“Divine Mercy, transforming us to be your vessels of hope”
Homily of His Excellency Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz at the conclusion of the Congress: “Divine Mercy, transforming us to be your vessels of hope”, in Christ the King Parish, April 30, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
1. “Lord Jesus, … make our hearts burn with love when you speak” (cf. Lk 24:35). These words of the Gospel in the best way express our minds and desires when we are closing this Congress dedicated to the Divine Mercy. The main intention of the Congress is to transform us to be Divine Mercy’s vessels of hope. Such transformation is not possible without experiencing the intense love of God in our hearts when we hear the Lord speaking to us.
2. What does the Lord say to us today? In the Gospel he invites his disciples to touch Him and believe that He is Risen (cf. Lk 24: 39). It happened 2000 years ago. But these words are actual today and will be actual for ever. At the beginning of the third Millennium Christ asks us: please touch Me, and do not be unbelievers, but believe in Me. Believe, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning ad the End, the First and the Last, I conquered the world, I won the battle against the devil, I am able to transform you and give you new hope in the face of the troubles of this modern age.
3. How can we touch the Lord to be transformed by Him? How can we feel the loving touch of the Lord in the midst of all our daily troubles? Sometimes we feel so far from the Lord.
In fact, when we watch TV, visit the Internet or even just looking at our own experience we see so much negativity in this modern society. Some times it seems that the world is sinking into the ocean of immorality; that the modern man, intrusting his life to secular progress and worldly developments of technology, science, culture and so on, lives like God does not exist. He looks for more convenient and luxurious ways of living, choosing to go with the streams of today’s, very often immoral tendencies of life. God’s call for us is to reject these immoral tendencies and to swim against the stream of secularism.
4. As you know caviar is very important in Russia and throughout the world. In secular way and with the eyes of the consumer caviar is an elegant addition to a celebration. But in reality caviar is the source of new life. From caviar, fish eggs, the next generations of fish comes about. The mother fish must swim against the stream to lay her precious eggs. And as a result of her sacrifice a new generation is born.
We are called to swim against stream. If we want to bring new life based on the love of God in our own lives, as well as the next generation, we have to do the same. We have to swim against the stream of secularism. It is not easy, but it is the only way. To use another analogy… if an athlete does not exercise every day and does not constantly challenge himself to advance physically and place new goals on himself, he will never achieve his desired results, he will never become a champion.
Pope John Paul II spoke very often about the danger of the development of the modern society without reference to God and to moral norms, which leads to a culture of death. Christ came to this world that we might have life, and have it in abundance. The Holy Father Benedict XVI, continuing the thought of his predecessor, very often reminds us of the danger of moral relativism and liberalism, which some times aggressively attacks the values of life.
5. The most crucial problem, is that many people today willingly reject their Christian roots, saying that actually they live in the XXI century, not burdened with the superstitious beliefs of the middle ages. We must reject the past and live a new stile of life. Modern man must be free to “do his own thing”. This type of thinking emphasizes rights and not obligations.
On one hand, he is right. The stile of our lives has changed and will continue to change. It is normal to develop and we have to appreciate the positive aspects of the development of modern society, especially the development of democracy. But on the other hand, we have to ask ourselves: Do we as human beings have the power to change the Divine law; should human legislation be in contradiction with God’s law and the spirit of the Gospel, even if those laws are democratically approved; does the society have the right to reduce religion to the private sphere of life?
6. In reality, modern life is transforming man. But this process leads to the question: Is this transformation for good or for bad? Responding to this question, we have to recognize, that the process of secularization is going on and producing its fruits in spite of enormous efforts of the Church. In Russia there is a very good expression: “Bog svoyo, chort svoyo”, which we can translate into English as: “God gives His advice, and so does the devil”.
The Holy Father Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his book “Foundation of Christianity” tells the story about a traveling circus, which was giving its performances near one village. People liked the performances very much. During one of the shows a fire broke out. The director of the circus asked a clown, who was ready to do his act, to go to the nearest village for help. The clown ran quickly to the village and asked people to come and help to fight the fire. But they were only laughing, thinking that he was putting on an act. The clown was crying: pleading with them to come and help. The clown tried to explain that it was not only the circus that was in danger, but also the village was in danger of being destroyed by the fire. But the people did not take him seriously. As a result the circus and the village were destroyed by the fire.
