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April 8, 2018 - Feast of Mercy

Second Sunday of Easter (Or Sunday of Divine Mercy)

Scripture Readings

Once so often somebody comes into the confessional with such a sense of sorrow for sin, that they find it had to believe that God can forgive them and love them. This is not because they do not believe that God is all forgiving. The darkness they find themselves in, is a little too dark for them. For some reason they think that they do not deserve God’s forgiveness. I am saying to you today what I say to such penitents: “If you put all the sins that you have committed today together, you cannot beat God’s love and mercy. If you put all the sins you have committed your entire life together, you still cannot beat God’s love and mercy. If you put the sins of all the people in the entire world together, you still cannot beat God’s love and mercy. If you put all the sins of all the human beings from the beginning of creation to the end of the world, you still cannot beat God’s love and mercy. Now if you think that your sins are too much for God, then the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not for you! You can leave!” Nobody has ever left. Most of the time, by then, they are in tears and accept that they can be and are forgiven!

Since the year 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter is also celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. It was then that at the canonization of Sr. Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II declared that the Second Sunday of Easter would henceforth be commemorated as Mercy Sunday. In my three points, I would like to reflect on Divine Mercy, the devotion and its practice. 

a)    The Mercy of God is Our Hope. We are in the Easter season and we are very sensitive these days not only to the fact that Jesus is risen, but indeed, to what led to his death. It all comes down to God’s mercy. The biggest complaint against Jesus was that he ate with tax collectors and sinners. They complained that he showed mercy to the crippled and blind and healed them even on a Sabbath. Whether it was the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus or the thief hanging next to him on a cross – to them Jesus was the mercy of God in human form. The people who opposed him were those who could not understand the God of mercy that Jesus revealed. They did not believe he was indeed the God of mercy. So, they put him to death. They killed Jesus, but they could not kill the God of Mercy. They could destroy Jesus, but they could not destroy the mercy of God. In her diary, Sr. Faustina wrote about the visions she had. Jesus had said to her: “My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners.” The Feast of Divine Mercy is a continuation of the work of mercy that Jesus began in his lifetime on earth. 

b)    Jesus Revolutionized His Ministry of Reconciliation. The choice of the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday is based on the gospel reading for the day. After his resurrection, when Jesus appeared to his apostles for the first time, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive and forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.” Catholics find in these words the biblical foundation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this passage, Jesus revolutionized the ministry of mercy and reconciliation. More than anything else, this passage reveals the mind of Jesus. Jesus took the power that belongs to God alone – the forgiveness of sins – and shared it with other human beings. He gave his apostles the ability and the mandate to sacramentally share God’s forgiveness with other human beings. It was Jesus’ way of spreading his ministry of mercy and reconciliation. In the twenty-four years of my priest, thousands of people have literally touched the mercy of God. That is the beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation – that you and I can literally touch God’s mercy and love. 

c)    Divine Mercy: More than a Devotion. There is a caution that I must point to as we celebrate this feast – that it remains but a devotion; that we receive God’s mercy but fail to offer it to others. Sr. Faustina points to this caution in recording her visions. Jesus said to 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” (Diary 742). To the apostles Jesus had said something similar: “Just as the Father sent me, so I send you! In other words, disciples then and now are sent forth to show mercy! This has serious implications for us today. Can we show mercy to those who have sinned against us? What about showing mercy to the children of undocumented immigrants? The Church is crying out for mercy toward them, but many Catholics think the Church is wrong! What about mercy towards refugees and immigrants fleeing poverty and violence? What about mercy toward those who feel alienated from God and the Church? What about mercy toward those on death row? The danger always is that we receive God’s mercy but do not share that mercy with other. The danger is that after receiving the unlimited mercy of God, we might put a limit on the mercy that we show to others. 

The Eucharistic table is the throne of God’s mercy. Here we receive the inconceivable love, mercy, and life of God. What we receive may we offer to others.   

-       Fr. Satish Joseph