This past Monday, the day after Divine Mercy Sunday, I was in the produce section of Stop and Shop when I first noticed her. She was an elderly lady with a big bag and she was wandering around in a daze. I had already met 6 people and was presently chatting with George the funeral director from D’Andrea Funeral Home. George is my friend; he is 92 years old, he goes to the 5PM Mass on Saturdays, he is a retired police detective and I always enjoy his company, as we work together often. Once in a while we go out for dinner. The lady was circling around going nowhere and it was obvious to me that something was not as it should be. I asked her if she was OK. We talked for a while. She told me her husband of many years had just died that morning unexpectedly. She didn’t know what to do, so she headed out food shopping. As we talked I told her I was a priest and that George was a funeral director. I asked her what I could do for her. All the while her big bag around her should was rumbling. Out popped a puppy. She said she went out to buy the puppy a few hours ago—most probably as a comfort in her profound sadness. We talked more, and she eventually smiled and laughed a bit. And then she disappeared into the crowd of shoppers.
Saint John Paul II was fond of telling the world that there are no coincidences in life. He rightly stated that, what appear to be coincidences, are more correctly “God-incidences.” We have all found ourselves in these situations that we assume are mere coincidences, but might they be more? Are they in fact sudden opportunities to encounter something of God’s Divine Mercy? Are they opportunities to exercise our Christian charity, even in Stop and Shop? I’ve seen too many times that these are no mere coincides; something more is going on. In 2001, on the first anniversary of the institution of Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope John Paul reiterated his words from the prior year: “Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to all of humanity.” Four years later Pope Saint John Paul would die in the evening hours of the Vigil of Divine Mercy.
This past week the world celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday. Divine Mercy Sunday was only recently instituted into the calendar of the Church’s year. It is always celebrated on the second Sunday after Easter. Divine Mercy Sunday was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 2000. It is celebrated on the 8th day of the Octave of Easter when the readings tell of the appearance of Jesus to Saint Thomas who asked that Thomas touch His holy wounds—the undeniable proof that the Risen One who stood before Thomas was indeed that same Crucified One who three days prior had been put to death.
In his comments on Divine Mercy Sunday last week, Pope Francis spoke of the response of Saint Thomas who had at first doubted, but then believed: “My Lord and my God.” Pope Francis emphasizes that Thomas uses the possessive adjective “my,” an affirmation that God wishes to become ours. Pope Francis restates that Jesus became man for me; Jesus died for me; Jesus rose for me. This makes Him my God. Further, in his homily the pope reminds us of the beginning of the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God.” How important for us to know and teach that we all have a God who is ours and wants to be ours. How we must remind others of that God cares about me.
I don’t know what became of the poor lady after she left us, but as I encountered her in the shadow of Divine Mercy Sunday, I must ask: Was it coincidence that we were there to console her for just a few moments; or was it perhaps more?
– Fr. Gerard Gordon