If I could encourage you to go to confession that would be the greatest gift that I could give to you. I think the Lord desires this for all of us on Divine Mercy. (Feel free at any point to go back to the confessional.)
Jesus said once said to Faustina, “Run through the world and tell them of my infinite Mercy. If sinners recite this chaplet only once in their lives, they will be saved.” That is the Chaplet we are going to read right after the talk I am going to give today.
Let us begin. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. While he was still a long way off, the father caught sight of his son and was filled with compassion; he ran to him, embraced him and kissed him. Heavenly Father as we come before you on this wonderful feast of Divine Mercy, we know and believe that you take the first step. You run to us in our sinfulness. I ask that you run to all of us here today, especially anyone that has been away from you or away from the church. Let this may be a wonderful opportunity of you running to them, embracing them, kissing them and letting them know that they are your beloved sons and daughters. Father, I ask your Son to send His Holy Spirit upon me as well so that you may truly use me as an instrument – to be your vessel to share the great love that you have for us and Divine Mercy. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Saint Faustina said that Jesus told her to tell the priests that hardened sinners will crumble beneath their words when the priests speak of Jesus’ Mercy. I have great confidence right now in my words because I know it is entirely the Lord working through me.
There will be great graces any time a priest speaks about Divine Mercy. This is based on that promise that the Lord gave to St. Faustina. Jesus said to Faustina, “O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy.” “But the soul, deaf even to this appeal, wraps itself in darkness. Jesus calls out again: ‘My child, listen to the voice of your merciful Father.’” (With a Despairing Soul 1486).
I want to talk a little bit about despair. Despair really is losing hope. It is thinking we are beyond being saved by God. One of the messages Jesus revealed to Faustina, that he wanted us all to know, was to never despair. He longs for us to hope and trust in the love of God. The love of God will see us through.
The key to Divine Mercy is trust. No matter how bad off we are, we must trust in the Lord Jesus, and trust that God is a merciful God. Then he will spare us not only in this life but in the life to come as well.
Jesus said, “My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable (138) mercy. I desire that the Feast of Divine Mercy (139) be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day, the very depths of my tender mercy are open, and I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who come to me – especially the poor sinners.
On that day, the very depths of my tender mercy are open.” So, this is today, right now at this moment. The very depths. The ocean of God’s mercy is being opened for us. Jesus says, “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness and punishment of any sin.”
That is an amazing gift. Not only are we forgiven from the sin but any effect of sin or punishment from sin is also washed clean from us today. So again, I invite you to go to Confession and receive the Eucharist today.
If you have already received the Eucharist or Confession in the last couple of days or will receive it within the next few days, that is acceptable, too. (It is actually a week before or a week after.)
Jesus says, “Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of my mercy. Every soul in its relation to me will contemplate my love and mercy most tenderly. The Feast of Mercy emerged from the very depths of my tenderness. (139) It is my desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.”
We know we need peace in the world today, right? I am so glad that you are here today on this Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus revealed to St. Faustina that he wanted to have a Divine Mercy Sunday. There was a time when she took this message to the Holy Father, and she said, “Holy Father, can you institute a Day of Divine Mercy the Sunday after Easter?” The Holy Father said to her, “We already have one.”
So Faustina went to Jesus and said, “The Pope said we already have one.” Jesus said, “Who knows about it?” Nobody knew about it and, even today, we are still helping people know about the wonderful mercy God is inviting us into.
If you don’t have an image of The Divine Mercy* in your home or prayer room…
Why am I here today to speak about mercy? Why me, Fr. Michael Denk? For one, I am a priest. A great promise was given if a priest speaks on Divine Mercy for even the hardest soul and sinners.
If there is any hardness in your heart right now, we all from time to time have a hardness in our hearts, I believe that that grace is going to come through to the depth of your heart and soften. Keep that in mind.
If there is any hardness. If there is any unforgiveness. If there is any hurt that you have, any toughness in your heart, any unwillingness to bend to God’s will, all of that can be dissolved right now today.
