Divine Mercy Sunday
April 24, 2022

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Introduction

The readings chosen for the fifty days of Easter were selected to help the newly baptized as well as the whole community reflect on what it means to live as baptized members of the church.  To this end, the Old Testament reading is replaced by a reading from the Acts of the Apostles.   These texts from Acts show us the early church as it began to live the Christian life and preach the gospel to the nations.   The readings invite us to continue the work of the early church today.    The readings today are about God’s mercy, the necessity for trusting faith, and our need for the forgiveness of our sins.

 

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear by about the miracles and signs performed by Peter and all of the apostles.  There is a sense of awe at the power of God at work through them, so much so that the crowds were hesitant to join them in Solomon’s portico.  At the same time, the sense of God’s power drew people to the church.  The point of the passage is that God continued to work wonders through the apostles as God had done through Jesus. 

 

The second reading is from the book of Revelations.   The book of Revelations is apocalyptic literature, a genre in which the author has a heavenly vision that he shares with others who are persecuted for their beliefs.   John’s book urges the persecuted to hold fast to their faith in Jesus.   John counts himself among those being persecuted by Roman officials.   He is imprisoned on the island of Patmos because he spread the gospel, but his forced exile clearly failed to silence him.   In the reading, the bold sound of the trumpet signals God’s presence, as it did when the Israelites received the Law.   The lampstands represent both seven particular churches and the one unified church.   The risen Christ stands in the midst of his church.   A lampstand stood inside the Jerusalem temple, now light goes forth from Christ and his church.   One like the son of man recalls the one who received the power and dominion from God, here he’s dressed as both priest and king.    John faints when he sees the risen Christ, just as others did in the presence of the divine glory.  Christ reassures and then commissions him.    Because Jesus rose from the dead, he is now master of death and victor in the struggle against sin and evil.  No one who believes in him should fear anything or anyone.  John is told to share the good news with others so that they won’t yield to persecution or evil.

 

In the Gospel from John, the Risen Lord gave his apostles and their successors the power to forgive sins with the words, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”   Presenting the doubting Thomas’s famous profession of faith, “My Lord and my God” the Gospel illustrates how Jesus showed mercy to the doubting apostle and emphasizes the importance of faith.

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Gospel Explained

Today’s reading, from the Gospel of John, is proclaimed on the second Sunday of Easter in each of the three Sunday lectionary cycles.  This should alert us to the significance of the encounters with the resurrected Jesus described in this reading.  This Gospel combines two scenes: Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after his Resurrection and Jesus’ dialogue with Thomas, the disciple who doubted. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus greets his disciples with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus also commissions his disciples to continue the work that he has begun.   As Jesus was sent by God, so too does Jesus send his disciples.  This continuity with Jesus’ own mission is an essential element of the Church.   Jesus grants the means to accomplish this mission when he gives his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit.   The Holy Spirit binds us together as a community of faith and strengthens us to bear witness to Jesus’ Resurrection. 

 

Jesus’ words to his disciples also highlight the integral connection between the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Forgiveness and reconciliation are gifts to us from Jesus.  With the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can share these with others.  This is another essential aspect of what it means to be Christ’s church.  The Church continues Jesus’ ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation.

 

Thomas, the disciple who doubts, represents the reality of the Church that comes after this first community of disciples.  All but the first disciples of Jesus must believe without seeing.   Like Thomas, we may doubt the news that Jesus, who was crucified and buried, appeared to his disciples.  It is part of the human nature to seek hard evidence that he Jesus who appeared to the disciples after his death is, indeed, the same Jesus who was crucified.  Thomas is given the opportunity to be our representative who obtains this evidence.  He gives witness to us that the Jesus who was raised is the same Jesus who had died.  Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are among those who are blessed for we have not seen and yet have believed. 

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Today’s Theme

Mercy is defined as: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.  You have the power to inflict punishment, but because of mercy, you showed compassion and forbearance to one who has offended or wronged you, just like we sin and God shows us mercy.   But the Bible also defines mercy beyond forgiveness and withholding punishment. God shows his mercy for those who are suffering through healing, comfort, the alleviation of suffering and caring about those in distress. He acts from compassion and acts with mercy.  God revealed his mercy, first and foremost, in sending his only begotten son to become our savior and Lord through his suffering, death, and resurrection. Divine mercy is given to us also in each celebration of the sacraments, especially that of reconciliation.    Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday.    Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter. It is based on the private revelations of St. Faustina Kowalska, which recommended a particular devotion to the Divine Mercy.  St. Faustina, a poorly educated daughter of a humble Polish family, kept a 600-page diary of the apparitions she claimed continued for years. Her entries focus on God’s mercy, the call to accept God’s mercy and to be merciful, the need for conversion, and the call to trust in Jesus. It had been Jesus’ own wish, she wrote, to establish a feast day: “I [Jesus] desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls. . . . I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy.”

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Theme in our Life Today

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.   St. Faustina’s diary records 14 occasions when Jesus requested that a Feast of Mercy (Divine Mercy Sunday) be observed. For example, St. Faustina recalls in her diary the words of Jesus saying, “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. 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. … Let no soul fear to draw near to Me. … It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.”

—St. Faustina, Diary, no. 699

On May 5, 2000, five days after the canonization of St. Faustina, the Vatican decreed that the Second Sunday of Easter would henceforth be known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

The image of Divine Mercy portrayed Jesus as he appeared to St. Faustina in a vision, with his right hand raised in a blessing and his left touching his garment above his heart. Red and white rays emanate from his heart, symbolizing the blood and water that was poured out for our salvation and our sanctification. The Lord requested that the phrase “Jesus, I trust in You” be inscribed under his image. Jesus asked that his image be painted and venerated throughout the world: “I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish” (Diary, no. 48) and “By means of this image I will grant many graces to souls” (Diary, no. 742).

 

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy was also given to St. Faustina with this promise: “Encourage souls to say the chaplet which I have given you” (Diary, no. 1541). “Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death. … Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I desire that the whole world know My infinite mercy” (Diary, no. 687).

 

In The Divine Mercy Novena, Jesus gave St. Faustina nine intentions for which to pray the Chaplet beginning on Good Friday and ending on the Saturday before Divine Mercy Sunday. 

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To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy, consider the following: 

  1. Thomas stands for all believers with reservations. Recall an experience that shows Thomas in you.

  2. Jesus’ peace is a source of spirit, forgiveness and faith. When did you last pray for forgiveness?

  3. Do you consider yourself one who trusts easily, or are you more of a doubting Thomas?

  4. Think of an experience when it was difficult to feel the presence of Jesus in a time of need.

 

Prayer

Christ Jesus, Risen One, as the sun is the joy of those who seek the day, so our joy is you, our Lord, for you are our sun.   Your rays resurrect us, and your light drives all darkness from our eyes.  Thanks to you we have acquired eyes and seen your holy day, we have been given ears and heard your truth, we have been given knowledge and trembled with joy.   We thank you, and we praise you. Amen.

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