On the Second Sunday of Easter in the Jubilee Year 2000, St. John Paul II announced that from that day forward the octave day of Easter — which is this Sunday, April 8 — would be known as the ”Sunday of Divine Mercy.”
The significance of the Divine Mercy is found in the very meaning of the Paschal Mystery, which we celebrate in a very special way at Easter. In the decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments which officially established the Feast of Divine Mercy, we read:
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord (Ps. 111:4) who, out of the great love with which he loved us (Eph. 2:4) and [out of] unspeakable goodness, gave us his Only-begotten Son as our Redeemer, so that through the Death and Resurrection of this Son he might open the way to eternal life for the human race, and that the adopted children who received his mercy within his temple might lift up His praise to the ends of the earth.
“In our times the Christian faithful in many parts of the world wish to praise the divine mercy in divine worship, particularly in the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, in which God’s loving kindness especially shines forth.”
The decree makes it clear that the Paschal Mystery, the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, which is the focus of Easter, is, in fact, the mystery of God’s mercy made manifest in our human history. Christ’s death and resurrection accomplished the forgiveness of our sins and the raising of all who are baptized into the new life of the glorified Lord. Easter is the feast of God’s mercy.
The appropriateness of celebrating the Divine Mercy on the Second Sunday of Easter is apparent also in the Eucharistic liturgy of that day. Each year on the octave of Easter the Church proclaims St. John’s account of the Easter apparition of the Risen Jesus to his apostles.
The gospel tells us that the apostles were frightened on that Easter day. We could easily conclude that they also were sad and ashamed because they had abandoned their Master in the hour of his greatest suffering. When Jesus appeared to his followers, who were cowering behind locked doors, the sight of the wounds of the Lord’s passion must surely have aroused sentiments of guilt and shame. But Jesus had not appeared to shame his disciples even more. He had come to announce peace and forgiveness. It was on that Easter day that Jesus breathed on his apostles for the reception of the Holy Spirit and, at the same time, gave the apostles the power to forgive sins. At that moment Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Penance for the outpouring of the Divine Mercy until the end of time.
Is not the mercy and forgiveness of God most apparent in the celebration of the Paschal Mystery at Easter? Is it not most fitting that we confess our sins on the very day that Jesus gave his church the sacrament of forgiveness and reconciliation?
For these reasons and together with our Holy Father, I invite all Catholics to praise the Divine Mercy and experience that mercy in the Sacrament of Penance on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 8. On that day, I will preside at the Divine Mercy devotions at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Confessions will begin at 1:30 p.m. Several priests will be available to hear confessions. There will be exposition, adoration and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. We will pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and conclude with Holy Mass at 3 p.m.
In his first Angelus talk, Pope Francis spoke of the mercy of God: “Hearing the word of mercy changes everything. It is the best thing that we can hear: it changes the world. A bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just . . . Let us not forget this word: God never tires of forgiving us, never! ‘So, Father, what is the problem?’ Well, the problem is that we get tired, we don’t want to, we get tired of asking forgiveness. Let us never get tired. He is the loving father who always forgives, who has that heart of mercy for all of us.”
May our Risen Lord bless you and all those you love with His Easter grace! May God, who is rich in mercy, forgive your sins and keep you always in his love.