God, who is rich in mercy, sent his only begotten Son so that we might be reconciled to him and attain life everlasting. Traditionally during the eight days beginning with Easter Sunday, the Church meditates upon this infinite mercy of God. Saint Augustine called this period “the days of mercy and pardon,” culminating on the Second Sunday of Easter, which he called “the compendium of the days of mercy.” At the canonization Mass for Saint Faustina, Blessed John Paul II announced that this day would be known as Divine Mercy Sunday.
This coming Sunday, we will be celebrating the canonization of John Paul II as he is declared Saint John Paul II together with Saint John XXIII. Thus, it would be good to consider the meaning of Divine Mercy Sunday.
The devotion of Divine Mercy has become quite popular year-round. How we need this message today to remind us of God’s enduring mercy! On the cross, Jesus opened his arms in loving mercy and forgiveness, destroying death and obtaining for us new life. From his Sacred Heart, blood and water poured forth as a fount overflowing with mercy and compassion.
If we trust in Jesus and open our hearts to his, the Divine Mercy of Christ is a most extraordinary gift that can heal souls and provide us with an ocean of graces, leading us to be merciful ourselves. Soon-to-be Saint John Paul affirmed that “Jesus Christ taught that man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but that he is also called ‘to practice mercy’ towards others: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ The Church sees in these words a call to action, and she tries to practice mercy. . . . Man attains to the merciful love of God, His mercy, to the extent that he himself is interiorly transformed in the spirit of that love towards his neighbor. This authentically evangelical process is not just a spiritual transformation realized once and for all: it is a whole lifestyle, an essential and continuous characteristic of the Christian vocation” (Dives in Misericordia , 14).
By loving one another as Jesus loves us, by being merciful as God himself is merciful (John 13:34, Luke 6:36), we provide others with the opportunity of an encounter with Christ. It is part of the mission of the Church; it is part of the New Evangelization to which we are called.
“The Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first,” Pope Francis reminds us, “and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved” (Evangelii Gaudium, 24).
That first step of being merciful to others in our hearts, in doing spiritual and corporal works of mercy and other acts of compassion and consolation, can take place in the many interactions we have with people in our everyday lives or through the many opportunities to serve others in the ministries of the archdiocese and our parishes. “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others” urges Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium, 24).
The message of Divine Mercy is that God loves us – all of us – no matter how great our infidelities. His unending mercy is greater than our sins. We who have experienced the joy of having been raised to new life in the Risen Christ must allow him to live in us, so that the mercy that we received from his heart will flow to others. In this way, the world is blessed with God’s merciful love, allowing him to heal and transform it. The darkness is overcome and life made new again.