Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Divine Mercy Sunday Homily: Where Are You, God?

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2 Easter C – April 11, 2010 — Where Are You, God?
Divine Mercy Sunday & Holocaust Remembrance Day
Today’s Biblical Texts

In his book, Night, Elie Wiesel recalls his meeting with Moshe the Beadle during the Holocaust. Moshe was the caretaker of a small Hasidic synagogue in Transylvania and managed to survive one massacre after the other. Here is part of that story. After the last massacre Moshe found himself all alone in the deserted synagogue. The last living Jew, he climbed the bema one last time, stared at the Ark and whispered with infinite gentleness; “You see? I am still here.” He stopped briefly before continuing in his sad, almost toneless voice: “But you [G_d], where are you?”  [1] What is a person to do in a time of tragedy and despair when God seems absent? How is the mercy or love of God felt while standing in line on your way to a gas chamber?

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. We honor at least 6 million Jews and other groups of people gay, lesbian, Catholics, Gypsies and handicapped persons who were murdered by the ruthless regime of the Third Reich. This past week also marked the 16th commemoration of the genocide in Rwanda. More than 800,000 innocent people lost their lives there. Some say these tragedies and others as in Darfur, Sudan, could have been prevented. Although all humanitarian catastrophes are not alike governments, civic and religious groups cannot stand by and do nothing. One might ask, where are you God when we need you most?

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. In his 1980 encyclical “Rich in Mercy” [2] Pope John Paul II outlined sources of uneasiness in the world and the dangers produced by materialistic societies. He wrote about how individuals, communities and nations can fall victim to the abuse of power by other[s]. The pope went on to say now is the time the church must pray for the mercy of God. Here in this church this morning we sang a version of Psalm 118 — “God’s mercy endures forever.” When and how does the mercy of God happen?

The Acts of the Apostles give us a peak into the life of early church. They were written by the evangelist Luke about 50-60 years after Jesus’ resurrection. The reading today tells us of the signs and wonders completed by the apostles and how the membership of the church grew. However, the next section in the bible, omitted today, is about the persecution of those apostles by the authorities. Those disciples must have wondered, “Where are you God when we need you?”

We can imagine in the gospel story how a frightened group of disciples, still stunned by what happened to their leader, needed some direction about what to do next in their lives. They were probably wondering, like Moshe the caretaker of the synagogue, “Where are you, God?” As the story goes when Jesus does appear to them, a doubter among them, he questions their loyalty and their belief. Do you now believe only because I am standing here before you, he asked? Blessed are those who have not seen me and still believe in me.

While discussing this homily with some parishioners I learned about The Hiding Place. [3] It is a story of two Dutch sisters, Christians who themselves were sent to the death camps for hiding Jews in their home. They said the words and Spirit of Jesus Christ were their guide as they risked their own lives to save some of God’s people.

Can we pray for God’s mercy without doing something to repair the world we live it? Can we ask God to help us with our lives if we are not willing to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start over again? [4] We will never rid the world of all hatred but to do nothing could compromise our Christian identity.

A religion like ours has a purpose. We stand as a sign of God’s mercy in the world by keeping the Spirit of Jesus Christ alive. That spirit is found inside us. If it was there but is weak, recharge it. If it was never there, go find it. If it is there now, do something with it.

Going church on Sunday reminds us of what is expected of us. It is like doing something to remember a deceased loved one. There are two kinds of death. One is the dying; the second is to be forgotten. Remembering Jesus is what gave strength and hope to members of the early church. It also gave courage and love to those two sisters who tried to help Jews. Where are you God, today? Perhaps a good place to start is right here in this church.

_______
1 Wiesel, Elie. Night. (NY: Hill & Wang 1958)
2 http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_30111980_dives-in-misericordia_en.html
3 ten Boom, Corrie. The Hiding Place. (New York: Bantam Books, 1971)
4 From the 1936 song “Pick Yourself Up” lyrics by Dorothy Fields

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

2 thoughts on “Divine Mercy Sunday Homily: Where Are You, God?

  1. Very fine homily. The only thing I would add is that if we don’t experience the Spirit in our lives, I don’t think that we need to go any place. I think that we need to ask for the grace to be open and aware of the Spirit because Jesus promises, “I am with you all days, even to the end of time. Take care and thanks for sharing.

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  2. Here on Divine Mercy Sunday I am thinking about the divine mercy prayer which is “Jesus I Trust in You”. It seems like such a beautiful and simple thing to say. So, childlike and easy. Yet I am left to wonder what specifically is it I am saying that I trust? “Jesus I trust you to do what? be what? provide what? know what? etc. I think the sermon this morning was a call to start with the mercy of God being “an inside job”. All of this talk about the Second Vatican Council reminds me of how much I love our faith and how much I fear and dread those that have the power in the institutional church to try to turn back the clock to pre-council ways. I can’t change what “the official church” will publish, mandate or try to do. I can only, I think, try to prepare myself to deal honestly with my overwhelming inner struggles. I don’t fully trust that the mercy of an invisible God is at work in the visible people who threaten my sense of things. I try to see Christ in them. I do try. I try to love them as brothers and I honestly do believe intellectually that I do not have the answers to so many of the complex issues. I try to believe that the Holy Spirit is acting among and through the people charged with these decisions. But truth be told, my stupidity and fear often gets the better of me and then I don’t try at all.Often, I don’t even try to try. I just sit there angry, resentful and afraid and not trying to be merciful, just or loving. I tell myself that “the church” would be better off if they would go away and their backward and male dominated agendas thwarted. My unwillingness to live out the call to reflect the divine mercy of God is a painful but real struggle. I believe that the choice to bind myself to the mission of Christ compels me to at least give it my best shot. So, for today my mercy prayer may be “Jesus I trust in you to soften my stubborn fearful heart”. I don’t really know how to deal with my resistance to these changes but I believe that prayer will help me to at least be somewhat less of the problem. I hope.

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