On April 8th, we celebrated Easter. But the celebration did not end then, it continues. There are currently two liturgical celebrations that last for eight days (Octaves). One is Christmas and the other is Easter. The Solemnity of Easter is the feast of feasts, the solemnity of solemnities and it runs from Easter Sunday through the Second Sunday of Easter (also known as “Low Sunday”) – indeed, the entire Easter Season lasts for seven weeks (50 days) from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday.
Feast of the Divine Mercy
On May 5, 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments issued a decree which proclaimed the Second Sunday of Easter to be known also as Divine Mercy Sunday. So, on this Second Sunday of Easter, April 15, 2012 – as we have done since the decree – we remember and celebrate the Lord’s Divine Mercy. Some parishes will offer an additional “Divine Mercy” Mass, but these Masses use the readings and prayers of the Second Sunday of Easter.
All of this came about through the visions of and messages from Jesus Christ given to St. Faustina beginning in 1924 before she entered religious life as a sister. Blessed John Paul II, of blessed memory, was instrumental in promoting the Divine Mercy devotions and feast and the cause of sainthood for St. Faustina. This has brought great joy to the Church.
It was Jesus himself, who, in a private revelation to St. Faustina, asked that this feast be observed on the 2nd Sunday of Easter each year: “I want the image solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it.” (Diary 341)
And last year, Blessed John Paul II was officially beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on Divine Mercy Sunday, 2011! All praise, honor and glory be to God!
Blessed John Paul wrote:
“Jesus Christ taught that man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but that he is also called ‘to practice mercy’ towards others: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ The Church sees in these words a call to action, and she tries to practice mercy. All the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount indicate the way of conversion and of reform of life, but the one referring to those who are merciful is particularly eloquent in this regard. Man attains to the merciful love of God, His mercy, to the extent that he himself is interiorly transformed in the spirit of that love towards his neighbor.” (Blessed John Paul II, Dives in misericordia, #14; 1980)
The Lord reminds us that we are to be merciful if we expect to receive His mercy. He told Sr. Faustina, “I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first by deed, the second by word, and the third by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy.” (Diary 742)
He emphasized this obligation on our part: “Yes, 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 neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it.” (Diary 742)
This message is for each of us, a consolation for us that we be aware of his abundant mercy, and also a reminder to perform the works of mercy, particularly as traditionally taught by the Church.
Works of Mercy
Corporal Works of Mercy
- To feed the hungry;
- To give drink to the thirsty;
- To clothe the naked;
- To shelter the homeless;
- To visit the sick;
- To ransom the captive;
- To bury the dead.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
- To instruct the ignorant;
- To counsel the doubtful;
- To admonish sinners;
- To bear wrongs patiently;
- To forgive offences willingly;
- To comfort the afflicted;
- To pray for the living and the dead.
It is important to note that not all of us are competent to or the appropriate party to perform especially the first three of the Spiritual Works. So we need to discern how the Lord is calling us to be merciful in each case. But we can always pray. Jesus has given us forms of prayer and veneration for the Devotion of Divine Mercy. He has given us His image of Divine Mercy to venerate. He has given us a Novena of Divine Mercy that can be prayed anytime but in a particular way is to be said on the nine days that end on the Second Sunday of Easter each year. He asks us to remember His great self-giving in His act of Mercy on the Cross at the 3 o’clock hour of mercy each day. This can be a powerful moment of prayer, especially on Fridays of the year.
But my favorite prayer given to us by the Lord for this devotion is the Divine Mercy Chaplet which I like to pray before His image of Divine Mercy. It is a most powerful prayer because He asks that we pray it with a merciful heart that is in solidarity with all those He loves who have so great a need to know His mercy. Do you have loved ones or friends who are not active in their faith, pray the chaplet for them. Whatever the needs of the people God has placed in your life, pray the chaplet for them. It will bring them and you great joy and peace.
The Lord told Sr. Faustina, now Saint Faustina, to teach us to say: “Jesus, I Trust in You!”… and so we do!
Visit the Divine Mercy website of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception for more information.
Into the deep…
Deacon Mike Bickerstaff, Editor-in-Chief for The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization at his parish and a deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
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