On the 5th October, the Church of Divine Mercy, Penang (CDM) held a quiet celebration of St Faustina’s feast day. There was no procession carrying St Faustina’s statute around the neighbourhood. No welcoming of pilgrims and explanations of the Divine Mercy saints behind the Holy Door. It was just the recitation of the Divine Mercy chaplet followed by mass and veneration of St Faustina’s relic. In view of the present state of the pandemic and it being a week night, the attendance was encouraging.
At the beginning of the homily on the gospel of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) the new parish priest of CDM, Fr Michael Raymond wished everyone present a Blessed Feast Day. He remarked that whenever there is a celebration of a saint’s feast day there is a curiosity about the vocation story of that particular saint. People would like to know the life experience and faith journey of the saint and how God nurtured that gift of vocation. On this particular day, it was the feast of a poor and not highly educated girl who stepped into the convent at the age of 15 searching for God and holiness. How God spoke to her and she took the liberty to record and produce the Diary of St Faustina. However, one particular sentence that has stood out for Fr in the diary were the words that Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to my Mercy (Diary entry 300). Fr emphasized that Mercy is a gift that only God is able to give. His Holiness Pope Francis has even said that the name of God is mercy. It is Jesus who is the fount of mercy and St Faustina has given us this beautiful line Jesus, I Trust in You (Diary entry 327). It is only if we have experienced mercy then we will be able to share this mercy. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7). Fr continued to explain that this is the same for forgiveness. We are reminded of this as we recite the Our Father each day (… as we forgive those who trespass against us…). Love begets love and mercy begets mercy.
Fr Michael went on to relate the incident in the gospel when the lawyer asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus had told him to love God and his neighbour. The lawyer had a problem with who was his neighbour. In return Jesus related the story of the Good Samaritan. If one understood the context of those times, just the beginning would have explained the whole meaning of the story. A man was once on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho… one doesn’t go from Jerusalem (the city of the temple) to Jericho (the place where brigands dwelled) unless he was a man who had fallen into sin. A man who was in shame, in doubt and lost. This is the same as some of us today. Of the three people who passed by, two were learned people of God and yet the outcast, the one rejected by society, the Samaritan stopped to help. He showed compassion, the Latin root word Misericordia meaning mercy. He knew what it meant to reach out as he had experienced mercy himself. He knew the pain, he had empathy. Pope Francis has said that today the world suffers from (selfish) global indifference to suffering (8 July, 2013).
Fr Michael went on to identify two things that prevents a person from showing mercy. The first is Self-Reproach or condemnation. The state of believing one is bad and irredeemable, of guilt and the preference to stay in the darkness, refusing to come out into the light. To stay outside the church and accepting blame. The second is that of Self Righteousness. This is to think you are better that others. This serves as a barrier when you think you are all perfect and above others. Many of us struggle from some degree of these two hindrances. But St Faustina has showed us that with the Divine Mercy comes peace. Her message is that we need to trust in the Divine Mercy. St Pope John Paul II has even called St Faustina the saint of the millennium.
In ending, Fr reminded all that … Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. Mercy begets Mercy. Once we experience that mercy, we will be able to share it with others.
At the end of mass, the congregation was able to venerate the relic of St Faustina from afar. The relic was placed at the center of the altar and an opening prayer to St Faustina was recited asking for her to intercede for all our petitions. The parishioners stayed to venerate from their pews and offered up their prayers as no close physical contact was encouraged due to the heighten pandemic situation at that time.
Dr Ivan Filmer
9th October, 2020.