Sunday, April 27, 2014

Two Saintly Popes, One Message: Be Open to God

“Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:26)

Please indulge me and allow our two newest saints to help me with my homily on this Divine Mercy Sunday.   If there is a unifying message between Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II is the theme to open ourselves to God.  Far too many times, we are like the disciples hiding in the Upper Room with the doors locked.  We lock ourselves away from the world because of fear, because we do not want to change, because we fear the newness of the Risen One.

When convening the Second Vatican Council, Saint John XXIII said, “Throw open the windows of the Church and let the fresh air of the Spirit blow through.”  This is the same Spirit that Jesus breathes on his apostles in today’s gospel.  Good Pope John knew that renewal is essential not only in the life of the Church but in our own spiritual lives as well.  We must throw open the windows of our hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to set us free from our own Upper Room.

Saint John Paul II repeatedly said: “Do not be afraid.  Open wide the doors to Christ.”  Unlock the doors of your hearts.  Do not be afraid like the disciples were.  Notice a little detail in the gospel today.  Even after Jesus had appeared to them, a week later, the door is still locked!  We may have had a transformative experience on Easter Sunday a week ago, but the world causes us to build walls and lock doors.  These two great saints taught us to be open, to not shut Christ out, and to allow him to breathe his Spirit upon us.

In his homily on Divine Mercy Sunday 13 years ago, Saint John Paul II said, “[Divine Mercy] is the Easter gift the Church receives from the Risen Christ and offers to humanity...Our attention focuses on the gesture of the Master, who transmits to the fearful, astounded disciples the mission of being ministers of Divine Mercy…Jesus entrusted to them the gift of "forgiving sins," a gift that flows from the wounds in His hands, His feet, and especially from His pierced side. From there a wave of mercy is poured out over all humanity.”

So on this Sunday, let us rejoice in Christ’s Divine Mercy. May our words be the words of Good Pope John who opened the Second Vatican Council saying: “Mother Church rejoices that, by the singular gift of Divine Providence, the longed-for day has finally dawned…”  He was talking about the opening of the great council.  Today we rejoice because the “long-for day” that we have been waiting for has finally dawned.  Two great popes, two great men, two great Christians today have been elevated to the altars.  As saints, they become models for the Universal Church to never be afraid of Christ’s Mercy and to open wide the doors of hearts to the Spirit that he so generously breathes on us.  Their lives personify the motto emblazed on the image of the Divine Mercy:  “Jesus, I trust in you!”

Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II, pray for us!