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Bishop Denis’ Homily on Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday – Year A:                                                                16.04.23

3pm: Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow


Welcome to our Divine Mercy devotions this afternoon here in the Cathedral. Welcome to all of you who gather here and in other churches across our diocese at this very time. Welcome to those who join us virtually through the webcam and on parish radio.

Divine Mercy devotion is a relatively recent phenomenon, introduced by St. John Paul II twenty-three years ago, at the turn of the millennium. It’s a fitting conclusion to our Easter Octave. For many years this day was known as ‘Low Sunday’, the end of the Octave. The tag of Divine Mercy has given ‘Low Sunday’ a boost, reminding us in essence the message of Easter is mercy.

The first verse of our gospel reminds us “doors were closed[1] – doors closed out of fear, nervousness, anxiety. All of us, need to hear the words this afternoon: “Peace be with you[2], reassuring words as our Easter Octave comes to its finale.

It is a wounded Jesus who enters that closed room with the disciples; it is a wounded Jesus who stands alongside all of us this afternoon. We are a wounded congregation, a wounded people in need of His mercy and forgiveness. Confessions will continue during the early part of our Mass.

So as we gather this day, let us call to mind our sins and pray for God’s love and mercy …


There was a reflective piece towards the end of yesterday morning’s Countrywide radio programme[3]. It was by Seamus O’Rourke entitled ‘The Drawer[4]. It was the drawer under the bench in his fathers shed. A drawer that contained washers and nuts, split-pins and plugs, masonry plugs, bits and pieces of everything and nothing, all separated into sections that were at one time neat and tidy.

In the words of O’Rourke “it was a fathers emporium of knicknacks and tools”. But it wasn’t always what was in the drawer that he saw but the world around him. When there was a row or an argument he’d open the drawer and “foothering, figuring, scratching, banging … he’d have the last say”. In the drawer “there were keys for locks that were lost and broken, good locks with no key’s that no one could open”.

We all have that drawer, that box, that place like Seamus O’Rourke’s dad. It’s where we throw all the stuff we think we need but in fact never do. Sometimes the stuff we prefer to forget from our past. I like the word ‘stuff’ – we don’t hear it often these days. The Feast of Divine Mercy allows us to go to that place and deal with this stuff.

John’s gospel speaks of the doors being closed, we can assume they were locked. We can imagine the disciples terrified out of their wits. You know when you watch a suspense thriller on television, as you go to bed you hear noises you never heard before. The disciples shared this experience and then Jesus stands among them. He comes through closed doors, locked hearts. And He is knocking at ours this Sunday afternoon.

We gather at three o’clock, exactly nine days since the Crucifixion on Good Friday “for the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world”. In todays gospel text, Thomas is missing. There are many missing when we gather on days like this. Thomas looked for evidential proof. His moments of doubt allow us to understand the doubts of those so close to us and maybe our own at times. And yet nowhere is there a greater acclamation of faith made by Thomas: “My Lord and my God![5]

The Collect for our Mass this afternoon is worth noting. It’s the same prayer that punctuates all moments of this day, from the Office of Readings, to Morning Prayer, to Prayer during the Day and later at Evening Prayer: “the waters in which they were cleansed, the Spirit by which they were reborn, the blood by which they were redeemed”. Water brings us back to the great Easter Vigil and the immersing of the Paschal Candle into the baptismal font. The Spirit is the several encounters over the Octave with the Risen One and those words repeated every time: “Peace be with you”[6]. The peace we get from making a good confession and forgiving ourselves And the blood brings us back to Calvary and to that moment when the side of the crucified Jesus was lanced with a sword to make sure He was dead and out flowed blood and water[7].

It’s the very same gospel text[8] that is used every year on this Sunday. There are very few moments in the liturgical year when such an overlap occurs, today is one such. And it comes on this Feast of Divine Mercy. The devotion to Divine Mercy is in essence about trust in Jesus. The devotion can exist without the chaplet, without the image, even without this feast, but it cannot exist without trust in Jesus.

We all carry stuff, things that burden us, wounds and scars, maybe there from childhood. On this day we bring them all to Jesus. Pope Francis reminds us “the confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better”[9]. We go to confession not to get all uptight about our sins but to experience His love and mercy. May that be your experience this day.

There is the story told of a priest asking his congregation one Sunday: “How many of you have forgiven your enemies?” Almost everyone held up their hands, except for one elderly man, sitting near the back of the church. The priest enquired: “Paddy, are you not willing to forgive your enemies”. “I don’t have any” Paddy replied gruffly. “Paddy, that is very unusual. How old are you?” “98” he replied. The congregation stood up and clapped their hands. “So, Paddy, would you please come up in front and tell us all how a person can live 98 years and not have an enemy in the world?” The old man slowly came up the aisle, stopped in front of the pulpit, turned around, faced the congregation, and simply said, “I outlived all of them!”

St. Faustina, to whom the devotion to Divine Mercy was revealed, pray for us.

St.. Thomas, to whom the Lord invited to doubt no longer but believe, pray for us,    

St. John Paul II, to whom the late Pope Benedict referred to as “a great apostle of Divine Mercy”[10], pray for us.

Prayers of Intercession:

God is the Father of all mercies. In him we place our faith as we pray the following petitions to which we respond ‘Lord, hear our prayer’:

For our Holy Father, Pope Francis, Bishop Denis, priests, and all the faithful:
that each will bear witness to the love and mercy of God. We pray to the Lord …
For all who have committed grave sin and who are afraid to go to confession:
that their fears will dissolve in the face of Jesus’ longing to forgive and be reconciled to them. We pray to the Lord …
For those who serve in public office: that they govern with true compassion for the lives of the most vulnerable among us especially unborn children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. We pray to the Lord …
For parents: that, by their guidance and the witness of their own lives,
they will teach their children how to love and forgive when they have been wronged. We pray to the Lord …
For peace throughout the world, and especially in areas of open conflict:
that ancient prejudices and hatreds will be replaced by a spirit of mercy.
We pray to the Lord …

Almighty and merciful Father, we give you thanks for all of your many blessings, and we ask you to hear these petitions in the name of your Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[1] Jn.20:19

[2] Jn.20:19; Jn. 20:21; Jn. 20: 26

[3] Broadcast RTE Radio 1, 15 April 2023

[4] ‘Rourke, Seamus, ‘The Drawer’, June 2020.

[5] Jn.20:29

[6] Jn.20:19; Jn.20:20; Jn.20:26

[7] Jn.19:34

[8] Jn.20:19-31

[9] Pope Francis, Weekly Audience, 13 November 2014

[10] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Message, 16 September 2007