Canonization of JPII & John XXIII

Today is a very special day for many reasons. It is the Second Sunday of Easter and we continue to celebrate the great Resurrection of Jesus. It is Divine Mercy Sunday, a day to celebrate this amazing grace from God. And it is a day when the Church recognizes two new saints. Christ died and rose again to make all of us saints. In the Gospel the Risen Lord appears to the disciples and shows them the wounds that caused his death, yet he is fully alive. They were all locked up in a room but Jesus appears to them and says, “Peace be with you.” He does the same with us when we get locked up in our own fears and sin in life, afraid of living for Christ, afraid of admitting to others that we are his followers, even doubting our faith to the point of not practicing it anymore. But Jesus finds us and makes himself present to us and offers us his peace. Today we who are gathered together in this room to continue that activity of the first Christians who gathered every Sunday as we heard in the First Reading from the Acts to the Apostles, devoting themselves to prayer and the “breaking of the bread,” we also are visited by the same Risen Lord who appeared to the apostles. Through the Eucharist, Jesus makes himself present and offers us his peace.

Today the Church recognizes two great men of peace who both led the Church as popes. And now we call them saints because they both lived a life of heroic virtue. There presence in Heaven has been now verified by miracles attributed to their intercession. First, Pope St. John XXIII: He was born into a large poor family in Italy. They were farmers. He was a humble and joyful man and had a strong devotion to Mary. As a priest he worked as a military chaplain during WWI (World War I). As pope, no one expected anything special from him, but he made the bold decision to call all the bishops in the world to come to Rome for a council: The Second Vatican Council. Thousands of lay men and woman and members from all other forms of religion were also invited as observers. It was a very open event that John 23rd envisioned would open the windows of the Church to allow fresh air to enter, a metaphor for the Holy Spirit. And it did just that: reaching out to other religious leader to dialogue, reforming the liturgy to help people more actively participate with their minds and hearts in Mass, and calling the whole world to a holy way of life modeled on Jesus Christ. It was a new Pentecost for the Church, a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, Pope John XXIII died after the first year of the council that lasted from 1962-1965.

During the Council a young cardinal from Poland was a big influence and wrote some of the 16 Documents from the council. His name was Karol Wojtyla. In 1978 he was elected as pope and took the name John Paul II. Growing up he had experienced many of the atrocities of WWII and Nazi occupation of his homeland. When Christianity was illegal, he became a priest in a hidden ordination. As bishop he led a nonviolent movement that eventually ended the Communist Party and brought democracy and freedom of religion to his country. He loved the outdoors and was involved with teaching young adults how to enthusiastically embrace and live their Catholic Faith. A deeply spiritual man, he promoted Total Consecration to Mary and the message of Divine Mercy. As pope he helped people to authentically interpret and follow the teachings of Vatican II. He promoted the priesthood, religious life and promoted married life and he encouraged families to pray and attend mass together. He defended life from conception to natural death and helped teach the dignity and sacredness of human intimacy with his Theology of the Body. He was the most traveled pope ever and in his later years when he became sick he made his last trip to Lourdes, France. One of the greatest gifts to the Church and something very dear to his own heart, was the message of the Divine Mercy. He made the 2nd Sunday of Easter Divine Mercy Sunday so that all may come to know the great love that God has for mankind. Pope John Paul II died in 2005 on the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday after 26 years as pope. Many call him John Paul the Great and the pope of Mercy, including me.

The message of Divine Mercy that he promoted is very important for our world to hear. It is something that the Church had always embraced since the time of Jesus but the writings of an uneducated Polish nun, St. Maria Faustina, gave special attention to it. In her diary and guided by her spiritual director she recorded many visions that she had of Jesus. Jesus wanted to use her to communicate his love and mercy to the world. He said so many take it for granted or neglect it and so were losing their souls. He wanted the Second Sunday of Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday. He wanted an image of this mercy to be painted with the words inscribed on it: “Jesus I trust in you.” Even though many rejected the message it was eventually accepted by many faithful and became very popular. Unfortunately, because of a bad translation into other languages, it was suppressed for many years. But then Cardinal Wojtyla had a good translation made and when he was elected as pope he offered it to the whole world. And so now we can see with our own eyes the beautiful image and hear with our own ears that Jesus doesn’t want to condemn us but to show us great mercy. So we can confidently say over and over again, “Jesus I trust in you.”

Although, the message and painting are private revelation, the Church said it is in harmony with the Faith and John Paul II has said all should be inspired by the message because it explains the abundant mercy Jesus pours out on the world. The image of the Divine Mercy shows Jesus’ appearance to the apostles in the Upper Room as we heard in today’s Gospel. The two rays of light coming from his Sacred Heart are from the water and blood that poured out when he was pierced on the Cross. Jesus told Sr. Faustina that they represent the two sacraments where he pours out his grace into our hearts: The white ray is the grace of baptism and the red ray is the grace of the Holy Eucharist. He wants everyone not to be afraid of receiving these graces. He said that he is returning soon but many people risk being lost for eternity because they neglect receiving his mercy. Every Sunday he gives us this mercy in the form of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Confession. And so Jesus encouraged everyone to go to confession and turn away from a sinful life and trust in his mercy. No matter how bad your sins are Jesus is eager to forgive them. Remember this is the first power he gave his priests when he appeared to them, as we heard in today’s Gospel: He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.” This is a great gift! Baptism washes away all sin, both original sin and actual sins. Confession removes all sins that we commit after baptism. Pope St. Francis said confession is like being re-baptized.

Today let us celebrate the two great new saints that God has blessed us with: Popes Saints John XXIII (23rd) and John Paul II. And let us celebrate the gift of Divine Mercy that pours out of the Heart of Jesus for love of us and the whole world. May Christ fill you with his mercy and peace. Amen.

Father Timothy Gallagher


St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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