Very often the same occurs when the Church proclaims the Gospel. The modern world often looks at the preaching of bishops, priests, and deacons in the same way. These men are seen only as clowns “in funny clothes.” Lay catechists and Christian parents are also seen as clowns who are seen as part of the “side show” of the circus of the Church. But in reality the real preacher is Christ, who was dressed in a mocking costume and treated like a clown by the Roman soldiers, but in fact the proclaiming of the Gospel is Christ acting through the Holy Spirit, calling us to open our hearts to His teaching. We are people who wish to be transformed by Christ. We are not people who want to transform God into our own image. We come to Church to be changed; not to change the Gospel, but to be changed by the Gospel.
7. In the Acts of the Aposteles St. Peter helps us to understand how the secular world refuses to accept Jesus. St. Peter recounts how the people and the leaders rejected Christ and had him crucified. He tells the people: “neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; … Now you must repent and turn to God, so your sins may be wiped out” (Act 3: 17-19). Saint John the Apostle develops this statement saying: “I am writing this, my children, to stop you from sinning; but if anyone should sin, we have our advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who is just; he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away” (1 Jn 2:1-2).
These texts of the Holy Scripture, bring us closer to the idea of the Divine Mercy and its transforming power. The real meaning of the Divine Mercy is in the infinite love of God for all people; the love, which was fulfilled on the Cross, when Christ gave up His life for the whole world. We have our advocate, who is Merciful Jesus. Through St. Faustina Jesus brought this idea close to us, making it more clear and understandable for the modern world. God’s merciful love has to transform us and we are called to transform the world in the image of God. In the face of modern secularism, we, as a Church, must promote the virtue of humility that will allow God to change us into his image and likeness and invite the citizens of the modern world to give up pride; for in pride man attempts to change God’s and Church’s teachings due to promoting secular values.
8. Pope Benedict XVI, speaking on the topic of the Divine Mercy, highlighted the importance of this devotion. He stated that the theme of the Divine Mercy is not secondary, but an integral dimension of a Christian’s faith and prayer. He also recalled that the late John Paul II saw the mystery of the merciful love of God as the center of his pontificate. It was John Paul II who valued so highly the spiritual experience of the humble religious St. Faustina Kowalska. It was John Paul who established that the Sunday after Easter is to be dedicated in a special way to the Divine Mercy. And Divine providence disposed that he should die precisely on the vigil of that Feast on the hands of the Divine Mercy.
Benedict XVI also invited us to reflect on apparitions of Jesus to His Apostles after the Resurrection as an inexhaustible source of faith, hope and love in which each one can drink, especially souls most thirsty for the Divine Mercy (cf. www.zenit.org, April 23).
9. The Gospel, as it was mention previously, presents us the scene of the apparition of Risen Christ to His Apostles. He says to them: touch Me, and see I am not a ghost, I have flesh, bones, hands and feet (cf. Lk 24: 39). During this apparition Jesus helped them to understand the scriptures: “So you see how it is written that Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in His name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this” (Lk 24: 46-48). Helping to understand the scriptures, Christ also presented to the Apostles and through them to all humanity the idea of the Divine Mercy, because “in His name repentance for the forgiveness would be preached”, changing man and making him to be able to change the world for the better.
Infinite love, suffering, death on the Cross and preaching repentance for forgiveness in the name of the Lord – are the most evident signs of the Divine Mercy.
10. The Catholic Church as well as other Christian Churches and communities and non Christian religions had been persecuted for three generations in Russia. The goal was that the country would become a spiritual vacuum. Humanly speaking it was difficult to imagine its spiritual rebirth. But people, in spite of all difficulties remained firm in their faith, believing that their hour would come.
