Divine Mercy Sunday
Jesus requested that the Sunday after Easter be officially established in the Church as the Feast of Mercy:
“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.” (Diary, 699)
During the Mass of canonization of St. Faustina on April 30, 2000, the year of the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul II proclaimed: “It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church, will be called Divine Mercy Sunday.” The readings on that Sunday are always about mercy, trust and the forgiveness of sins.
By the words “the whole message,” the Holy Father was referring to the strict connection between the “Easter Mystery of the Redemption” — the suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, followed by the sending of the Holy Spirit — and this Feast of Divine Mercy, the Octave Day of Easter. This feast adds so much more meaning to the Easter celebrations. It was Jesus, Himself who asked for it to be celebrated on this particular Sunday following Easter.
There has been much confusion as to how this feast is to be celebrated. To know how to celebrate the Feast, one must only look at the two decrees that were issued by the Holy See and the words of Our Lord in the diary of St. Faustina, which the Church has accepted, as reliable and worthy of belief. The first decree which established the Feast states that the normal readings for that Sunday are always to be used. They are already perfect as they are and reflect what the Image of Divine Mercy portrays.
The second decree is for the plenary indulgence for Divine Mercy Sunday that was issued on June 29, 2002. This decree also states what the duties of Priests are to be: inform the parishioners, hear confessions, and lead the prayers. It also asked Priests to gently encourage the Faithful to practice works of charity or mercy as often as they can, following the example of Christ.
The words of Our Lord in the diary are very clear. He said: “I want the image to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it. By means of the Image I shall be granting many graces to souls; so let every soul have access to it.” (Diary 341, 570) The Image should be placed in the church so that everyone can see it, perhaps in the sanctuary area and at all the masses on that day so that everyone may venerate it.
Our Lord also said, “I desire that priests proclaim this great mercy of Mine towards souls of sinners. Tell My priests that hardened sinners will repent on hearing their words when they speak about My unfathomable mercy, about the compassion I have for them in My Heart. To priests who proclaim and extol My mercy, I will give wondrous power; I will anoint their words and touch the hearts of those to whom they will speak.” (Diary, 50, 1521)
Easter Sunday is the best time to proclaim God’s mercy. Many dioceses have organized diocesan wide celebrations and have advertised in diocesan publications and the mass media. Because Our Lord said that the feast is to be a “refuge for sinners” it is most important to use the mass media to encourage fallen away Catholics to return to the Church. The promise of the total forgiveness of sins and punishment is the best motivational tool that we could ever find to get souls to come back to the practice of their faith.
Our Lord Jesus said, “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet…. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.” (Diary, 699). The plenary indulgence does not change the promises of Our Lord. Rather it provides the Church’s highest mark of approval and endorsement.
Fr. Walter J. Dockerill remarked about this feast, “I have the highest regard for it. A gift and a great privilege for all. An extra gift that Our Lord chose St. Faustina to bring to the world for our times.” Fr. Alfredo Hernandes of St. Juliana’s said, “We will have the Image at all masses and we will have a solemn mass at noon. It is appropriate to celebrate it on this day where the readings already speak of the forgiveness of sins and mercy.” Many parishes have special celebrations at 3 p.m. (the hour of mercy, as Jesus referred to it). Many parishes also have Confessions available for those that need it.
Our Lord also said, “The first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be acts of mercy….I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me.” (Diary, 742). It is clear that Our Lord wants mercy to be shown to others and this can be done by telling everyone about the special promise of the total forgiveness of sins and punishment that He has given to us.
In the Holy Father’s homilies, he often refers to the words of Our Lord that are found in the diary. In his homily on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001 in Rome he said, “It is the appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies. Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity.” He often quotes Our Lord by starting with “Jesus said to St. Faustina.” He spoke of the Image of The Divine Mercy saying “The two rays, according to what Jesus Himself told her, denote blood and water. The blood recalls the sacrifice of Golgotha and the mystery of the Eucharist: the water makes us think of Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”
So as we can see, the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday is quite simple, in fact, outside of having an image of The Divine Mercy in the church to venerate, there really isn’t anything else to do. It is Jesus Himself that does all the work on that day. All that we need to do is to tell everyone about the plenary indulgence and urge them to go to Confession. Easter Sunday is the best time for us to talk mercy.