Sometimes it is funny for me to think about preaching on Divine Mercy, and this is why. When I went into the seminary, somebody gave me Saint Faustina’s Diary. The journal that she had. I am sure many of you have read it, but if you have not read it, it is very thick. It is a really thick diary. I remember getting that as a gift from somebody, and I was just going back into the seminary.
When you are in the seminary, they give you reading all throughout the day and then on top of that one of my teachers joked and said that this could be your 3:00 AM reading. You can read that at 3:00 AM. The idea was that we could never keep up with all the reading that we had to do and then, in addition to that, somebody gave me this diary of Saint Faustina.
So, what did I do with it? I put it on the bookshelf and never looked at it again. Over the course of the years until I was ordained, I received six copies of the Diary of Saint Faustina from people. You know what I did with those six diaries? I put them on the bookshelf and never looked at them.
Finally, once I was ordained, somebody gave me a beautiful diary that she inscribed and even drew a beautiful picture on it. Never looked at it. Then we celebrated the year of Mercy. Remember the year we celebrated that? We had a whole year dedicated to mercy. Every year the church declares that it be a year with a different theme.
Pope Francis declared the whole year to be the year for mercy. I thought I think I should read one of those mercy books this year. So that was it. That was the year that I read Divine Mercy, and it really opened me up in a wonderful and powerful way to Saint Faustina and Divine Mercy.
As a child growing up, I actually loved going to Confession. I remember from the time that I was a little boy I would go to Confession. Then, when I was old enough to ride my bike, I would ride my bicycle to church on a Saturday afternoon.
I am from Holy Family in Parma, and they had Confessions twice on Saturday. I would ride my bike up and go to Confession, and my happiest memory was being totally free from sin afterwards. I thought, “If I get hit by a car right now, I will go straight to heaven.”
That is the reality of the state of our soul – especially today on Divine Mercy Sunday. God is completely cleansing us, not only from our sin but any punishment of sin. It is such a wonderful blessing and a wonderful grace.
When I was little, I would go to Confession face-to-face. My mother is here in the front pew. One of the funniest stories I have as a little boy involves going to confession. I loved animals as a child, but my mother cannot stand them. She does not want any in the house or anywhere near her. One day my cat had gotten dirty outside, so I decided that I was going to give my cat a bath in the bathtub upstairs. I was giving my cat a bath, and my mother walked in and said, “Michael what are you doing? Get that cat out of here.” She said, “You are going to Confession right now.”
So, I went to Confession to Fr. Costello, our pastor at the time. I said, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been a couple of weeks since I went to Confession. I gave my cat a bath.” Fr. Costello started laughing. He said, “What kind of sin is that?” I said, “I do not know. Ask my mother.” The sin was disobedience, by the way. I was not listening to her.
I love going to Confession and since I would go over the years, I would get to know these priests as wonderful wisdom figures. One of my favorite priests was Fr. McManoman. Fr. McManoman is a Franciscan priest, so he wears the long brown robe with the hood on the back.
Franciscans are known for being so gentle, loving and warm. Fr. McManoman was a jovial, warm, wonderful personality and a gentle figure. I would love going to him for Confession. He looked like Santa Claus. He just had that warmth about him. But, even better than that, he was hard of hearing.
I would go to him on purpose because it would be hard for him to hear, and he would give an easy penance. As I got older and went to high school and college, I began to go behind the screen because I was a little bit more embarrassed of my sins. I would go behind the screen, but I remember still wanting the priest to know me and me wanting to know the priest. So, I would often do my penance in the last pew of the church. I am sure the priest would say, “There is that Mike Denk again.”
Then I entered the seminary. The seminary was a wonderful time of conversion for me. There were different priests throughout the diocese that would come and hear Confessions, and I would go to every priest I could just be trying to learn from their wisdom.
