Divine Mercy Sunday

posted 19 Apr 2020, 10:05 by Parish Priest
Divine Mercy Sunday, Year A (19/4/20)

Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday for the first time in lock-down. Normally there would be the option of going to confession, attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion, and also of attending Divine Mercy devotions in the afternoon. But this year is not a normal year, and don’t we know it! Does this mean that the complete forgiveness of sins and punishment that Christ promised through Saint Faustina, is simply suspended this year? No. Because nothing can stop God.

Back in the first century, everyone who hated Christ, thought they had gotten rid of Him. They had seen (or heard from others) that He had been brutally tortured by being scourged, and then made to carry a cross up Calvary, and that He had died on it after hours of agony. There was no doubt that He was dead and buried. And they thought that was the end. The Eleven had heard Jesus predict that He would rise again, but the crucifixion was so real – it must have traumatised them. To see their Master, who had healed the paralysed, the lame, cured lepers and spoken with such authority, to be then taken away and crucified – what did that do to their faith? They didn’t just say, “Oh well, He’ll be back. We just need to sit back for a few days and then wait for Him to return.” They didn’t know what was going to happen next. Well, in a sense they did, because they had been told, but they had probably forgotten, which is why when the women go to the tomb and say they had seen the Lord, they don’t just all believe. Peter and John go running to the tomb, but it seems to hint that only John believed. So in the passage we heard today, the doors were all closed for fear of the Jews. They weren’t rejoicing and saying “Jesus is risen!” and “There’s no need to worry about them – now that Jesus is risen, they don’t half feel stupid”. It can be a bit like how we feel now, with worry about the Coronavirus, and the fact that our churches are closed. Closed because of fear. Our houses are closed, because of fear.

But then Christ enters into that place of fear, and transforms it. He is God – did you really think that anything would stop Him? If He can defeat death, and sin, will Coronavirus, and lock-down, and police on the streets, and whatever else be able to stop Him? Really? He is God. In His ministry on earth, He healed people of disease. He transformed the disciples’ fear into joy, so that they went out from their place of fear. With the temple police, that were sent to arrest him, they came back to the chief priests and Pharisees. The chief priests and Pharisees asked them, “Why haven’t you brought him?” They replied, “There has never been anybody who has spoken like him” (see John 7:32. 45-46). Nothing and no-one can stop Him!

So, going back to the original point: does the inability to go to confession and receive Holy Communion today mean that the complete forgiveness of sins and punishment, the “second baptism” promised to St Faustina, is it not possible today? No, it is possible. God’s mercy is unfathomable, so we shouldn’t try to fathom it. We have a desire to receive the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist. The Catechism says, in paragraph 1452, that when our sorrow for our sins “arises from of a love by which God is loved above all else … such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible”. So even if we have committed mortal sins, if we are sorry for them because of the offence they have caused to God, and say sorry to God in our own words, and have the intention to go to confession as soon as it next becomes available, we can be forgiven now. It’s a bit like getting some sort of a loan. We get the benefit now, but have to pay later by going to confession. Then, if we can’t receive Communion, we can say a prayer called an Act of Spiritual Communion, asking the Lord Jesus to enter into our hearts as if we had received Him sacramentally. So the old saying holds true: Christ has instituted the sacraments, but He is not bound by them. In other words, the sacraments are very good and important, given to us by Christ, but they are not the only way in which He can work.

Sometimes, the Lord puts us to the test. The Divine Mercy devotion spread throughout Poland and further afield following the messages that Christ made known to St Faustina in the 1930s. But a decree and notification by the Holy Office in 1958 and 1959 forbade the spreading of the Divine Mercy devotion. Fr Sopocko, St Faustina’s spiritual director, was severely admonished by the Holy See for his work in spreading the devotion. He died in 1975, with the devotion still forbidden by Rome.

But in 1978 & 1979, Rome reversed the decision, and the Divine Mercy devotion was allowed to spread once more. After it had appeared to be dead and buried, it rose again to new life. Nothing and no-one stops God.

Today, Divine Mercy Sunday, it may seem that the closure of churches prevents the devotion. But nothing stops God.