he uttered these beautiful words: “Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom”. Then he heard this beautiful answer: “today you will be with me in paradise”. This man had very little to offer and yet he received the great gift of the mercy of Jesus of the mercy of God.  Today is the second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday. This was designated by St. John Paul II not long before he died. As a young man Karol Wojtyla cultivated a strong devotion to Sr. Faustina Kowalski a young nun who died in Krakow in 1938. Sr. Faustina was gifted with extraordinary experiences of the Lord Jesus. We had the privilege on our parish pilgrimage in 2007 of visiting the convent where Sr. Faustina was, as a young nun and we visited her tomb as well. The most famous of the visions she had was the Lord revealing his most Sacred Heart from which radiated rays of light, both red and white. She saw this as a radiant force of Divine Mercy. It struck the young Karol Wojtyla that Sr. Faustina died on the eve of Poland’s crucifixion at the hands of the Nazis who invaded Poland on the 1st of September 1939, a year after she died and then the ongoing crucifixion of the Polish People at the hands of the communists. St. John Paul II recognized the 20th century as the cruelest century in history, the century that was most marked by violence, genocide, by deep hatred and the one that was most in need of Divine Mercy. He saw therefore in the visions of Sr. Faustina that God wanted to bestow on the 20th century his Divine Mercy. St. John Paul canonized her shortly before he died. Millions of people all over the world today pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The greatest manifestation of the mercy of God is the forgiveness of sins.  When we think of the mercy of God, there are some things we should remember.  First, it is free; we cannot earn it we don’t deserve it.  God gives it because he loves us.  Second, God not only forgives, but he also forgets.  He wipes away our sins and gives us a new beginning.  Third God does not forgive, just once, twice, or three times, God forgives always.  Fourth, God never tires of forgiving.  No sin is so great that it cannot be forgiven. The mercy of God is greater than the greatest sin. Fifth, God gives us back not just our dignity but our innocence, and for this reason, the forgiven sinner can walk with his/her head held high.  He can smile with a flame of generosity and courage in his heart, which makes him/her want to do something for Jesus out of gratitude. When G. K Chesterton was asked why he became a Catholic; his reply was to have his sins forgiven.  When we think like this, when we live like this, we too can hear the words of the good thief,  Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom;  and then just listen to hear Jesus’ answer,  which will surely come.