Through the years they gave me great direction. Some of the things they said were simple, profound and really impact me still today. One of the priests was a smoker. I would see him in his office. Some of you might know him, Fr. Michael B. Smith. He is kind of a chain smoker. He would smoke cigarettes back-to-back in his office. I remember one time while I was going to Confession he was smoking cigarettes.
I said my confession, he looked at me, took a deep drag off his cigarette, and he said, “Michael, be gentle with yourself. Rome was not built in a day.” He would say that over and over every time I would go to Confession. So, I say that to you, too. Be gentle with yourself. Rome was not built in a day.
If you feel like you have been confessing the same sins over and over again or you are really upset by a sin you have committed, be gentle with yourself. More importantly, trust in Divine Mercy. Trust that God is merciful and that he wants to forgive us of our sins.
The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy began on April 11, 2015, right before First Vespers of the Vigil of Divine Mercy. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, stood before the Holy Doors of St. Peter’s Basilica, and he said, “This will be the year of extraordinary mercy. Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” The Father’s Mercy is actually what I want to talk to you about today.
You heard at the beginning that I have this ministry called The Prodigal Father. What I would love to share with you is the whole image of God the Father’s love being prodigal. Vinny Flynn has a book on Divine Mercy and, if you read it, one of the chapters that he has is called One of the Secrets of Divine Mercy is Prodigal is Not Bad. I will tell you why prodigal does not mean bad. If you look up prodigal in the dictionary, it means to lavish; expand your resources extravagantly – almost recklessly.
We certainly associate that with the son, right? The prodigal son as we call him. The prodigal son goes off, and he tells the father, “Give me my inheritance now. You are dead to me.” He takes off. He runs and he spends it all. He squanders it and finds himself in dire need. So, what does he do? He goes back to the father and thinks, “Well, I am just going to be a servant for my father. Maybe he will let me be a slave.”
He goes back to the father with that mentality. While he is still a long way off, the father, who represents God the Father, sees him. He runs to his son. He takes off running, and when he gets to him, he embraces him and kisses him.
The translation from actual Greek is to smother with kisses. Kiss repeatedly. God the Father is similar to a mother with her child who just cannot stop kissing her child. That is his love for us. He just wants to smother us with his love. He brings the child in, and he says to him, “My child, now we must celebrate and rejoice because you were dead and have come back to life again.” He says, “Kill the fatted calf, slaughter it, get a ring for my son, and put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. We must celebrate and rejoice.”
I want you to think about the word prodigal again. The father has already given his son his inheritance. In Baptism, you were given your inheritance to the Kingdom of God. When you were baptized, you inherited the Kingdom of God and sometimes we, sinners, squander that. We sin. Every time we sin, we give away our inheritance, especially when we have a mortal sin on our souls.
Here is the amazing thing, even though you once had an inheritance and squandered it, the Father desires to run to you, embrace you and kiss you. Not only that, but he opens up the kingdom of heaven again, slaughters the finest calf, puts a ring on your finger, puts sandals on your feet and throws a celebration.
Notice it is the father who is prodigal. He is again lavishing everything that he has on his son: finest robe, ring on his finger, sandals on his feet. He cannot stop giving. That is how God the Father is with all of us today – especially on Divine Mercy Sunday. He wants to shower you with his love. You are his beloved son. You are his beloved daughter. He wants to give you the Kingdom of God today.
Some of us might hate this parable. Some of us might think we relate better to the older son. I have news for you; Jesus wrote this parable for us, too. This was the parable he wrote to the Pharisees who were doing everything right. They were upset about the sinful woman. They were upset about the sinful people. They were doing it all right, and so, Jesus tells them this parable. So, if this parable upsets you because you are the older son, it should upset you.
The gospels are always called to either comfort us in our weakness or disturb us in our secureness. It will do one of two things. It will either comfort us if we are like the younger son, or it is going to disturb us if we are like the older brother. If you find yourself upset with this and want to dismiss me while I am talking about the Prodigal Son, you are the older brother.
