SUNDAY REFLECTION: SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR C. (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY).
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Divine Mercy which is a feast that falls on the Second Sunday of Easter.
The feast of Divine Mercy came through the diary of Sr. Faustina Kowalska who received instructions from Jesus on the need to establish the feast of Divine Mercy today.
When we talk about Divine mercy, we talk about the mercy that proceeds from God. The readings of today give us glaring instances about what Divine Mercy means, the surest way to encounter God’s mercy, how we are going to show mercy and why we need to be merciful.
In the readings, we also see how the power to forgive sins flows from the church till today. Let us take them step by step.
The Feast of Divine Mercy came through a series of apparitions from Jesus to a nun, Sr. Faustina Kowalska. Sr. Faustina Faustina was born in Poland in 1905 and received from Jesus, revelations about the Divine Mercy.
She was only twenty years old when she entered the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, She stayed there for almost thirteen years until her death on October 5th 1938.
The feast of Divine Mercy, according to the diary of Sr. Faustina Kowalska, receives from Jesus the biggest promises of grace related to the Devotion of Divine Mercy. Jesus reveals this to her:
“The first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbours always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it. (from the Diary of Sr. Faustina 742).
In this feast, Jesus promises “ I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My Mercy. (Diary 1109)
It was then in the year 2000 that the Holy Father Pope John Paul instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy, which is to be celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter every year. Since 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter has also been known as Divine Mercy Sunday.
Why is Today Very Special?
During the apparitions, Jesus promised Sr Faustina that those who go to Confession and receive Holy Communion today will receive not only forgiveness of their sins but the total remission of all temporal punishment for their sins.
Going to confession is not the only way to prepare ourselves for this feast. We are also to be merciful, to perform acts of mercy.
The Mercy of God.
The two verses in the bible that fully capture the nature of divine mercy are Psalm 103:8 and Ephesians 2:4.
Psalm 103:8 describes the mercy of God as abounding and full. The Psalmist says “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
In Ephesians 2:4 Paul describes God’s mercy as rich. St Paul says “God is rich in mercy because of the great love with which He loved us. God is ‘rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4).
The mercy of God is shown in many passages in the Bible like John 8:1-11 when Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery. He told the woman, “I can never condemn you” (John 8:11).
Here, the mercy of God reflects in the One who is not quick to condemn His creatures but to forgive them. He rejoices only when His beloved creatures turn back and repent from their sins (Ezekiel 33:11).
Here, the mercy of God reflects in the personality of someone ready to forget the past and forgive always. Despite all that his torturers did to Jesus, at the cross, He says “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).
Hence, the Feast of Divine Mercy reminds us of the nature of our God who is rich and abundant in mercy and always willing to forgive.
From the above expositions, we can conclude that we are the people who decide to run away from the mercy of God. The mercy of God is like something offered to us free but we turn our back on this precious gift.
This feast of Divine Mercy reminds us that God is like a father who is eager to welcome back His prodigal son and throws a party for him because He returned and came back to Him.
How To encounter God’s Mercy,
1.In Luke 23:39-43, When Jesus was crucified, two thieves were crucified with Him. One of the criminals who was crucified with Jesus began to rain curses on Him saying “I thought you are the Christ, save us and save yourself” but in verse 42, the other one asked Jesus “please remember me in your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus immediately promises him that He will be with Him in his kingdom.
The only effort that this thief did was to ask Jesus to remember Him. He sought eternal life and it was given to Him.
In Mark 10, when Jesus entered Jericho, immediately Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was passing, he began to shout “Jesus son of David have mercy on me”. Jesus called him and asked what do you want from me? Bartimaeus asked that he may see and Jesus healed him.
Remember that what drew Jesus closer to Him was the word “Have mercy on me”. If we truly need God’s mercy we have to seek it with all our hearts. We have to look into ourselves and say “enough is enough, I want to return to God”.
2.Jesus is the mercy of God par excellence. To encounter Him is to encounter mercy, the woman caught in adultery encountered him and encountered mercy.
The thief encountered Him and encountered mercy, Bartimaeus encountered Jesus and encountered healing and mercy. Whenever we encounter Him, we also encounter mercy.
To encounter mercy, we have to approach the throne of grace to receive grace and mercy (Hebrew 4:6). We have to make the approach.
Example from Thomas.
It is always easy to criticize and concentrate on the negative side of Thomas, that he refuses to believe that Jesus has risen until he sees Jesus face to face and puts his fingers in the sides and the hole.
But when we critically evaluate the action of Thomas, we can see someone who is very hungry to have an encounter with the risen lord.
He was not there for the first time that Jesus appeared and what if that will be the only time Jesus would appear again?
Remember that the apostles also did not believe the testimonies of Mary Magdalene and other disciples from Emmaus that Jesus had risen (Mark 16:11, Mark 16:13, Luke 24:25).
Even when Jesus appeared to the disciples, they also doubted if he was Jesus(Luke 24:38). So, they are not different from Thomas.
Thomas has the desire to encounter Jesus. Others have encountered Him but he has not. So, he seeks for it and Jesus feeds His thirst. Thomas teaches us that if we have the hunger for God if we seek For Jesus, we will surely find Him even when we least expect.
Jesus is mercy par excellence so, if we need the mercy of God, let us always approach Him in confidence and ask for forgiveness.
