Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
ALLELUIA! Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, the Octave Day of Easter! In the Church’s reckoning, it is still Easter Sunday. In other words, the Paschal mystery that culminates in Christ’s rising from the dead is so huge an event, it takes a full week to fully grasp it. On this day, we Christians still find ourselves huddled in the Upper Room and are both overjoyed and fearful as we experience the Risen Christ in our midst, addressing us with the Easter greeting: “Peace be with you!”
In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II declared the Sunday after Easter to be “Divine Mercy Sunday” based on the revelations of St. Faustina Kowalska, a nun who, in the 1930s, received a series of private revelations from Christ. Her revelations highlight God’s inexhaustible mercy toward humanity and feature an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus emanating with divine love. It is through the vessel of trust, Jesus revealed to St. Faustina, that we gain access to the fountain of God’s mercy. Thus, the image of Divine Mercy always includes that incredible statement of faith “Jesus, I trust in you!”.
Far from being an intrusion in the liturgical season of Easter, the celebration of Divine Mercy stands at the core of what these sacred days are explicitly about. In her vision, St. Faustina saw coming from the Heart of Jesus two rays of light which illuminates the world. The two rays, according to what she heard the Lord himself tell her, denote blood and water. The blood recalls the sacrifice of Golgotha and the mystery of the Eucharist; the water, recalls our Baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3:5; 4:14). Through the mystery of Christ’s wounded and Sacred Heart, the restorative tide of God’s merciful love continues to spread over us and all generations.
In the Gospel of John for this Divine Mercy Sunday, we encounter this merciful love. While the disciples were locked in the Upper Room, Jesus came and stood in their midst. He could have condemned them. He could have judged them. He could have rejected them for denying Him and leaving Him—but he doesn’t. He says: “Peace be with you.” This is what the Resurrection is all about. This is what mercy is all about.
“Peace be with you.” The very first word uttered by the Risen Christ to his Apostles conveyed His special Easter gift to the Church: “Peace!” Commissioning the Apostles to forgive sins in his name became all the more significant because He immediately followed his peaceful greeting with the solemn declaration: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Jesus clearly wanted his apostles to realize that peace and mercy are inseparable; and that true peace can only be achieved by forgiving one another.
In the weeks leading up to the Holy Week, most of us have experienced firsthand the healing forgiveness of God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Forgiveness, however, consists of far more than just the awareness of God’s love and mercy. Jesus said, “Be merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful … The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you.” (Lk 6:36-38). He also said: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5:7). Hence it is clear that the prerequisite for our receiving mercy is our showing mercy to others. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses as we have forgiven those who have trespassed against us” (Mt 6:12). He also warned: “If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their sins, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your sins.” (Mt 6:14-16).
As we spread the Good News that Jesus has truly risen in our midst, may we all experience the power of God’s mercy and never grow tired of forgiving each other. May our faith increase in this Easter season so that we can declare all the louder with St. Faustina and eventually St. Thomas: “Jesus, I trust in you!”
I wish you all a Happy Divine Mercy Sunday and a Blessed Easter Season!
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham
FROM THE PASTOR’S HEART