This Sunday is known in the Catholic world as Divine Mercy Sunday. For the past 18 years, the Universal Church has celebrated this feast on the Second Sunday of Easter. Pope St. John Paul II extended this devotion to Catholics throughout the world on the occasion of the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, who had received a series of private revelations from Jesus on the subject of His Divine Mercy, one of which was His desire for the establishment of a Feast of Mercy. Speaking about this feastday, Our Lord told St. Faustina: “On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.”
These words of invitation by Our Lord to experience the profound depths of love and mercy are extremely appealing and have been embraced with enthusiasm by the faithful throughout the Church. Much attention is given to the remarkable benefits received by those who devoutly participate in the devotional practices connected with Divine Mercy Sunday, benefits which draw us into a deeper union with Our Risen Lord at the conclusion of the Octave of Easter.
While we do indeed rejoice in the powerful gift that is made available to us on this day, the Church has never ceased to insist on making sure we know about living the graces received by practicing mercy. During the canonization of St. Faustina, the first saint canonized in the Great Jubilee Year beginning this Third Millennium of Christianity, Pope St. John Paul II said the following: “It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church will be called “Divine Mercy Sunday.”
In the various readings, the liturgy seems to indicate the path of mercy which creates new relations of fraternal solidarity among human beings. Christ has taught us that “man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but is also called ‘to practice mercy’ towards others: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’(Mt 5: 7)” He also showed us the many paths of mercy, which not only forgives sins but reaches out to all human needs. Jesus bent over every kind of human poverty, material and spiritual.
The rest of the story of Divine Mercy, that of practicing mercy, is explicitly mentioned by Our Lord in His revelations to St. Faustina, as He told her: “Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it.”
Our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, continues to drive this message home, particularly as he did during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. He ardently insists on the importance of not just seeking mercy, but also sharing it, encouraging the Church to reflect on and practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Speaking about these works of mercy, particularly as they are presented in the 25th chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, the Pope reminds us that “we cannot escape the Lord’s words to us, and they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged.”
These two sides of the story of Divine Mercy are complementary to one another, for the graces that we receive free us from the attachments to our own selfish ways of living, so that we can better serve the needs of our brothers and sisters. Let us be mindful of this as we continue our celebration on this day dedicated to the message of Divine Mercy. May our hearts be open to receive the graces that Christ and His Church offer to us today, and may we then live those graces with greater intensity as we spread the light of this message to the world around us through works of mercy rooted in our love of God and our neighbor.
There are two special thanks yous that I wish to offer at this time. One concerns your kindness and generosity to lay missioner Steven Dudenhoefer on the occasion of his annual appeal for our mission in Guatemala. So far, we have tallied slightly over $50,000, thanks to your kindness. This will enable him to feed the children there for more than half a year. Your gift is a special blessing to the more than 600 students who attend the Father Tom Moran School there.
The second, is for the men and women who made the Holy Week and Easter celebrations such a beautiful experience. Whether you are a choir member, altar server, maintenance staff member or just a volunteer, you helped enhance the liturgies and make the love of Jesus real and active in our parish during this time. May God bless you all!
Congratulations to our children who made their First Holy Communion this past Saturday. May the graces received encourage you to come to know and love Jesus and his Father more closely.