by Fr. Tommy Lane
Private revelations and apparitions which have been authenticated by the Church have added greatly to the devotion of Catholics. However even private revelations and apparitions authenticated by the Church do not add anything new to the fullness of revelation already given to us by Jesus but they remind us that we have not been paying enough attention to Jesus the fullness of revelation. Therefore authenticated private revelations and apparitions are a summons and wake-up call to be ever more sincere in turning away from sin and growing in faith in and love of Jesus.
In the year 2000 Our Holy Father Pope John Paul instituted a new feast, the Feast of Divine Mercy to be celebrated for the first time in 2001 on the Second Sunday of Easter, today. It arises out of a series of apparitions which a Polish nun, Sr. Faustina, received. Sr. Faustina was born in Poland in 1905. When she was twenty years old she entered the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy where she lived for the next thirteen years until her death on October 5th 1938. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1993 and canonized in 2000. When canonizing her Our Holy Father said,
“Today my joy is truly great in presenting the life
and witness of Sr. Faustina to the whole Church as a gift of God for our time. By Divine Providence, the life of this
humble daughter of Poland was completely linked with the history of the
century, the century we have just left behind. In fact, it was between the First and Second World Wars that Christ
entrusted his message of mercy to her. Those
who remember, who were witnesses and participants in the events of those years
and the horrible sufferings they caused for millions of people know well how
necessary was this message of mercy.”
(Pope John Paul II, Homily for Canonization of St. Faustina April 30 2000)
In April 1978 the Holy See in Rome permitted spread of this devotion. This does not mean that you are required to believe in the apparitions or practice this devotion but you are free to do so and free to spread the devotion since the Church has found nothing in it contrary to our faith. The one primarily responsible for the Holy See approving the authenticity of the apparitions was Karol Wojtyla, then Archbishop of Cracow, later that year elevated as Pope. In 1981 Pope John Paul said his destined role was to bring the era of Divine Mercy into the world.
“Right from the beginning of my ministry in St Peter’s See in Rome I consider this message my special task. Providence has assigned it to me in the present situation of man, the Church and the world.”
Today we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy and so we usually call today Divine Mercy Sunday. St. Faustina was privileged to receive apparitions from Jesus emphasizing his mercy, and especially his mercy today. Jesus promised 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. It is like a second baptism, all sin and punishment is wiped out. Confession during the week beforehand is also acceptable. Our attitude should be one of total trust in Jesus’ Divine Mercy. Confession before today in preparation for this feast is also okay, Sister Faustina used to confess on Saturday. (What Jesus said about confession) Jesus’ promise is recorded three times in the Diary of Saint Faustina, each time in a slightly different way. This is the first teaching from Jesus,
My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy. (Diary §699)
This is the second teaching from Jesus,
"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)
This is Jesus’ third teaching,
"Ask of my faithful servant [a priest] that, on this day, he tell the whole world of My great mercy; that whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy." (Diary §300)
My daughter, if I demand through you that people revere My mercy, you should be the first to distinguish yourself by this confidence in My mercy. I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it. I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first – by deed, the second – by word, the third – by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. Yes the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be acts of mercy, and I demand the worship of My mercy through the solemn celebration of the Feast and through the veneration of the image which is painted. By means of this image I shall grant great graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of my mercy because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works. (Diary §742)
Jesus asked that we pray a novena in preparation for the feast (Diary §1209-1229). The nine days of prayer begin on Good Friday and end today. When St. Faustina was first taught the novena she saw an angel about to execute God’s punishment on a certain place on earth. She prayed for mercy but her prayers were without effect. Then suddenly she heard this prayer,
“Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”
On the following morning St. Faustina was taught the other prayers which are to be prayed on Rosary beads. (Diary §474-476) We call it the Chaplet of Mercy.
"Say unceasingly this chaplet that I have taught you. Whoever will recite it will receive great Mercy at the hour of death. Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this Chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I want the whole world to know My infinite mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My Mercy...." (Diary §687)
Jesus said it is a very powerful prayer at the the time of death and at the bedside of a dying person.
The souls that say this chaplet will be embraced by my mercy during their lifetime and especially at the hour of their death. (Diary §754)
At the hour of their death I defend as my own glory every soul that will say this chaplet; or when others say it for a dying person, the indulgence is the same. When this chaplet is said by the bedside of a dying person, God’s anger is placated, unfathomable mercy envelops the soul, and the very depths of My tender mercy are moved for the sake of the sorrowful Passion of My Son. (Diary §811)
Through the Chaplet even nature and weather can be changed. This should not be a surprise to us. When we read the Gospels we see Jesus calming storms (e.g. Matt 8:26) as well as healing the sick so why should it surprise us that prayer can change the course of events? In one apparition of Jesus to St. Faustina he taught her the power of this Chaplet to stop a storm.
Today I was awakened by a great storm. The wind was raging and it was raining in torrents, thunderbolts striking again and again. I began to pray that the storm would do no harm, when I heard the words: Say the chaplet I have taught you and the storm will cease. I began immediately to say the chaplet and hadn’t even finished it when the storm suddenly ceased, and I heard the words: Through the chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will. (Diary §1371)
In February 1931 Sister Faustina saw Jesus dressed in a white garment. He held one hand raised in blessing and the other hand touching his garment at the breast as in this picture. From that point in his garment two rays of light emanated, one red and the other pale. Jesus requested that we venerate this image which is usually called the Divine Mercy Image. Venerating a sacred image or statue means performing some act or making some gesture of deep respect toward it because of whom it represents; in this case, Jesus. Concerning the image Jesus said,
Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapter and then throughout the world. (Diary §47)
Later Jesus explained,
“The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross..” (Diary §299)(see Second Reading Year B; 1 John 5:6)
Jesus made it clear that he desires this image to be venerated.
I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory. (Diary §48)
When St. Faustina first told her confessor about Jesus’ request for this image he misunderstood and presuming that it meant something like what we read in Gen 1:27 that we are made in the image of God.
When I told this to my confessor, I received this for a reply: “That refers to your soul.” He told me, “Certainly, paint God’s image in your soul” When I came out of the confessional, I again heard words such as these: My image already is in your soul. I desire that there be a Feast of Mercy. I want this image, which you will paint with a brush, to be solemnly blessed on the First Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy. (Diary §49)
On another occasion Jesus said,
No soul will be justified until it turns with confidence to My mercy, and this is why the first Sunday after Easter is to be the Feast of Mercy. On that day, priests are to tell everyone about My great and unfathomable mercy. I am making you the administrator of My mercy. Tell the confessor that the image is to be on view in the church and not within the enclosure in that convent. By means of this image I shall be granting many graces to souls; so let every soul have access to it. (Diary §570)
I remind you, My daughter, that as often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul. In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world – mercy triumphed over justice. (Diary §1572)
My daughter, try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Station of the Cross, than at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant. I claim veneration for My mercy from every creature, but above all from you since it is to you that I have given the most profound understanding of this mystery. (Diary §1572)
This feast of Divine Mercy reminds us of many parables taught by Jesus emphasizing God’s mercy. We remember the three beautiful parables of Luke 15. God is like a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to go in search of the one lost one. God is like a woman who searches the entire house to find the coin she lost. God is like a father who comes out of the house to welcome back his prodigal son and who comes out of the house a second time to entice the elder son to come in and join in the party. Today God has thrown a party during which we can receive God’s infinite mercy. Let us to the party and receive God’s mercy.
I recommend that you read Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska (Mass market version): Divine Mercy in My Soul
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2008
More Material for Divine Mercy Sunday
Related Homilies: Why confess sins to a priest?