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A sermon for Divine Mercy Sunday

The Highland County Press - Staff Photo -
Fr. Mike Paraniuk

By Fr. Mike Paraniuk
St. Mary Catholic Church (Hillsboro,
St. Benignus Catholic Church (Greenfield),
Saint Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church (Peebles)
Holy Trinity Catholic Church (West Union)

Christians around the world are celebrating the "Divine Mercy Sunday." How did this come about? Why is it important? 

In 1924, a 19-year-old girl name Helena was attending a dance in a small Polish village with her sister Natalia. There she saw a vision of the suffering Jesus. Jesus asked her, "How long will you keep putting me off?" 

For years, she wanted to enter a convent but was afraid of angering her parents. Jesus instructed her to immediately leave that night for Warsaw which was 85 miles away. She was to join a convent. She hopped a train taking nothing with her except the clothes she was wearing. Helena knew no one in Warsaw. She didn't know which convent to join. She followed Jesus with blind faith.

Helena had nowhere to stay. She went to the local Church of St. James for help to find a convent. The kindly priest placed her with an older lady who took care of Helena while she looked for a convent. Helena banged on door after door seeking admittance. The Mother Superiors rejected her saying, "we don't accept maids here." Finally, the Mother Superior of Our Lady of Mercy accepted Helena under the condition she had to buy her own habit. Ironically, Helena worked hard as a maid in rich people's homes to earn the money. One year later on April 30, 1926, she was made a nun. Helena received a new name – Sister Maria Faustina.

Sister Faustina was placed in several convents where she worked as a cook and maid.  But Jesus had a special assignment for her. He would use Sister Faustina to reveal His Mercy to the world through art. On the night of Feb. 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to Faustina in her cell, wearing a white robe with red and white rays shining from His Heart. 

Jesus told her, "Paint a pattern of the image that you see, with the signature 'Jesus I trust in you.'"

Jesus wanted His image to be blessed on the first Sunday after Easter.

Faustina faced several obstacles and trials to do what Jesus asked. During this time, Sister Faustina met her spiritual director who did not support her at first. When Faustina told Fr. Michael Sopoko of her visions, he thought she was nuts. He ordered a series of psychological tests that showed Faustina to be quite sane. Only then he would help her. Fr. Sopoko ordered her to write a diary of her talks with Jesus. Even here there were problems. 

Faustina felt inadequate as a journalist. She complained that she didn't have a good pen to write with which made her work slow and laborious. Jesus assured her to keep writing the diary about His mercy. The devil didn't like this at all. He appeared disguised as an angel to tell Faustina to destroy her diary because it was filled with her pride. Faustina told Fr. Sopoko she destroyed the diary. He hit the roof and ordered her to reconstruct the diary from the very beginning. More time lost.

Then there was a big problem with the painting. Faustina told Jesus she could not paint. Fr. Sopoko hired an artist named Eugene to paint the image that Faustina saw in 1931. With each drawing Faustina cried because each draft did not capture the image of Jesus she saw. It took Eugene three years to get it right. Jesus kept telling Faustina not to worry, "I'll make up for what you lack."  On April 28,1935 the Divine Mercy Image was displayed for the very first time the Sunday after Easter as Jesus requested. Though her body was ravaged by tuberculosis Faustina was overjoyed at the celebration.

Faustina continued to write the diary right up till her death in October 5th1938. For a person who claimed not to be a good writer, her diary grew to 700 pages. Her trusted friend Fr. Sopocko was by her side when the angels took her to Heaven. The death of Sister Faustina was not a happy ending. The worst was yet to come.

War was raging across Europe. Fr. Josef was entrusted with the diary. Miraculously, he escaped the Nazis by taking a train through Siberia, hopped on a Japanese fishing ship and made it into America in 1941. There, a group of nuns in Connecticut using old Remington typewriters transcribed the diary for publication. But it all came to naught. The powers at the Vatican mistakenly banned the diary in 1959 as heretical because of a faulty translation they received. For the next twenty years Faustina's diary and the Divine Mercy image were suppressed and deemed not worthy of belief. Then, God took over.

Everything changed in 1978. 

A new Pope came to town. A new Polish Pope...John Paul II. I am both Polish and Ukrainian. We are very loyal to our kin. Pope John Paul took the attitude, "Don't mess with my Polish Nun." The Pope opened up an investigation with new documents revealing there was nothing heretical in Faustina's work named "The Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul." 

Pope John Paul declared in 2000 that ever first Sunday after Easter would be Divine Mercy Sunday. The Pope canonized Faustina on April 30, 2000. God chose this young Polish maid who cleaned bathrooms, grew vegetables and cooked all day at the stove to receive the highest honor of sainthood. The Bible says "He has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly." (Luke 1:52.)

Faustina would not live to see how Jesus would use her diary to make the whole world honor God's Mercy by being merciful to each other. She remained faithful to her call despite the crosses. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29.)

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