In Volga region there is a city which is called Marx. During the time of communism a church was destroyed. In 1993 I went to the city to bless the corner stone of a new church. To my great surprise believers asked my permission to use an old red brick as the corner stone. I agreed, and they told me an extraordinary and very moving story how after the church was destroyed, they brought to their homes bricks from the original church and these bricks became like shrines in their homes and the focal point of family prayer. This devotion was a way for the believing people to go against the stream of atheism.
Today the parish of the Risen Christ in the City of Marx is flourishing. Two of the last pastors became Bishops. The strong faith of the people of the City of Marx stands in stark contrast to the atheism of the well known philosopher Carl Marx, who proclaimed that religion is opium for people. In fact, for people of faith religion is not an opium or drug, it is a Divine medicine that heals and allows us to be truly free; not free to “do our own thing” but free to live an authentic freedom that is founded in following God’s law.
11. As we know, the first image of Merciful Jesus was exposed in the famous Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy in Vilnius, Lithuania. I remember very well how people were praying there, asking for liberty, both political and religious, and believing that this freedom would be achieved. They placed their future in the hands of Merciful Jesus through the hands of His Merciful Mother.
God heard their prayers. The road from the Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy leads straight to Minsk, Belarus and to Moscow, Russia. We do believe that by intersession of Our Lady of Mercy Jesus granted us His mercy – freedom. It was like a miracle.
In October of 1991 after the fall of communism, a small group of believers from Moscow went to Fatima. It was the first pilgrimage of Russian Catholics to thank Our Lady, who in 1917 foretold the conversion of Russia. From Fatima I went to Coimbra to a Carmelite monastery to visit Sister Lucia – the only living visionary of the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima. When I presented myself as a Bishop from Moscow, she could not believe that after all these years of praying for Russia she would have the opportunity to meet the Bishop from Moscow. She even asked me several times if I really was from Russia, from Moscow. And finally she exclaimed: “It means that the prophecy of conversion of Russia has started to be realized!”
12. Devotion to the Divine Mercy calls us to be faithful to our Christian vocation and to live according to the law of God; to face the tendencies of the modern secular society, with the loving eyes of mercy towards all who disagree with us. Let the grace of God give us the strength to not to be afraid to swim against the immoral streams that try to over power us. This is the only way to transform ourselves and to transform the world. We are called to be true vessels of Christ’s hope to the world. It is a secular world that did not understand Christ, but a world that Christ mercifully forgave on the cross.
In the desert of Nevada (USA) people constructed a new and very modern city, the City of Las Vegas, which looks like an oasis inside the desert. Human beings were able to overcome all the difficulties when they built this city. If the secular world can overcome difficulties shouldn’t people of faith be able to do the same in the realm of the spiritual life? Trusting the Divine Mercy we, who live in the spiritual desert of the modern world, can also overcome our difficulties and build the oasis of spiritual life.
Through the humble nun, St. Faustina Kowalska, God called the world to the devotion of the Divine Mercy. Through the Servant of God Pope John Paul II. He in a very special way confirmed and spread this devotion throughout the whole world.
In his first encyclical “Deus Caritas est” – “God is love” Pope Benedict XVI states that only contemplating on the pierced side of Christ we can understand the truth, that God is love. In this contemplation we can discover the path along which our lives and love must move (cf. DCE 12). Clearly, our lives and love must be put in the hands of the Divine Mercy, which comes from the pierced side of Christ.
Confronted with the challenges of our time, especially secularism, moral relativism and liberalism, we have to read carefully the signs of the time. One of these is the spreading of the devotion to the Divine Mercy. These challenges and this spreading of the devotion call us to be faithful to our Merciful God, who always tries to help us in spite of our infidelity. Let the motto of the Divine Mercy: “Jesus, I trust in You” lead us to better understanding the fundamental statement of John Paul II, that “Outside the mercy of God, there is no other source of hope for man”. For the message of the merciful love of God to reach all the inhabitants of the earth, our hearts must burn with love of God and neighbor. With this love we will be able to be vessels of the Divine Mercy which will transform the world for the better.
Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz
Literature and abbreviations used:
1. Benedict XVI. Encyclical letter “Deus Caritas est” (DCE).
2. www.zenit.org, April 23, 2006 (www.zenit.org, April 23).