On the Easter Octave of 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized St. Faustina Kowalska, a nun and a mystic, whose apparitions and messages from the Lord inspired the devotion to the Divine Mercy. On that occasion, the Holy Father established that the Second Sunday of Easter be called Divine Mercy Sunday.
True indeed, today’s liturgy is replete with references on the mercy of God. The Father is addressed as “God of everlasting mercy” in the opening prayer, and the verse, “His mercy endures forever,” resounds repeatedly in the responsorial psalm. All three readings speak of Christ’s offer of peace and forgiveness that engenders new life and forms communities of love and communion.
It is in the gospel, however, that the mercy of God is shown most powerfully. What happened that Easter night when the resurrected Christ appeared to his apostles gathered in a locked room was Divine Mercy in action. Jesus reached out to his apostles who had earlier betrayed and abandoned him to his horrific death, but he neither made mention of their treachery nor reproved them. He simply greeted them with “Peace.” His offer of peace was a declaration of his forgiveness, for no sin, however grave, can be greater than the love and mercy of God.
Likewise, Jesus’ response to Thomas’ arrogance and incredulity was another display of Divine Mercy in action. Jesus let Thomas have his way and allowed him to probe his fingers and hand on his wounds until he bowed down and proclaimed the most profound profession ever made of Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”
God’s mercy is meant not only for his apostles, but for us all, his children. And so, after making peace with his apostles, Jesus breathed on them and gave the mandate, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Through the apostles, Jesus gave to the Church the power to forgive sins. As Jesus liberated them from the paralysis of guilt and fear which trapped them in the upper room, he also wishes each of us to be freed from the bondage of sin and to live a free and full life of love and communion as experienced by the first community of Christian in our first reading.
We know from catechism that the Church formally exercises the power to forgive sins in the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation (commonly known as confession). While the sacramental faculty to forgive sins is given only to priests, it does not mean that we have nothing to do with forgiving. As we have been forgiven, we too must forgive. We express this whenever we pray the Our Father.
As the apostles received God’s mercy and were sent to bring it to the world, we too have received the same divine mercy and are sent to bring to everyone. Like every gift, the pre-eminent gift of God’s love and forgiveness is not meant for us alone – for we are GIFTED TO GIVE.
In October 2006, an armed man entered a Christian schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, and shot eight girls, killing five of them, before shooting himself. The families took the bodies of their children home, cleaned them and took time to grieve. After, they went to the house of the killer to tell his wife that they had forgiven her husband. Then they consoled her on the loss of her spouse. This Christian community strongly believe that forgiveness is central to their life of faith - that because God has forgiven them, they too must forgive.
This again is Divine Mercy in action.