1.The celebration of today implies a lot in our Christian lives. The second reading today says that the only way to prove that we are God’s children is to love Him and the only way to show that we love Him is to do what He commanded us to do. And one of the things God commanded us to do is to be merciful just like the Heavenly Father is merciful (Luke 6:36). If we truly, are God’s children, why are we bearing malice for one another?
Why do we still bear grudges for one another for two to three years? If we truly, are God’s children, why do we decide to live in quarrel and disunity than peace and love? If we are truly God’s children, then our lives and how we relate with each other are enough to prove it.
2. The first reading teaches us how to do this. The first reading reports that the early Christians were united with one heart and soul and willing to help each other. This is our call and this is what we are expected to do as Christians.
We are called to follow in the footsteps of the early disciples of Jesus in living in unity and peace. The only way to show we are God’s true children is to forgive others in the same He also forgives us.
The point here is that this is how God wants us to live. He says in Matthew 6:15 that ‘Unless you forgive others from the heart, your heavenly will not forgive you”.
3. God also promises that one of the ways to receive forgiveness from Him is to forgive others. Jesus promises “ If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly will surely forgive you (Matthew 6:14).
He says that “the measure you give to others is the measure that will be given to you” (Luke 6:38). We receive mercy, graces and become sons of the Most High for being merciful to others.
1. The Divine mercy reveals to us the nature of God’s mercy. Today’s feast teaches us one simple truth: that God is not wicked. His mercy is rich, abundant, boundless, enduring and eternal. His love for us is great. He does not want us to be destroyed and annihilated because of our sinfulness.
The problem here is that we choose to be damned by neglecting the mercy of God. We refuse to approach Him and seek His mercy. God has not rested, He is still inviting us to His throne of grace. What then could be our response to this love? Yes or no?
2. As Thomas doubted, many people today now doubt if God can forgive them again. When many people look at their pasts, they think, God has already marked eternal damnation for them. Many attribute it to why God does not answer their prayers.
They allow their pasts to hunt them every day. Many completely do not trust in the mercy of God. They continue to feel the guilt of their pasts even after having confessed their sins. Today’s gospel calls for complete trust and faith in Jesus and His merciful heart. This is the time to make peace with your pasts.
3. When Jesus breathed on His apostles, He says Receive the Holy Spirit: Jesus gave His disciples the Holy Spirit, bringing new life and the ability to carry out their mission. Jesus’ breathing on the disciples was a work of recreation, as God breathed life into the first man during His creation.
Here, the disciples were born again. Through the resurrection, we no longer live in the past. There is a recreation. To live like the sons of the resurrection is to say farewell to the past. It is a time to mend broken relationships, bring peace to your family, and say no to disunity.
4. Through this special breathing and anointing of the Holy Spirit, Jesus granted His apostles the power to forgive and retain the sins of anyone. He says “If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven and if you retain the sin of anyone, they are retained.
Here, Jesus gave His disciples the authority to grant the forgiveness of sin. So the power by which the church forgives sin comes from God and not from any human being.
The Church did not wake up one day and assume this power, it was given from God so that sinners can have easy access to His merciful heart.
5. In the same way that God is always willing to forgive us and save us, let us also try and forgive others from our heart. Today many of us are living in crisis.
We rush to receive Holy communion but forget that the holy communion we receive is the body of Christ. In the body of Christ, we are one body with Christ. The only way to fully participate in this body is to live in oneness, forgive others and live in peace.
6. Let us always have the hunger to seek God’s forgiveness. Quit hiding your sins. God knows us more than we think.
A little boy named Uche and his sister Ijeoma stayed at their grandparents’ house for a week during the Christmas Holidays. Uche bought a new catapult.
One day while he was frustrated, Uche took a shot at his grandmother’s duck. He hit the duck on the head and killed it.
John feared that His grandmother would flog him. He took the duck and buried it. His sister Ijeoma watched from behind how he orchestrated his plan.
Ijeoma came to him and said, “It would be better for you to do whatever I say or I will tell Grandma.” So, the next day the Grandmother asked “Ijeoma, that she needs her help to wash the dishes, ” Ijeoma responded, “Uche wants to do it.” Ijeoma looked at Uche and whispered, “Remember the duck.”Uche out of fear did that.
The following day, the grandmother said to them, “we need to go to the recreation park. She said to Ijeoma, “I need you to help and prepare the supper.” Ijeoma replied to the grandmother, “Uche wants to help.” She looked at Uche and whispered, “Remember the duck.”
After a few days of being Ijeoma’s slave, doing chores, and obeying her every whim, he confessed to Grandmother what he did. Grandmother retorted, “my boy, I was standing at the window when you accidentally shot the duck. I forgave you there and then. I was just wondering how long you were going to be Ijeoma’s slave.
This is actually what the devil has been doing to us, we think that God will not forgive us again. We think God’s mercy is very far from us, we then find it hard to confess our sins to Him, not knowing that He is expecting us to use the freedom He gave us to come back to him.
Do not be enslaved by the devil. Go and confess your sins to God. He is always ready to forgive and accept you again. So, return to God, seek Him with all your heart, He is ready to forgive and sanctify you again.
May God have mercy on us and guide us to encounter His love and mercy always. Amen.