This was meant for you because the older brother has hardened his heart. The older brother is outside in the field and is working as the celebration is going on. When he hears about the celebration, he says to the father, “How could you do this? How can you do this for that son of yours (he is his brother) that squanders his inheritance on a life of dissipation, slept with prostitutes, and did the worst of things? How could you do this?”
I just want you to think of Jesus. Could you ever hear those words coming out of Jesus? No, right? So, if we are like the older brother and we are saying those words, those are not the words of Jesus. That is not the disposition of Jesus. The disposition of Jesus is always yearning and excited to join the celebration. Here is what I love about God the Father. He is prodigal right? He even gives to the older son. He says to him, “Son, you are here with me always. Everything I have is yours.”
The older son had it all. I think that the older son thought that maybe God could run out of grace. If he is going to give his son his inheritance, he better not give him more of mine. God the Father is unlimited in what he can give. The best part he says to the older brother, ”Son, you have been here with me always. What a gift. Everything I have is yours.” The father still goes to the son and pleads with him even though the son is resentful, upset, and tries to dismiss the father.
He begs him to come back to the celebration. Think about that today as we enter this Feast of Divine Mercy. Which son do we relate to? Is it the younger son where there is some sin in our lives that we are just terribly ashamed of? Or, is it the older brother where we are resentful? We find ourselves hardened. The Lord wants to invite all of us into his mercy today – the hardened son and the repentant son.
John Paul II said in his last book, Memory and Identity, “The limit imposed upon the evil of which man is both perpetrator and victim is ultimately Divine Mercy.” When you ask yourself, why is there so much evil in the world? How could this happen? We just saw the tragedy in Sri Lanka, and we think how can there be evil in this world if God is so good? The answer to that is Divine Mercy. In as much evil that there is, his Divine Mercy is infinitely stronger.
Pope Francis goes on to say, “Here then is the reason for the Jubilee because this is the time for mercy. Here then is the reason. It is the favorable time to heal wounds.” What I love about Pope Francis is that he is always trying to reconcile. He is trying to reconcile those who are divided in the church. He is trying to reconcile those that are divided in the world. He is trying to reconcile our divided country. He is always trying to reconcile.
He says, “Do not be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs and the closeness of God. A time to offer everyone a way of forgiveness and reconciliation.” ((Divine Mercy Website) This is similar to the Gospel today: offer people the ability to see and to touch the hands and the wounds of Jesus. As you receive the Eucharist, you become so one with Jesus that as you belong to the world today, you become his body. Through you, people will see and touch and experience his great love and mercy.
Going back to me, I finally read the Divine Mercy Journal that year, the Year of Mercy. When I started reading it, I could not put it down. For me, it was absolutely powerful, and I realized over and over again it was reinforcing this image of God that the Father loves. Jesus is trustworthy.
Over and over, no matter what is going on in my life, I trust in Him. No matter what difficulties I may be going through, I trust in Him. No matter what sin there may be in my life that I may not have been able to overcome, I trust in Him. If there is any hardness in my heart that I am unable to soften, I trust in Him. There was this entire diary with the repetition of trusting in the Lord.
You know it is Divine Mercy, right? Mercy is the number one word throughout the diary. Do you know how many times the word mercy is mentioned in the diary? 1,481 times it mentions mercy. If you do not get it, you are going to get it by the end of the diary that God is a God of mercy. I am going to quote a few passages from that.
St. Faustina says, “’Today,’ Jesus told her, ‘I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind’” (Diary, 1588).
God’s desire is to not want to punish aching mankind. I will talk a little bit about the idea of hell and the real existence of hell. She saw purgatory. She saw hell, and she saw people in hell. The amazing thing was that when she saw or heard the people howl, and she heard the story of why they were there, everyone there did not believe that hell existed. At no point do I want us to think that hell does not exist, but I want us to know without a doubt that God does not want us to be there. We can trust, if we trust in Jesus, that he is going to bring us to heaven.
