Why Catholics Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday
On the Second Sunday of Easter of the Jubilee Year 2000, at the Mass for the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II proclaimed to the world that “from now on throughout the Church this Sunday will be called Divine Mercy Sunday.”
Pope John Paul had actively promoted the message of St. Faustina. In his 1980 encyclical on God’s mercy, Rich in Mercy, he developed a scriptural and doctrinal basis for our faith in the mercy of God. By linking the revealed truth about God’s mercy to one of the most solemn Sundays after Easter itself, he illumined the fact that the liturgy already proclaimed the divine mercy. The truth has been embedded for two millennia in the worship of the Church.
On the Second Sunday of Easter, the responsorial psalm and Gospel center on the theme of mercy. In Psalm 118 we sing three times, “His mercy endures forever.” The Gospel 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.
He fills them with joy and again says to them—and produces in them—“Peace.” Then he breathes on them and explains what the divine breathing means with the words, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” He gives the apostles the power of God’s mercy for the sinner, the gift of forgiving sins from God’s treasury of mercy.
From Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday to the Eighth Day of Easter, the divine love song of mercy is 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 disposition of trust in God’s mercy is essential for receiving the graces God wants us to have. The time of preparation for the Divine Mercy Sunday is meant to strengthen our people’s trust in God’s mercy. Like a good icon, the picture of Divine Mercy confronts the praying and worshiping person with the merciful love of Christ, and its inscription, “Jesus, I trust in you,” encourages the believer to respond to this invitation with greater confidence. One way the Church celebrates God’s mercy throughout the year is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and finding times for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, both are good ways to observe Divine Mercy. (By Rev. Alfred McBride, O.Praem)