Sunday, April 7, 2013

Divine Mercy on Earth

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)
In the late 1940’s, a young priest from Wichita, Kansas enlisted in the Army. Unbeknownst to him at the time, he would soon be pressed into service when the Korean War broke out. Father Emil Kapaun left Kansas for the Far East and spent his time on the front lines heroically serving our soldiers. He would go from ditch to ditch sometimes with live ammo flying around him to give last rites or to tend to wounded soldiers. One time the good priest found a sergeant who was trying to avoid capture or death by pretending to be dead among his fallen comrades when an enemy soldier found the sergeant and put a gun to his head. While awaiting certain death, the sergeant recalls seeing a thin man with a cross on his helmet simply approach the enemy and brush him aside without retribution. To this day the sergeant still does not know why Father Kapaun did not shoot the enemy soldier and how he miraculously brushed him away. Eventually Father Kapaun was imprisoned in a P.O.W. camp where he, along with his fellow soldiers, would endure very harsh conditions. Yet the priest risked his life to care for wounded soldiers, he would steal food to feed those who were starving, and even celebrated Mass on Easter Sunday 1951 despite being warned not to. He never cared for himself. His only care was for those entrusted to his pastoral care. He celebrated that Easter Mass while very, very sick, and not too long after that glorious Sunday, Father Kapaun forgave and blessed his captors and consoled his own soldiers as they watched the good chaplain take his last breaths in that camp at the age of 35. Next week, after 62 years, the President of the United States will award Father Emil Kapaun the Medal of Honor, and the Diocese of Wichita is hard at work to promote his cause for sainthood. To read more about this remarkable priest, click here:
I bring up the story of Father Kapaun on this Divine Mercy Sunday because the ministry of this priest is mercy incarnate. It is what Jesus would have done for us had he been serving with our boys in Korea. This priest made such an impact on the lives of so many and continues to do so to this day because he blessed and forgave those who persecuted him. We are called to do the same. About 30 years before the start of the Korean War, our Lord appeared to St. Faustina in Poland and gave us this devotion of the Divine Mercy. Our Lord said to her, “Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to divine mercy (Diary p. 132).” This priest was able to find peace amid horrific violence because he entrusted himself to divine mercy. It should be far easier for us, but it isn’t. We want peace but we don’t find it because we don’t fully entrust ourselves to God when the saying that is scrolled across the bottom of the Divine Mercy image screams at us: “Jesus, I trust in you.” Why is it so difficult to trust? It was difficult for Thomas in today’s gospel who, like us, kept the Lord at arm’s length because to invite the Risen Lord totally into our lives implies radical change. It implies allowing his Divine Mercy to totally transform our hearts. Trust in the Lord. Let him in. Allow the peace he gave to the disciples on that first Easter to enter into your hearts this day. Cardinal Dolan said this morning, “Sin is the major obstacle to peace.” We must tear sin away from our hearts to allow the peace of Christ to rightfully dwell in us. This will happen only when we fully trust our Lord and his infinite mercy. He will not turn us away. He will always forgive. All we have to do is approach him with a contrite heart and say, “Jesus, I trust in you.”