If you were at Holy Mass this morning, you would have heard in the Gospel the mission that the Risen Lord gave to the holy women, ‘Go and tell My brothers…’. In the reading set down from the Acts of the Apostles, you would have heard the beginning of St Peter’s profound proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus – issued on the day of Pentecost. If our faith has been renewed during the Paschal Triduum, then naturally it leads to this mission to tell others of the salvation won by Jesus Christ and how to receive it.
This mission dovetails perfectly with the prayer intentions of the Divine Mercy Novena today. (I will get back to this thought)
From time to time I have heard from the lips of the clergy that ‘this Divine Mercy stuff is alien to the liturgy’ – even after Holy Mother Church gave it her highest recommendations possible. To answer an objection like this takes more time than the average priest has time to listen to on his way after Mass. So that is why over the past few days, today, and for the rest of the week I am going beyond the ‘I know from the bottom of my heart that this Novena helps me to live these holy days better than I did in pre-Divine Mercy days’ and discovering the basis for why it is indeed so.
‘The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy’ issued by the congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2002 has some interesting things to say. From paragraph 91, ‘Popular piety is the first and most fundamental form of the faith’s ‘inculturation’, and should be continually guided and oriented by the Liturgy, which, in its turn, nourishes the faith through the heart.’ Where I live, sadly, anything to do with popular piety ( Rosary, devotions, Divine Mercy etc) are treated like bad smells – but the Church, in the quoted paragraph, indicates that popular piety is the interface for us between our everyday lives and the Liturgy whereby we offer worship to God. To take out popular piety, and to only promote Liturgy then does a grave disservice to souls. Our Catholic faith is a ‘both/and’ and not an ‘either/or’ religion – for spiritually healthy communities we need both popular piety and Liturgy in signficiant helpings.
Later on in paragraph 154 The Directory says ‘Since the liturgy of …Divine Mercy Sunday… is the natural locus in which to express man’s acceptance of the Redeemer’s mercy, the faithful should be taught to understand this devotion in the light of the liturgical celebrations of these Easter Days.’ With God’s help, hopefully this series of blogposts will assist that understanding.
….Back to the mission. The Divine Mercy novena intention for today is to pray for all of those living without Jesus in their lives (which is the essence of a pagan existence) and for all those who do not know Him. True love is distinguished by its fruitfulness. To have re-committed to Jesus with our ’I Do’s’ and then to not introduce Him to others just doesn’t make sense. The Church exists to evangelize.
‘Go and tell the brothers…’ is the first taste of the Great Commission that is given a few verses later in St Matthew’s Gospel, ‘Go, make disciples…’. It is the invitation that gets the believers to the mountain in Galilee where the Great Commission will be given. And to open hearts to receive the truth of the Resurrection that St Peter witnesses to in that first reading requires prayer.
In this context, it is worth expanding our concept of ‘brothers’ with this excerpt from Chapter 35 of Book 1 of St Augustine’s ‘City of God’ : ‘The City of God must bear in mind that among these very enemies are hidden her future citizens ; and when confronted with them she must not think it is a fruitless task to bear with their hostility until she finds them confessing the faith. In the same way,while the City of God is on pilgrimage in this world, she has in her midst some who are united with her in participation in the sacraments, but who will not join with her in the eternal destiny of the saints…We have less right to despair of the reformation of some of them, when some predestined friends, as yet unknown even to themselves, are concealed among our most open enemies.’
Yesterday we prayed for all of our devout and faithful brothers and sisters in Baptism – today we pray for all those who will be our brothers and sisters in Baptism at some time in the future and we pray that those happy days are hastened. To encourage us, Jesus told St Faustina ‘Their future zeal comforted My Heart.’
Our mission, then, is both to pray for these future brothers and sisters in Christ and to bring the Good News of Jesus to them. Once again, it is a ‘both/and’ mission, not an ‘either/or’ mission if the Risen message of Jesus has truly made an abiding home in our hearts.
Jesus wants us to share in the joy of extending His Mercy to the souls who have never experienced Its fulness. Let us trust that our prayers in union with this intention of Jesus will result in abundant torrents of graces of converson for souls.
Jesus, I trust in You.
St Peter, all of the Apostles, and the Holy Women Disciples, please join your prayers to ours, that the number of future citizens of Heaven may be greatly increased today.