Sunday, April 28, is Divine Mercy Sunday, as first announced by St. John Paul II on April 30, 2000, on the anniversary of the canonization of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.
To explore the meaning of mercy for each of us, let us begin with the Gospel.
Christ’s appearance to His disciples on Easter Sunday night took place in a room locked “for fear of the Jews.” If modern photography had been available to capture their faces, we would probably see a blend of fright and embarrassment.
The apostles were still reeling with guilt for abandoning their Master, and perhaps also anticipated a severe reprimand from God for abandoning His Son Jesus during His Passion.
Instead of fear, His appearance brought them unexpected and serene joy. “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” Instead of giving them the expected tongue lashing, Jesus said: “Peace be with you.” He said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
If this weren’t enough, “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” What a clever way to spread discipleship — pick out some great offenders of God, such as Peter (and later, Paul). Let them experience God’s profound and exquisite mercy, fill them with the supreme joy of being totally forgiven and embraced by God’s mercy. No one can stop them from spreading their joy to the whole world.
Divine Mercy is a gift from God that sells itself.
Jesus’ life on earth was a sign of the Father’s mercy toward mankind. In his encyclical on Divine Mercy, St. John Paul II tells us: “Jesus makes mercy one of the principal themes of his preaching.”
In order to understand more clearly the power of mercy to create intimacy with self, with others and with God, let us first explore the power of sin to alienate.
If I choose to hold on to anger occasioned by someone’s action toward me, I sin on multiple levels. First of all, that person is created in the image of God. When I remain angry at someone created in God’s own image, I am denigrating someone who is sacred to God. Furthermore, if that person is a Christian, I am failing to recognize Christ in that person, and so I am slapping Jesus in the face and I am no different than the crowd shouting: “Crucify Him; crucify Him!”
It’s okay for me to be angry at the evil that comes my way because of the person’s action, but I can’t identify that person as evil. Furthermore, every time I am angry at someone, I am also angry at myself for being angry at the other.
The way out of the anger trap, and the trap of self-condemnation, is to ask Jesus to separate the evil from the person who committed the sin. That immediately transfers me to the side of God, joining Him in extending His mercy to that person.
Furthermore, Paul tells us to “be angry but do not sin. Do not let the sun go down upon your anger so as to give Satan a foothold.” In cases such as this, when we agree with Jesus to extend His mercy to someone who has hurt us, Satan can’t take it. He gets out fast.
This is the underlying reason why joining Jesus and the Father in extending mercy to others creates almost instantaneous intimacy with God, with self, and with others. When I am entering into God’s mercy toward others, I am receiving what I am asking God to send to others.
You have often heard that when it comes to possessions, you can’t take it with you. However, when it comes to mercy, you can and will take it with you. In a sense, extending divine mercy to others is already participating in the future glory God desires to share with us.
April 28th is Mercy Sunday. St. Faustina tells us in her Diary, God says, “Gather all sinners from the entire world and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. I want to give Myself to souls; I yearn for souls, My Daughter. On the day of My feast, the Feast of Mercy, you will go through the whole world and bring fainting souls to the spring of My mercy. I shall heal and strengthen them.”
I encourage you to attend a Divine Mercy celebration, and enter into it, not interceding for your loved ones only, but also for all those who are unknown and feel forlorn and forgotten. (See a list of Divine Mercy celebrations on page 8.)
Without exception, everyone — Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, all bishops, priests, religious and all laity — need to be immersed in God’s mercy. Same with world leaders, even those engaged in promoting evil practices; all are in need of Divine Mercy. They need us to intercede for them. Let us remember in a special way those who are persecuted for their faith. They too need God’s mercy to persevere.
Finally, if you cannot get to a Divine Mercy celebration, then at least get a Divine Mercy chaplet booklet and begin to say the chaplet daily. There is no finer way of becoming immersed in Divine Mercy than by joining Jesus in extending His mercy to the most forlorn and alienated. When we enter into Divine Mercy, we are entering into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. What a joy for Him, for them and for us.