Over the last few weeks, it has been very heartening to see how many simple parishes had chosen to become beacons of mercy. I was aware of four local parishes here in the Diocese of Motherwell which were celebrating the Feast of Mercy today, as well as the National Shrine at Carfin Grotto, and several parishes in neighbouring Dioceses. This was three parishes more than I knew about last year, so things are improving.

I had the pleasure of celebrating the Feast at St Gerard’s Church, in nearby Bellshill. The image at the top of this page is of the Sanctuary being prepared for the Feast.

The day was led by Fr Roman Szczypa SDB, who began with a very prayerful Holy Hour before the newly-blessed Image of the Merciful Lord, with the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Monstrance. This was followed by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, during which the Chaplet of Divine Mercy was prayed.

The Feast ended with the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass – and that beautiful Gospel reading of the encounter of St Thomas with the Risen Lord. Thomas’ wounds of doubt and despair are transformed in the glorious Wounds of the Risen Lord and he exclaims the affirmation of his faith – “My Lord and my God!”.

Of course, this particular reading perfectly describes the Image of the Merciful Jesus which we venerate in a special way today. That Image draws us to the Merciful Lord, so that  – like St Thomas – our own wounds may be transformed. Then we can exclaim our own affirmation; Jesus, I trust in You!

As always, St Gerard’s parish did a fine job of giving hospitality to those from both near and far and welcoming the stranger into their (very spiritual) community, providing tea and coffee in the hall throughout, and making everyone feel very welcome and at home.

The message of Divine Mercy makes it clear that the spark must go forth and gather strength, becoming a fire in the Church and in the world – this message of mercy is destined for all and needs to reach all “while it is still the time for mercy”.

And so, the increase of parishes celebrating the Feast of Mercy is very encouraging indeed. I am sure this is due in large part to the recent Year of Mercy, which has brought this message to the entire world. Now, the world needs to listen.

Image (C) St John Cantius Parish, Chicago

I was also very encouraged on Twitter earlier today to see a short video clip, noting that a large Image of the Divine Mercy had been placed in Daley Plaza, Chicago, in the hope of attracting souls to spend a moment or two in prayer.

This simple initiative was, I am sure, very effective and I have no doubt it proved to be a channel of grace and mercy for many. It was quite arresting to see people stopping in front of the Image, some praying the Chaplet.

But it also begs a question.

If this message of Mercy truly is for all, and if we are called to ‘go out and preach the Good News to all nations’ – then what, exactly, are we doing to achieve that? What are we doing to bring the message of Divine Mercy to those around us?

These are indeed the days of mercy. But they are finite. And they will be followed by the days of justice, as the Lord told St Faustina. Perhaps this would be a good time to decide what we can do to spread the message of mercy to those who have not yet heard it or who have still to respond to it.

Above all else, we need to live the message of Divine Mercy, which is nothing less than the beating heart of the Gospels; our example, lived out day after day in every moment of life, is the most powerful witness of all.

“Let us pray for the grace to never grow tired of drawing from the well of the Father’s mercy and bringing it to the world.”

– Pope Francis speaking during the Regina Caeli, St Peter’s Square, 23 April 2017 – Feast of Divine Mercy