This year due to a quirk in the Liturgical Calendar caused by the early date of Easter we have been blessed with back to back Pro-Life Feasts – Divine Mercy Sunday and the Feast of the Annunciation – on March 30th and 31st, respectively.
The 2nd Sunday of Easter, celebrated yesterday, was renamed the Feast of Divine Mercy by Pope John Paul II in the year 2000 during the canonization of Sr. Faustina, the apostle of Divine Mercy. Even before receiving its new name the 2nd Sunday of Easter already focused on the Mercy of God.
The Gospel Reading of the day shows us the institution of the Sacrament of Penance:
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
This Gospel passage, selected by the Church for the Sunday after Easter centuries ago, shows us that the Mercy of God is powerful enough to forgive us of any sin. But, today I want to relate the Feast of Divine Mercy to one sin in particular: abortion.
Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, the Saint whose life and writings inspired our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, to rename the Octave day of Easter after the Mercy of God, wrote about abortion in her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul:
September 16, 1937. I wanted very much to make a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament today, but God’s will was otherwise. At eight o’clock I was seized with such violent pains that I had to go to bed at once. I was convulsed with pain for three hours; that is, until eleven o’clock at night. No medicine had any effect on me, and whatever I swallowed I threw up. At times, the pains caused me to lose consciousness. Jesus had me realize that in this way I took part in His Agony in the Garden, and that He himself allowed these sufferings in order to offer reparation to God for the souls murdered in the wombs of wicked mothers. I have gone through these sufferings three times now. They always start at eight o’clock in the evening and last until eleven. No medicine can lessen these sufferings. When eleven o’clock comes, they cease by themselves, and I fall asleep at that moment. The following day, I feel very weak.
This happened to me for the first time when I was at the sanatorium. The doctors couldn’t get to the bottom of it, and no injection or medicine helped me at all nor did I myself have any idea of what the sufferings were about. I told the doctor that never before in my life had I experienced such sufferings, and he declared he did not know what sort of pains they are. But now I understand the nature of these pains, because the Lord himself as made this known to me… Yet when I think that I may perhaps suffer in this way again, I tremble. But I don’t know whether I’ll ever again suffer in this way; I leave that to God. What it pleases God to send, I will accept with submission and love. If only I could save even one soul from murder by means of these sufferings!
(Divine Mercy in My Soul 1276)
St. Faustina was permitted to suffer these terrible pains and offer them up to God in reparation for the children killed through abortion. This passage serves to remind us that we too can offer reparation for abortion. Obviously, God does not give each and every one of us intense physical sufferings to offer up. But, doesn’t mean that there is nothing we can do. Prayer and fasting can serve as reparation to God. And if anyone has ever taken part in the sin of abortion, either directly or indirectly, there is always the Mercy of God available in the confessional.
The second Pro-Life Feast is the Annunciation. This Feast is typically celebrated on March 25th, exactly 9 months before the birth of Christ. But, because this year March 25th fell during the Octave of Easter it is moved to the next available day – March 31st.
The incarnation did not occur on the 1st Christmas. Rather, God became flesh in the womb of his mother and lived there for 9 months before his birth. The fact that God chose to dwell with man in this manner is a powerful witness that life begins at conception and not at birth.
Mary’s fiat – “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) – allowed the Savior to enter the world and redeem all creation. And this feast should serve as a reminder to us to pray that all mothers will say yes to the life God has created within them.