HOMILY OF CARD. ANGELO SODANO
Feast of Divine Mercy
Second Sunday of Easter, 3 April 2005
Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Today, the Alleluia acclamation rings out more solemnly than ever.
It is the Second Sunday of Easter. It is Sunday "in albis", the feast of the white garments of our Baptism. It is Divine Mercy Sunday, as we sang in Psalm 118: "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever...".
It is true. Our hearts have been shaken by a sorrowful event: our Father and Pastor, John Paul II, has departed from us. However, for 26 years he always asked us to look at Christ, the only reason for our hope.
For a good 26 years he carried the Gospel of Christian hope to all the marketplaces in the world, teaching everyone that our death is but a passing to the heavenly Homeland. There is our eternal destiny, where God our Father awaits us.
The grief of Christians is immediately transformed into an attitude of deep serenity. This stems from faith in the One who said to us: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (Jn 11: 25-26).
Of course, love for our dear ones does not exempt us from shedding tears of sorrow at the moment of detachment, but the Apostle Paul's appeal to the Christians of Thessalonica, when he asked them not to grieve "as others do who have no hope", is ever timely: "Sicut coeteri, qui spem non habent" (I Thes 4: 13).
Faith, brothers and sisters, invites us to raise our heads and look beyond, to look on high!
And thus, today, while we mourn the departure of the Pope who has left us, let us open our hearts to the vision of our eternal destiny.
In the Masses for the Dead there is that beautiful sentence in the Preface: "Life is not taken from us, but only transformed", "vita mutatur, non tollitur"! And while our earthly dwelling is destroyed, another is built for us in Heaven!
This explains the joy of Christians at every moment of their lives.
Moreover, they know that despite being sinners they always have beside them the mercy of God the Father who awaits them. This is the meaning of today's feast of Divine Mercy, established precisely by the late Pope John Paul II, to emphasize this most comforting aspect of the Christian mystery.
On this Sunday, it would be moving to reread one of his most beautiful Encyclicals,
Dives in Misericordia,
which he offered to us in 1980, in the third year of his Pontificate.
At that time, the Pope asked us to look at the Lord who is the "Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction" (cf. II Cor 1: 3-4).
In the same Encyclical, John Paul II then asked us to look at Mary, the Mother of Mercy, the one who, during her visit to Elizabeth, praised the Lord, exclaiming: "His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation" (cf. Lk 1: 50).
It was also our same beloved Pope who then called today's Church to be the house of mercy, in order to welcome all who are in need of help, forgiveness and love.
How often has the Pope repeated in the past 26 years that the mutual relations of persons and peoples cannot only be based on justice, but must be perfected by merciful love, which is the hallmark of the Christian message.
Indeed, John Paul II, John Paul the Great, thus became the champion of the civilization of love, seeing in this term one of the most beautiful definitions of the "Christian civilization". Yes, the Christian civilization is a civilization of love, radically different from that civilization of hate which Nazism and Communism proposed.
On the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, the Angel of the Lord passed through the Vatican Apostolic Palace and said to his good and faithful servant: "Enter into the joy of your master" (cf. Mt 25: 21).
From Heaven, may he always watch over us and help us "to cross that threshold of hope" of which he so frequently spoke.
May his message remain for ever engraved in the hearts of today's people. Once again, John Paul II repeats Christ's words to all: "For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (cf. Jn 3: 17).
John Paul II spread this Gospel of salvation throughout the world, inviting the entire Church to bend down to the people of today in order to embrace them and set them aright with his redeeming love.
May it be our task to accept the message that he has bequeathed to us and make it fruitful for the world's salvation!
And to our unforgettable Father let us say, with the words of the Liturgy:
"May the Angels lead you to Paradise! "In Paradisum deducant te Angeli!".
May a festive choir welcome you and lead you to the Holy City, the heavenly Jerusalem, so that you may have eternal rest.