Mercy Sunday: Homily of Archbishop Eamon Martin

Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland was chief celebrant and homilist for the Mercy Sunday ceremony which took place at the weekend at Knock Shrine. Ceremonies began with Divine Mercy Devotions led by Father Bernard McGuckian SJ and Father Freddie Warner SMA. 


The text of Archbishop Martin’s homily follows:

On my way to Knock I couldn’t help noticing all the new lambs jumping and skipping about the fields. It reminds me of the old hymn:

All in the April evening

April airs were abroad;

The sheep with their little lambs

Passed me by on the road.

The sheep with their little lambs

Passed me by on the road;

All in the April evening

I thought on the Lamb of God.

It was John the Baptist who first referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God. One day, as Jesus passed by, John said: Look, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

It was a very significant term to use, because for the Jewish people the lamb was also an animal of sacrifice. When they sinned, they offered and poured out the blood of an unblemished lamb in order to make peace again with God. And when they celebrated their “exodus” from slavery in Egypt, they sprinkled the blood of the paschal lamb on the gates and doorposts of their homes, recalling how God had rescued and protected them. So when John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, he was suggesting that Jesus, like an innocent lamb, would one day be led to the slaughter, but that his blood would be poured out for the sins of the whole world.

“For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world”.

At the heart of Divine Mercy devotion is the figure of Jesus, the unblemished paschal lamb who has been sacrificed for our sake. The Mass is our act of remembrance of that moment. The Eucharist is our sacrament of mercy. In it we offer to God the body and blood the soul and divinity of his dearly beloved Son our Lord Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and for the sins of the whole world.

The great “Mercy Pope”, St John Paul II described divine mercy as God’s “Easter gift” to the world. Like our own Pope Francis, St John Paul II believed that mercy is the answer to the world’s problems. His final message was read out on Divine Mercy Sunday, the day after he died:

“Humanity sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear; but as a gift to humanity, the Risen Lord offers His (mercy) His love that pardons, reconciles, and reopens hearts to love. It is love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy.”

“To understand Divine Mercy”. “To accept Divine Mercy”. What a difference it would make if the message of Divine Mercy could be grasped more fully! In a world that is plagued by war, violence, greed and exploitation too many people are missing out on the Good News of Mercy that we are celebrating today. They are so easily carried away by the false promise that it is possible to fully live life without God, to proudly rely on the skills and power of human beings alone to master the problems and difficulties that come our way. And so the world flounders. As the scriptures say, “Like sheep we go astray, every one to his own way”. We dig ourselves deeper and deeper into trouble.

Our Blessed Mother Mary sang in her Magnificat of God’s mercy as a gift for every generation. How much our generation needs to hear, understand and accept that gift!

I was shocked earlier this year by an Oxfam report which pointed out that the eight richest people in the world have more wealth that the poorest half of the world’s population out together.

Have mercy on us and on the whole world.

While many parts of the world, including our own, continue to waste food and water, families and children in other continents are dying of famine and malnutrition; while rich nations plan walls and hard borders, hundreds of thousands of our fellow human beings migrate from one country to another searching for shelter, food and peace. Greed has created a huge global market for the modern slavery of human trafficking. Across the world many people still cannot read or write, are persecuted, exploited, or simply deemed expendable in a culture where the dignity of human life itself is easily discarded.

Have mercy on us and on the whole world.

At the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy last November Pope Francis made a heartfelt plea that we all become “missionaries of mercy”, pouring mercy into the world by our charity, our willingness to reach out to those most in need of God’s mercy, and our practising in new and creative ways the spiritual and corporal works of mercy wherever we go.

There is so much for us to do, as missionaries of Divine mercy, to help the world understand and accept this “Easter gift”. Breaking news over Easter brought us stories of fellow Christians slaughtered at prayer in Egypt, continued death and violence in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan; dangerous posturing by world leaders over Korea; a failure to deliver compromise and lasting agreement in the North; and, sadly, the continued attempt to convince us that there’s nothing wrong with undermining the right to life of the unborn child.

Have mercy on us and on the whole world.

We are being encouraged to repeal, delete or amend this Article in our Constitution: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right”.

Pope Francis often speaks about the need for a ‘revolution of tenderness’ in today’s world. I repeat today what I said on Day For Life last October.

“Article 40.3.3 is fundamentally a declaration of tenderness and love for the equal right to life of both a mother and her unborn child… it places as the very foundations and substructure of our laws a clear conviction that all human life is worth cherishing.

Demands to quash and abolish this amendment go against the Good News that the life of every person is sacred and inviolable, irrespective of the stage or state of that life – from the first moment of conception until the moment of natural death. This is the most fundamental of all moral principles. It is the basis upon which every human right we enjoy as persons is predicated and upon which our very freedom and dignity as a person rests. It admits of no exceptions. To deliberately and intentionally take the life of an innocent person, whatever their state or stage of life, is always gravely morally wrong”.

On this Divine Mercy Sunday let us pray for “miracles of mercy” to happen in our own lives and in the lives of all we pray for at this Mass. Have mercy, on us, on our country, and on the whole world.

When Mary appeared here at Knock she did so alongside an altar, with a Lamb and angels. Mary was wrapt in contemplation before the Lamb of God: Behold the Lamb of God, she seems to say, who takes away the sins of the world; blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.

Pope Francis keeps emphasising, “Nothing of what a repentant sinner places before God’s mercy can be excluded from the embrace of his forgiveness”. So let us pray in confidence:

Eternal Father have mercy on us and on the whole world for our spitefulness or anger, our wastefulness, our lack of respect for the dignity of others, for the dignity of life itself, our carelessness with our health, our failure to respect our own bodies and those of others as temples of the Holy Spirit. Pour your mercy into our hearts, into our homes, into our country and world at this time. Forgive us for
the breakdown in family life, for domestic violence and abuse, for the sins and crimes that have been committed in the Church, for the prevalence of addiction, for the despair that leads to so much self harm and suicide in our country and in our world. Thank you God for being rich in mercy; thank you God because your mercy endures for ever!

Here at the shrine of Knock, contemplating with Mary, the Lamb and the cross, may we never lose sight of Your wonderful mercy towards us, that every time we celebrate the Eucharist we will think of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and pray for his mercy. Let us go out from Knock today inspired to be merciful ourselves so that a great ocean of divine mercy will continue us to pour out from the heart of Jesus.

St Faustina’s prayer:

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbours’ souls and come to their rescue.

Help me, O Lord, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbours’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbour, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbours and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, O Lord, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbour, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness (…)

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbour. (…) (Diary 163).

+ Eamon Martin