19 APRIL 2009

       Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. We have been doing this now for close to 10 years. Divine Mercy Sunday was instituted by our beloved Pope John Paul II in 2000. He decreed that the second Sunday of Easter should be known as Divine Mercy Sunday. The Pope considered the devotion of St. Faustina Kowalska to the Divine Mercy a timely message.

       The Lord appeared to St. Faustina and that resulted in her becoming a champion for the greatest of God’s gifts, that of Mercy. Gods Mercy is most assuredly felt in the sacrament of Reconciliation. We need to remember that the one who forgives our sins is Jesus Christ. The priest who confers the absolution and penance does so in the person of Jesus Christ.

       By the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ we are absolved and freed of our sins. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus says to the Apostles 'Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.'

       Also in today’s Gospel we hear the disbelief of Thomas that Jesus had appeared. These disciples were gathered in a locked upstairs room and Jesus appeared with the greeting of Peace be with you. We can only imagine what was going on in that room. The reading says they were behind closed doors because of fear.

       When Jesus appeared the relief and joy at seeing their teacher must have been overwhelming. They were beginning to understand all the things Jesus had been talking about prior to his death and resurrection. Thomas comes to believe in Jesus the risen Christ because he sees him. I am specifically moved when Jesus says 'Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.'

       With that having been said that means that all of us present here today are blessed by the Divine Mercy of our Lord because our faith has led us to believe that Jesus indeed died and was resurrected. It is written that if we are blessed with the gift of true faith, we can never forget that it is bestowed through the Mercy and goodness of God and the merits of Jesus Christ and not because of any merit of our own.

       Our church and faith community is also blessed this weekend because we are celebrating the First Communion of quite a few young people here in our parish. To all the family and friends from out of town we certainly welcome you all to our new place of worship.

       It is our faith that once again brings us together for this celebration. We all come to church for different reasons, but the central theme of all that goes on here in this sacred structure, happens here at the source and summit of our Eucharistic celebration, right here at the altar.

       We gather together to share in the Body the Blood the Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ in the sharing of the Eucharist. To the children receiving their first communion today we congratulate you on another step taken on your faith journey through out life. Of course the first step was made when you were baptized.

       To the parents we also congratulate you on bringing your children to this point in their faithful journey through the life they have ahead. You are certainly encouraged to help them along by seeing that they receive the Eucharist on regular basis.

       Of course that can only be done by attending Mass regularly together, and to continue to provide them with the tools and direction needed to understand just what it is that we do here.

       I would like to share with you an experience I had with four girls that I minister to at the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility, as the Catholic Chaplain. We hold a Communion service or have a priest say Mass every Saturday morning at that facility. These girls are from all across Indiana and range in age from13 to 18 years of age.

       One morning after our Communion service four of the girls were looking at a large picture book from Rome and they were really interested in the Catholic perspective of all the art and décor of the huge churches and cathedrals that were depicted.

       Through the months now that I have been seeing these girls and listening to and participating with them in the services, prayers and songs, I have been amazed at how familiar they were with the church and the sacraments. So sitting around in this informal setting, I felt moved to ask them this question: 'You girls certainly have a Catholic background, how on earth did you end up in a facility such as this?'

       Their answer just astounded me. These young teenage girls all agreed that when their parents stopped going to church they did too and they just fell in with the wrong crowd and really ended caught up in the legal system and ended up where they are now.

       On the occasion of our young people receiving their first communion here this weekend let us continue as parents and the faith community here at St. Malachy to be the guiding light for these children as they grow in faith with us. Let us also continue to pray for those who have fallen away from our faith that the Holy Spirit may bring them back with us, so they can once again enjoy the full benefits of the sacraments that we receive, through the Divine Mercy of our Lord and Savior.

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