For the past 20 years, the Universal Church has celebrated the 2nd Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. Pope St. John Paul II extended this devotion to Catholics throughout the world when he canonized 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 to be celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter.
Of this feast, Jesus said: “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. 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 this Octave of Easter. The Mass of that day is the high point of this devotion.
While we rejoice in the powerful gift made available to us on this day, the Church has never ceased to insist on making sure we know the rest of the story, that of living the graces received by practicing mercy.
In his homily for the canonization of St. Faustina, the first saint canonized in the Jubilee Year beginning the Third Millennium of Christianity, Pope St. John Paul II told us: “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, while re-establishing the relationship of each person with God, also 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.
This 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.“
Pope Francis, continues to drive this message home. He fervently insists on the importance of not just seeking mercy, but also sharing it, encouraging the Church to reflect on and to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Speaking about these works of mercy, particularly as they are presented in the Gospel of St. Matthew, 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. May we be mindful of this as we celebrate Mass on this day dedicated to the message of Divine Mercy. May our hearts be opened 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.
Thank you for your kind gifts for our Easter offertory collection. We count on these because of the large number of requests we get from the diocese to participate in the various kinds of requests we have to honor during the course of the year. We apportion out the funds received in the second collection of Easter to those appeals based on your envelope notations and a usual percentage derived from the multiple collections of the past. Thank you, too, for your generous response to the collection for Easter flowers. You can see how nicely Sister Elizabeth and her crew of volunteers decorated the church sanctuary. I am always grateful to the many people who quietly and happily donate their time and talents to make our parish the beautiful and vibrant parish it is today. We wish our part-time parishioners and seasonal visitors God’s blessings as they return to their homes elsewhere. You are always in our hearts and prayers. Now please pray for the safe return for Sister Elizabeth K. from Poland, where she recently buried her mother.