DEAR FATHER | Divine Mercy feast is fulfillment of Easter promise

What is the feast of Divine Mercy? 

In 1931, a young Polish nun, now known as St. Faustina, received an apparition of Jesus. He appeared with red and white streams coming from His heart. Over time, He revealed His desire that this image be painted and that a feast dedicated to Divine Mercy be instituted on the Sunday following Easter Sunday.

This request of Jesus was bringing new emphasis of a theme already present in that liturgy. St. Augustine, one of the Fathers of the Church, spoke about the days following Easter as days of mercy and the Sunday following Easter as a compendium of mercy. Also, it has been a longstanding tradition in the liturgy that the Gospel passage of Jesus appearing first to 10 apostles then a week later to them along with St. Thomas be read on this day. This reading is significant; it witnesses Christ bestowing on the apostles the authority to forgive sins and Jesus' merciful response to St. Thomas's doubts.

Jesus's request to St. Faustina found a powerful advocate in Pope St. John Paul II. His second encyclical to the Church was a reflection on God's mercy, and a few years later he held a synod on the subject of reconciliation and penance. Memorably, St. John Paul visited and publicly forgave his attempted assassin. With an acute awareness of God's mercy in his life and papacy, St. John Paul instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy in 2000.

Many take time before the feast by praying a novena of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Beginning on Good Friday, the Chaplet is prayed each day for a particular intention set forth by Jesus in His visits to St. Faustina. This helps prepare the person for the feast by reflecting on how Jesus was moved during His passion to suffer for all and how we in turn should be merciful to all.

As part of Divine Mercy Sunday, Jesus told Faustina to encourage people to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on that day and receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and of Holy Communion. Also, people who keep the Feast of Mercy also should pray for the pope and seek to detach themselves from sinfulness. Those who do so would receive forgiveness of their sins and also of the punishment due to their sins, a concept we will address in a future article. In our archdiocese, many parish and area-wide celebrations take place. It's quite beautiful as a priest to see so many desiring to know God's mercy more intimately.

However, these celebrations are so large that I encourage people who come for the Sacrament of Reconciliation to keep in mind the large numbers who desire to receive the sacrament on that day. Out of courtesy to others, please keep confessions complete but succinct. Also, keep in mind you can still participate in Divine Mercy Sunday if you have recently received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in Lent.

Father Mayo is pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton. 

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