Jesus says to her, “My mercy is to the people in the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it.” Listen to this beautiful phrase, “and to press it to my chest like a merciful mother. You are the secretary of my mercy; I have chosen you and I am sending you to the world” (Diary, 1605) “to make known to souls the great mercy that I have for them, and to exhort them to trust in the bottomless depth of My mercy” (Diary, 1567).
Exhort means not only to command but also to inspire people. So, hopefully you are not like me when you get the journal and just put it on the shelf. This message should be so inspiring for us and so encouraging for us because it helps us really to know who God is and how he wants to deal with our souls.
He says to Faustina, “No soul will be justified until it turns to me with confidence in My mercy; and this is why the first Sunday after Easter is to be the Feast of Mercy, and on that day, priests are to tell everyone about My great and unfathomable mercy” (Diary, 570). That is the most important thing I want to tell you about today: mercy. If I could say it 11,481 times right now, I would do that for you.
“Then Jesus says to her: ‘My daughter, do you think you have written enough about My mercy? What you have written is but a drop compared to the ocean. I am Love and Mercy Itself. There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted – it increases. The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself will take care of it.’” So, if we trust in his mercy, he will take care of it.
The year for mercy was called Miserarimercheri, which basically meant misery and mercy. It was putting the two words together. Where there is misery, his mercy will be. If we have experienced any misery in our lives, his mercy is right there. They took the phrase from the parable of the woman that was caught in adultery and thrown right on the ground in front of Jesus.
Remember how he knelt down in the sand and wrote “who is without sin cast the first stone.” One by one the stones were dropped, and they walked away. Before you know it, it is just Jesus and the woman. Misery and mercy together. What I love is that he did not leave her side. He stands right next to her. If they are going to throw stones at her, he is going to get hit by them, too.
He stands with us in our misery. He does not want us to stay there or remain there, but he stands with us. He then commands the woman to get up, her sins are forgiven, and to now go and sin no more. I use to think about that line myself, as I would pray with that passage.
I would think, “Man, she better not sin again. She was given this command, go and sin no more.” But, the command came from Jesus, and if he told her go and sin no more, he is also giving her the grace to sin no more and so would no longer have to live in that life. She was not condemned to the life she was living.
Jesus says I am mercy and love. We heard how many times mercy was mentioned. Now, I want to talk about love. Love is mentioned 1,068 times in the diary.
Jesus said, “In this retreat I am giving you, not only peace, but also such a disposition of soul that even if you wanted to experience uneasiness you could not do so.” I love this because one of the main things I love doing is teaching people how to pray. Have you ever sat down to pray and been really excited to pray?
Then, you notice the whole time you are agitated and uncomfortable. You cannot stop these feelings and, for some reason, you are just distracted. Well, I love it because Jesus says, “During this retreat I am giving you, not only peace, but also such a disposition of soul that even if you wanted to experience uneasiness you could not do so.”
Most of us do not want to experience uneasiness. So, he is also freeing us from the misery of uneasiness. Uneasiness is really not being able to be content in God’s presence to be at peace with Him.
Another time in Love (129) he says to her, “Act like a beggar who does not back away when he gets more alms [than he asked for], but offers thanks the more fervently. You too, should not back away and say that you are not worthy of receiving greater graces when I give them to you. I know you are unworthy.” That is Jesus saying that to Faustina. If she was unworthy, what am I? “You too should not back away,” he says, “but rejoice all the more and take as many treasures from My Heart as you can carry.”
You go back to the word prodigal again. God the Father just wants to give his grace to us. He says, “and if you have had enough, go back for more. Go get more. Just keep taking from the treasure of my grace.” That is what you have the opportunity for today.
Not only to pray for this grace of mercy for yourself, but if there is anybody that you know away from the faith or away from the church, I really want you to pray for them and offer this up for them as well. Because you can take from the treasury of grace right from the Father’s heart and bestow it upon everyone.
And He says to her, “take these graces not only for yourself, but also for others; that is, encourage the souls with whom you come in contact to trust in My infinite mercy.” So, take these graces for everybody that you come in contact with today that is going through a difficult time.