Urging the faithful to
act with a spirit of mercy
Dozens of people gathered in the Sacred Heart Chapel at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe to venerate in their own way an image of Jesus as Divine Mercy. As they did, they softly prayed the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy; it was April 11, the Second Sunday of Easter -- Divine Mercy Sunday.
“If you’re a good sinner like I am,” Dodge City resident Bob George told those gathered, “you go to confession, the sin is forgiven, but we still have punishment due sin. We have to make that up through good works or prayers or what not. The promise today is that all punishment is taken away.” “Divine Mercy” is a new devotion, like the devotion to the Sacred Heart, which centers on God’s mercy and our reparation for sins. Its origins are found in the story of Helen Kowalska, who later became Sister Faustina, canonized by Pope John Paul II April 30, 2000. Nearly a century ago she began receiving private revelations from God. Her most famous vision is that of Christ dressed in white, one hand raised in blessing, the other on his breast, out of which emanated two beams of light, one white and one red. According to Saint Faustina’s diary, the white represents the baptismal waters, while the red represents blood.
While the “Divine Mercy” of Jesus Christ is celebrated throughout the year, the devotion culminates with Divine Mercy Sunday, on which day it is said that if a person goes to confession during Lent and Mass on that day or the day before, and performs an act of mercy by “word, deed, or prayer,” all sins will be forgiven, and, George stressed, all “punishment for past sins abated.”
Msgr. William Carr, a retired priest of the Diocese of Wichita, explained in a video presentation on Wichita’s diocesan website that the day has had “various names throughout the course of church history.” The day was once known as “Low Sunday,” presumably because it followed the “high” of Easter. It was also called “White Sunday,” or “the Sunday for the taking off of white garments.” In the fourth through the seventh centuries, Father Carr explained, catechumens (those to be baptized at the Easter vigil) wore white throughout Easter Week, and on the Sunday after Easter, discontinued wearing the white garments “in a sign that they were full-fledged Christians.”
During the Mass of canonization of St. Faustina on April 30, 2000, the year of the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul II proclaimed: “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.”
According to Robert Allard, the Director of the Apostles of Divine Mercy, by the words “the whole message,” the Holy Father was referring to the strict connection between the “Easter Mystery of the Redemption” -- the suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, followed by the sending of the Holy Spirit.
The essential celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday consists in the celebration of the liturgy of the Second Sunday of Easter
Father Alfred McBride calls attention to the responsorial psalm and Gospel for Cycles A, B and C of the Second Sunday of Easter and how they center on the theme of mercy. In Psalm 118 Catholics sing three times, “His mercy endures forever.” The Gospel, from John 20:19-31, begins with the risen Christ appearing to the apostles on Easter night. Jesus calms his disciples by saying and giving them “Peace.” He shows them the scars of his Passion, his wounded hands and side. His glorified body retains the evidence of his saving work through his suffering, death and resurrection.
This year, on the Second Sunday of Easter, Pope Benedict in his “angelus” message said “...Twice Jesus said to the disciples: ‘Peace be with you!’ and added: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’. After saying this he breathed on them, saying: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’. This is the mission of the Church constantly assisted by the Paraclete: to bring to all the good news, the joyous reality of God’s merciful Love....”
From Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday to the Eighth Day of Easter, Father McBride writes that individuals can hear the divine love song of mercy chanted amid abundant alleluias. “For centuries in liturgy the Church has proclaimed the mercy of God through the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. The tables of Word and Sacrament are heaped with the promises of Divine Mercy and its grand effect in the lives of millions. The liturgy is the storehouse of the wisdom of God and a treasure chest for all the worshipers” explained Father McBride.
The devotion revealed to Saint Faustina urges the faithful to act daily with a spirit of mercy toward their neighbor, with prayers, words and deeds.