Altar Mosaic, Dominus Flevit Church, Mount of Olives
Transcription of Homily
Translation of the Epistle for Low Sunday:
Dearly beloved, whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world: and this is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ: not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit which testifieth, that Christ is the truth. And there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one. And there are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three are one. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. For this is the testimony of God, which is greater, because he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth in the Son of God, hath the testimony of God in himself.
Translation of the Holy Gospel according to St. John:
At that time, when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you. Then he saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord, and my God. Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed. Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name.
Those sins you forgive are forgiven.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Today has a number of names. It’s called the Low Sunday, because we don’t have all of the same pomp as we did on Easter Sunday as we conclude the Octave. It’s also called Dominica in albis, because in the early Church, the catechumens, who were baptized at the Vigil, then they wore those white garments for the entire Octave. And then on Dominica in albis depositis, they would take the white garments and return them to the cathedral treasury, where they would be kept as a witness to their baptismal promises. St. Augustine speaks about this phenomenon of the losing of the white garments, basically saying they’re like little chicks who are being kicked out of the nest. Okay. The Octave is over. Go live your Catholic lives. He says, “Nonetheless, Mother Church is hovering over these little chiclets who are just learning to fly. Very solicitous of them, keeping a watchful eye over them, supporting, encouraging, correcting.” It’s also called Quasimodo Sunday. Because of the Introit, in which we hear those beautiful words. Quasimodo means just as or like; so like newborn babes who desire spiritual milk without guile that they may grow up to salvation for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. So it comes also from the Introit, the first word. And often the nickname for a Mass will come from the first word of the Introit and that kind of sets a tone for the Mass itself and the formularies of the Mass.
Of late, this Sunday has also been given another name, Divine Mercy Sunday and I know some ultra-hyper-uber-traditionalists are suspicious of Divine Mercy. The suspicions are misplaced. I’ve read the diary. I’ve also read the critiques of Divine Mercy put forth by the ultra-hyper-uber-traditionalists, and they fall into one of two camps. It’s usually emotionalism. I heard one argument against the saying, “Well, the image gives me the creeps.” That’s not a very good convincing theological argument.
The ones that attempt to be theological, though, are, in reading them and reading the Diary, intellectually dishonest. One of the critiques is that, “Well, the Holy Office in the 50’s condemned the writing, and then, of course, it was the modernists who then approved it later.” Well, what was the Holy Office looking at? The Holy Office was looking at a faulty Italian translation. Faustina wrote in Polish and the diary was translated poorly into Italian and given to the Holy Office and there were errors. One error, for example, where Christ in Polish says, “I am Mercy Incarnate” was translated as if Sister Faustina were Mercy Incarnate. So of course, the Holy Office is going to have a problem with that. When the corrections to the translation were made, the process went forward.
There is a connection between Quasimodo and being like spiritual children and Divine Mercy because, ultimately, it is rooted in trust. At the foundation of it all is trust. The trust that the Church has in giving this time of Octive to the catechumens in which they’re very held very close to the Church, and then with trust, but not without God’s grace, sent out of the nest to live their lives as responsible adult Catholics, but they’re not on their own. The Divine Mercy is very much the same thing. We’re not left to our own devices.
Nobody here doubts the Real Presence. Nobody here doubts the miracles of Christ or the approved apparitions of Our Lady. We don’t doubt the miracles of saints. Our faith and our trust often find barriers when we think of ourselves. “Can I really be good? Can I be holy?” And there we start to falter. Often our eyes are on ourselves, on our own littleness, on all the reasons why we shouldn’t be saints. And I’m sure every one of us can come up with many reasons why we ought not be saints. And nonetheless, our Lord calls us to be reconciled to Him, to be forgiven in Confession.
And so one of the critiques of Divine Mercy was that it was a quasi-Protestant saved mentality. That’s not true at all. Once we’ve been forgiven, then we’ve got the responsibility to live up to that. And should we fall, we come back, and we come back. We ought not be problems for ourselves, we are problems for our Lord. And He is the solution. So we place ourselves in His hands with absolute trust in Him. He is the one who has all of the solutions for all of our weakness, our foibles, our sinfulness, our nothingness.
Imagine the situation here in the Gospel today, our Lord appears to the Disciples. For the Jews, a ghost was a soul that came back seeking revenge. That was the notion of a ghost for the Jews. So all of them had failed Him. All of His disciples had failed him in some way. And now He appears in the first thing He says is, “Peace be to you.” And then He gives them the faculties to forgive sins, and He repeats again, “Peace be to you.”
What is peace? St. Augustine tells us that peace is tranquillitas ordinis; the peace of tranquility. Tranquillitas ordinis is the tranquility of everything being in the right place. And so when we come to our Lord asking forgiveness, He puts things in the right place, but we’re not 17th-century Quietists. So okay, we don’t just delegate everything to Him and say, “Okay, I’ve been forgiven. Now I delegate everything to our Lord.” Rather, this comes with responsibility. So, ultimately trust, which is at the root of Divine Mercy, trust is entrusting of myself to His will. And that means with all of my heart, with all of my mind, with all of my strength, I will seek to please Him in my thoughts, in my words, and my deeds.
You know, we all have the valid question of “Is this a sin?” You know, that’s a valid question, but the real question that ought to drive our thoughts, our words our actions is, “Does this give you glory, Lord? Is this what pleases you?” When that’s what drives everything, it changes everything. And then we experience what Divine Mercy is. We receive graces that we never had before we learn how to cooperate with it. And it’s real. It’s real.
I’ve had so many experiences, brother priests have had so many experiences, where people have come up to us, “Father, I don’t know,” on the street “Father, it’s been about 30 years and I want… I just have an urge. I wanna go to confession.”
“Do you know what today is?”
“Divine Mercy Sunday.”
“It’s like the old Palmolive commercial, you know, you’re soaking in it. Okay. You’re immersed in it right now.”
And so it’s real. And to see these miracles is so humbling. Our Lord said it would happen and it happens. He is faithful. We have to trust in His fidelity.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Confession, Vlastimil Hofman, 1906