Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. What does that mean?
It seems simple enough – God is infinitely merciful and so if we repent, He forgives our sins. And every time we say the Our Father, we promise to forgive others in return for His forgiveness. So, one meaning for mercy is forgiveness.
But it has another meaning: compassion.
So, how does this relate to my day-to-day life?
Let me tell you about St. Giuseppe Moscati.
Giuseppe Moscati was the seventh of nine children born in 1880 to aristocratic Italian parents. His father’s career as a judge led the family to settle in Naples. Every year they vacationed in the province of Avellino, his father’s native region, and while there they attended Mass at the chapel of the Poor Clare nuns, with the renowned jurist serving at the altar.
The future saint inherited his father’s piety and intellectual gifts. Giuseppe’s unexpected decision to study medicine rather than law can be traced to an incident during his adolescence. In 1893 his older brother Alberto, a lieutenant in the artillery, fell from a horse and sustained incurable head trauma. For years Giuseppe helped care for his injured brother at home, and as he matured, he reflected on the limited effectiveness of human remedies and the consoling power of religion.
When Giuseppe Moscati enrolled in medical school in 1897, the University of Naples – with its openly agnostic, amoral, and anti-clerical atmosphere and its secret societies – was a perilous place for a young Catholic. Moscati avoided distractions, studied diligently, continued to practice his faith, and took a doctoral degree with honours in 1903.
Giuseppe Moscati regarded his medical practice as a lay apostolate, a ministry to his suffering fellowmen. Before examining a patient or engaging in research he would place himself in the presence of God. He encouraged his patients, especially those who were about to undergo surgery, to receive the sacraments.
Dr. Moscati also attended to temporal needs. He treated poor patients free of charge, and would often send someone home with an envelope containing a prescription and a 50-lire note.
On occasion he practiced heroic compassion. When Mount Vesuvius erupted in April 1906, Dr. Moscati voluntarily helped to evacuate a nursing home in the endangered area, personally moving the frail and infirm patients to safety minutes before the roof of the building collapsed under the ash. He also served beyond the call of duty during the 1911 cholera epidemic and treated approximately 3,000 soldiers during World War I. He died in 1927, and was canonized by Pope John-Paul II in 1987.
Saint Giuseppe Moscati has shown us the true meaning of compassion: for the sick, for the poor, for the elderly and infirm, and for the injured.
In a letter to a student, he once wrote, “Not science, but charity has transformed the world,” explaining that only a few goes down in history as men of science, but all can leave the world a better place by their charity.
Jesus showed us an example of mercy in his dealings with the apostles. Despite the fact that the apostles had abandoned him during his passion, Jesus still loved them. Knowing that they were distraught and afraid after the crucifixion, he appeared to them to prove that he was still with them. Moreover, he gave them the power to forgive sins, enabling them to show mercy to others.
As for Thomas, who wasn’t there and didn’t believe what had happened, Jesus appeared to them again so that he would believe. And at this appearance, Jesus provided for future generations by saying that they will be blessed if they believe without seeing.
Believe without seeing – the very definition of faith!
So today we are reminded what it means to be merciful, and encouraged to practice this mercy every day.
Just before receiving our Lord in the Eucharist today, when we implore the Lamb of God to have mercy on us, let us remember that to receive that mercy, we must be merciful to one another.
Deacon Ed West