Some people may see the emphasis on Divine Mercy as a new tradition in the Church, and while it is true that the second Sunday of Easter has been proclaimed Divine Mercy Sunday for only a few years [Announced at the canonisation of St Faustina by St Pope John Paul II on 30th April 2000], the tradition is long established. St Augustine said that the Easter Octave as ‘the days of mercy and pardon’ and the 2nd Sunday of Easter or Octave Day as ‘the compendium of the days of mercy.’ A quick glance at the readings used today clearly shows this.1
In the first reading we have the apostles gaining lots of souls for the Lord, not by their words but through the many miracles and signs worked among the people. These healings impressed the people, and they did not claim any credit for themselves; all of their works were done in the name of Jesus.
In the psalm, we repeat the words ‘Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.’ This love that has no end is the fountain of mercy which has flowed continuously down throughout the generations and is still available to us, every day.
St Peter, in the second reading, describes God’s great mercy as giving us rebirth as sons when he raised Jesus from the dead. Our belief in this fact and keeping faith in this fact, leads to the salvation of our souls.
In our Gospel today we hear the familiar story of “doubting Thomas” and how he initially refused to believe, a very human reaction. In this story I see Thomas as someone who wants desperately to believe; he wants nothing more than for the resurrection to be true but is afraid to allow other witnesses to build up his hopes for fear they are dashed. His reaction as soon as he sees the Risen Lord is – ‘My Lord and My God.’ Jesus does not dwell on the doubts, Jesus simply uses this as a teaching moment for us – telling us that our joy in believing without seeing will be greater than that of the apostles, who have seen.
If we concentrate too much on the Thomas story here, we are in danger of missing the initiation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus gives the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, stating ‘For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’ Jesus is initiating the Sacrament of mercy; this is a day for celebrating.
Jesus knows we will all have wobbles, just like Thomas, there will be times despite our faith that we will get things wrong. But our merciful Lord, who knows what it is like to be human, takes account of our frailty and allows us to confess our sins. Through Apostolic Succession, we, as Catholics, can approach a priest, who has been anointed by God to hear us confess, and through the words spoken by Jesus that week after the Resurrection, Jesus, in the person of the priest, can forgive our sins. I know how much more uplifted I feel when I have been to confession to unburden myself.
We, who are shown mercy, then have an obligation to show mercy to others. Remember the apostles gained more followers for Jesus through their merciful actions than they did by what they said. As Christians, we need to take our mercy out into the world. As Pope Francis said earlier this week “One does not proclaim the Gospel standing still, locked in an office, at one’s desk or at one’s computer, arguing like ‘keyboard warriors’ and replacing the creativity of proclamation with copy-and-paste ideas taken from here and there.” [There is an irony that I have copied and pasted this into my reflection.] We are called not to just wait on those who need mercy coming across our path, we are called to go out and look for them and share with them the mercy of Christ. It is not our mercy to keep for ourselves, this is a gift from God which has to be used.
There are some people, who when I visit them to take Holy Communion, are extremely grateful and thank me for giving up my time to take Jesus to them. I remind them that it is a privilege and a blessing for me to be able to do this for them, and for God. It isn’t really my time; it is God’s time. God gives me a choice of how I use it. Even if we are unable to visit the sick in person, modern technology makes it easier for us to keep in touch; we can call them by phone or use an app to see them while we call. The cost of living crisis has resulted in more people needing help; for those who are able to help please give generously to the foodbank collections in the supermarkets or in our Churches. If we no longer have the means to help either financial or physical means, then we can pray. Prayer for those in need is a wonderful act of mercy; it reminds us that we are not just here for ourselves; one soul praying for another.
Many years ago, when Pam and I were on a weekend for married couples, I remember how powerful it was to hear that another couple was praying for us. This hit me in a deep and spiritual way that I had never encountered before. The act of another person praying for us extends God’s mercy. I also know that I find it difficult to imagine ever being ordained as a deacon without the prayerful support of friends and Parishioners and how important those prayers continue to be.
‘Divine Mercy Sunday points us to the merciful love of God that lies behind the whole Paschal Mystery – the whole mystery of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ – made present for us in the Eucharist. In this way, it also sums up the whole Easter Octave. As St Pope John Paul II pointed out “The whole Octave of Easter is like a single day, and the Octave Sunday is meant to be the day of thanksgiving for the goodness God has shown to mankind in the Easter mystery.”’2
Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Clothe the naked
Shelter the homeless
Visit the prisoners
Comfort the sick
Bury the dead
Teach the ignorant
Pray for the living & dead
Counsel those in doubt
Console the sorrowful
Bear wrongs patiently
Forgive wrongs willingly
As I regularly reported, during Lent I managed to walk just over 300km for Cafod’s Big Lent Walk. So far I have raised £635 [+ some gift aid money]. I am humbled by the support given and thank everyone for their generosity. This is my final reminder on this Divine Mercy Sunday; if you would like to express God’s mercy by helping Cafod with some of the Corporal works listed above then please click on the link below.
If you are able to donate, and would like to support me, my page is https://cafod.enthuse.com/pf/tony-darroch
All donations are gratefully received.
“The Second Greatest Story Ever Told” Michael E Gaitley
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Second Sunday of Easter
CCC 448, 641-646: appearances of the risen Christ
CCC 1084-1089: sanctifying presence of the risen Christ in the liturgy
CCC 2177-2178, 1342: the Sunday Eucharist
CCC 654-655, 1988: our new birth in the Resurrection of Christ
CCC 976-983, 1441-1442: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”
CCC 949-953, 1329, 1342, 2624, 2790: communion in spiritual goods
Please keep in your prayers this week
- The success of the pastoral area formation programme ‘The Wild Goose’ which we are using as part of the Year of the Holy Spirit.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- All who are preparing to receive Sacraments for the first time.
- Those attending the RCIA programme at St Bede’s on Wednesday evenings.
- Those discerning a vocation.
1 Messenger of Mercy [Marian Helpers Association in Great Britain, West Ealing, London 2010].
2 Messenger of Mercy [Marian Helpers Association in Great Britain, West Ealing, London 2010].