Second Sunday of Easter - Sunday of Divine Mercy
This homily was originally written for Divine Mercy Sunday, 2018.
The Second Sunday of Easter is also celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. It was in 2000, at the canonization of Sr. Faustina Kowalska, that Pope John Paul II declared that the Second Sunday of Easter would henceforth be commemorated as Mercy Sunday. Since then, the Divine Mercy devotion along with the iconic Divine Mercy image of Jesus has spread throughout the world. Many, many Catholics set aside the 3 PM hour to pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy.
In my three points, I would like to reflect on Divine Mercy, the devotion and its practice.
- Jesus Revolutionized His Ministry of Reconciliation. The reason for the choice of Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday is based on the gospel reading for the day. Jesus breathed on the apostles and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive and forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.” Catholics find in these words the biblical foundation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this passage, Jesus revolutionized the ministry of mercy and reconciliation. Jesus took the power that belongs to God alone – the forgiveness of sins – and shared it with other human beings. He gave his apostles the ability and the mandate to sacramentally share God’s forgiveness with other human beings. It was Jesus’ way of spreading his ministry of mercy and reconciliation. Hence, the Feast of Divine Mercy being celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter.
- The Mercy of God is Our Hope. We are in the Easter season and we are very sensitive these days not only to the fact that Jesus is risen, but indeed, to what led to his death. It all boils down to God’s mercy. The biggest complaint against Jesus was the he eats with tax collectors and sinners. He showed mercy to the crippled and blind and healed them even on a Sabbath. Whether it was the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus or the thief hanging next to him on a cross – to them Jesus was the mercy of God in human form. The problems he had was with the people who could not understand the God of mercy that Jesus was revealing, and that, he was indeed that God of mercy. So, they put him to death. They killed Jesus, but they could not kill the God of Mercy. They could destroy Jesus, but they could not destroy the mercy of God. In her diary, Sr. Faustina wrote about the visions she had. Jesus had said to her: “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 this day, the best thing we can do is to recognize we stand in need of God’s mercy, and, that today’s gospel suggests that God’s mercy is available to all.
- Divine Mercy: More than a Devotion. There is a caution that I must point to as we celebrate this feast – that we uphold the devotion to God’s mercy and yet fail in its practice. Sr. Faustina points to this caution in recording her visions. Jesus said to her: “Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to our neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it” (Diary 742). Jesus had said something similar to the disciples in today’s gospel passage. He said, “Just as the Father sent me, so I sent you!” The practical implication of the Feast of Divine Mercy is that we become a people of mercy. We do this in two ways: first, we receive God’s mercy, both sacramentally and in any other way that is available to us. Second, we show the same mercy that God had shown us to others.
As we celebrate the Eucharist, let us remember that every Eucharist is a celebration of God's mercy. As we receive mercy, let us also take this mercy to the world.
- Fr. Satish Joseph