By: Fr. Gerald M. Musa

HOMILY: Many years ago, when we were little children, we misbehaved. We were in a frenzy of excitement when our primary school head teacher announced that the Nigerian President Shehu Shagari was coming for a working visit to our town Malumfashi in Katsina State. In preparation for the coming of the president the trees on the major streets had the national colours of green and white. The town was beautifully decorated. Our Head Teacher asked all of us in the school to come out and line up by the roadside to welcome the president. We were in the sun for many hours waiting for the glorious arrival of Mr. President. Suddenly, we heard the sirens blaring from afar and we knew that the number one citizen of Nigeria was nearby. Our excitement grew even the more when we saw the Police escorts displaying their skills on power motorbikes and the soldiers in colourful uniforms. We witnessed the longest convoy of vehicles for the first time. It was indeed a remarkable sight. We were so excited that we ran alongside the motorcade of the President for over four kilometres. We held our shoes in our hands to be able to run even faster. We ran to the very place where the convoy was to stop, which was the newly constructed Dam at Borin Dawa in Malumfashi.

Time moved so fast on that day because the day was packed with fun. When we returned home, it was already late evening. I was the first to return. As I entered into the house, my eyes caught sight of some fresh canes (Bulala) that were neatly kept in one corner of the house. I knew immediately that we were in trouble. I had to jump out of the house to alert my other two brothers (Angelo and Abdul) that it was not safe to enter the house. All of us decided to stay outside the house to avoid the flogging that awaited us.

It was getting late at night and we were still in our hideout and wondering about the next action to take. We got a window of opportunity to sneak into the house when we saw our father going out on his bike. We knew he was going out to buy what was needed for breakfast for the next day. Our Mother was busy in the kitchen and did not notice when we tiptoed and went straight under the bed to hide and sleep. Our Father came back and the next thing he went from room to room to spray insecticide as he usually did. As he came into our room, we were sweating and praying that he will not see us. God heard our prayers and he finished and went out of the room. We were able to sleep peacefully under the bed when he left the room.

The following day, we found our way out from under the bed and came down on our knees begging for forgiveness and mercy. Our parents were already worried about our whereabouts. We were lucky to be granted forgiveness. We were strictly warned never to divert to any other place after school hours. We knew we deserved a good beating, but we were happy to be pardoned. I look back at our story and think of how God pardons our many sins and transgressions.

The Church celebrates the mercy of God on every first Sunday after Easter. It is called Divine Mercy Sunday, a day when we reflect on the goodness and mercy of God in our lives. The Bible tells us that all of us have sinned and have fallen short of the grace of God (Romans 3.23). The best parable (story) that Jesus tells us about Divine Mercy is the parable of the Prodigal Son. We cannot fully understand this parable unless we have ever done something terrible and were forgiven by our parents, teachers or leaders. Think about the words of the Prodigal son when he returned to his father: “I no longer deserve to be called your son, treat me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19).

No one can approach the throne of God’s mercy unless he accepts that he is a sinner. In his encyclical entitled Dives in Misericordia (The Mercy of God), Pope John Paul II mentions the fact that “Some theologians affirm that mercy is the greatest of the attributes and perfections of God. It is the way man and woman meet God, particularly and closely.” If not for the mercy of God, we are all unfit to stand before his altar or even to mention his name. John Paul II concludes, “Conversion consists always in discovering God’s mercy, a “rediscovery” of the Father who is rich in mercy.”

God does not turn away those who earnestly seek for his mercy. After denying Jesus three times, Peter the Apostle cried profusely and remorsefully for not standing by Jesus at a critical time. His tears brought him God’s mercy. Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was so frustrated afterwards and he failed to discover the mercy of God and he ended up in an acute despair that led him to take away his own life by hanging himself. People who come humbly to God obtain his mercy. The Publican who stood far off in prayer and said: “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18.13). Bartimeus the blind man saw Jesus passing by and shouted: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me” (Mark 10.46-47). St. Paul calls himself the commander in chief of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). When St. Augustine left his old way of life and returned to God, he humbly and prayerfully said: “God, I entrust my past to your mercy, my present to your grace and my future to your providence.” The Lord certainly gives his people a special invitation and an assurance of forgiveness in the book of Isaiah, “If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow (1:18).

The first condition for obtaining Divine Mercy is to show mercy to others. Jesus said “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain Mercy” (Matthew 5.7). This means you cannot be receiving from God without extending it to your brothers and sisters. In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Jesus illustrates how we must practice mercy, because we have received even greater mercy from God (Matthew 18.21-35).

The Church clearly spells out practical ways in which we can exercise mercy towards other people. There are corporal works of mercy and spiritual works of mercy. Corporal works of mercy are as follows:
• To feed the hungry;
• To give drink to the thirsty;
• To clothe the naked;
• To harbour the harbourless (hospitality to strangers).
• To visit the sick;
• To ransom the captive;
• To bury the dead.
The spiritual works of mercy are:
• To instruct the ignorant;
• To counsel the doubtful;
• To admonish sinners;
• To bear wrongs patiently;
• To forgive offences willingly;
• To comfort the afflicted;
• To pray for the living and the dead.

As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, let us reflect on God’s mercy in our lives. So many times, we went astray, we came back to him and he forgave us. In his mercy he has granted us countless blessings, even in our unworthiness. Let us pray for the grace to forgive those who hurt us, and the strength to be kind even to those who do not deserve our kindness. The Apostle Peter exclaims in his letter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope…” (1 Peter 1:3-9).
2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday); 1 Peter 1:3-9

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