Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday.
Since 2000, the Church has set aside the Second Sunday of Easter for the celebration of the Divine Mercy Sunday. The devotion to the Divine Mercy stems from the revelations made to the Polish nun St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) over a number of years and at several convents, including the one in Krakow where she is buried.
There are several elements involved in this devotion. One is the image of the merciful Jesus based on a vision of February 1931. In it Our Lord is pictured in the act of blessing, with two rays, one red and the other pallid (representing blood and water), shining from his heart. The words “Jesus, I trust in thee” are placed at his feet.
Other elements are the hour of mercy, at 3 in the afternoon, in which the Passion is meditated upon and certain prayers recommended by the revelations are recited. As well as this, there is the chaplet of Divine Mercy with its attendant litany. It is recited using rosary beads but substituting other prayers such as “Through your sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world” on the beads of the Hail Mary.
A special request of these visions was that the first Sunday after Easter should be the feast of Divine Mercy and that on this day the Divine Mercy should be proclaimed in a special way.
As an Archbishop, Pope John Paul II promoted the beatification of Sister Faustina, and on the occasion of her canonization in April 2000 announced that henceforth the second Sunday of Easter would be the feast of Divine Mercy. The celebration of this feast reminds us of the fact that the mercy of God does not have any limit. He is ready to forgive all our offenses if only we make up our minds to repent and say like the prodigal son in Luke 15:18: “I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you”.
This event revolves around one great event: our continuation in the celebration of Christ’s resurrection and his appearance to his disciples. In the past week, we read accounts of the different times that he appeared to his disciples: to Mary Magdalene, then to two disciples on their way to Emmaus and eventually to the Eleven (Mark 16:9-14).
Today, we continue in our journey with his disciples as they receive further proof that Jesus has risen from the dead. We meet them in a locked room eight days after he first appeared to his disciples. This time around Thomas is with them and he becomes the focus of our Lord’s appearance. He is directly addressed by Jesus and is invited to place his fingers in the holes that the nails made. The experience was certainly great for him because the next words show how much he eventually believed: “My Lord and my God”.
Like Thomas, we may find ourselves cut off from the community of believers because we are in doubt of the effect of the power of God in our lives. We may say to ourselves: “Unless God gives me a sign or blesses me in the way He is blessing others, I refuse to believe”. We may be determined to stick to our way of doing things because we want to feel the power of God at work in our lives. Although there is nothing wrong with feeling the power of God at work, we must realise that our faith goes beyond what we feel. It was for this reason that Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:29: “You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Faith is more than the way we feel for as Hebrews 11:1tells us: “Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen.” It is a gift from God which enables us to believe by paying deep attention to the promises of God. Our attentiveness must come from within our hearts. It is not just what others say or how they do things, it is how convinced we are about what we believe to be revealed by God.
Our faith calls us to action in a community. Our belief in God calls us to embrace wholly and entirely the realities of life within a community of faith. We share a common belief in our resurrected Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. This common belief invites us to live and work together as a family for our common good and for the growth of the Church. Our faith helps us to see our Risen Lord actively involved in our daily activities and this helps us to be more united as members of one family. Our faith in Jesus also enables us to go out to the world and share with them what we are enjoying Christians: a new life of grace, freedom from oppression due to sin because we enjoy the mercy of God, liberation from the shackles of slavery to demonic possession because we know that Christ is more powerful than any of them; a change in the way we live because we realise that we are true representatives of Jesus and a strong sense of contentment because we are sure that God is in control of every situation in our lives. When we live in this way, we must realise that we are following in the example of the first disciples of Jesus who in today’s first reading lived together and owned everything in common. They prayed together and showed deep concern for the needs of one another. This attracted many more people to join them for they saw that there was something good in what they were doing. We can also attract many people to embrace Christ by the way we treat one another because as Christ tells us in John 13:35: “It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples.”