When Blessed Pope John Paul II declared the second Sunday of Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday, it gave liturgists and theologians all over the world quite a lot to talk about. Some said that this was something that was unheard of, and felt that this was inappropriate, as it might obscure the celebration of Easter, or worse, set a precedent of a Pontiff establishing feast days for all the other attributes of God.
One should also take into consideration though, that through the revelations of our Lord to St Faustina, Jesus had himself asked for the Second Sunday of Easter to be named the Feast of the Divine Mercy. The Church had always (prudently) made the distinction between “private revelations” and “prophetic revelations”. The former are those given to souls, usually for their own benefit and sanctification, whilst the latter are given to chosen souls to communicate a truth to the whole Church, for its sanctification and to draw the Church back to a truth if it had neglected it. To put the entire controversy in a nutshell (which would always be problematic for any theologian because it means that a whole lot of miniscule details will have to be either put aside or left out for the sake of brevity), the Church was on a road of recovery of the more biblical perspective on God (without contradicting the philosophical perspectives on God), enabling Catholic thinkers to appreciate the revelations of God’s merciful love given through St Faustina. It’s not that God’s other divine attributes pale in comparison to his divine mercy, but rather, from our point of view as recipients of God’s attributes in our being, it is God’s mercy that is his greatest attribute for his creatures.
What this celebration does is to draw us to look at and appreciate in a deeper and deeper way on this day, just how much we need God’s mercy in our lives, and that it really is his mercy at work that is allowing anything at all to happen in our lives and in our world. We simply take too much of God’s mercy for granted, and it is, as it were, the concerted effort of the Church to hone in and tap upon this great gift which is pure grace, something so undeserving for us human beings who are so prone to sin and selfishness.
Perhaps it is timely here to make one thing clear – it was not the intention of Our Lord to ask for the afternoon devotions which are common these days (especially on Divine Mercy Sunday), but instead, wanted us to focus on reaching out to weakened souls to bring them to the feast of his mercy so that he can heal and strengthen them.
So is it wrong to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet on the afternoon of the second Sunday of Easter? Of course it is not. Is it necessary? Again, of course it is not. Should we do more than just pray the chaplet? Unquestioningly, we should.
One changes most when one is faced with the prospect of a new life, a new way to live and received a renewal from within. This is what Divine Mercy ultimately gives to all of us. When we face God’s mercy, knowing the kind of things we have done that really prevent us from an eternal union with him, we will be so thankful that we are given that all important second chance by God. In short pithy statements then,
Divine Mercy is our opportunity to admit to our own stupidity without worrying that we will not be able to make any comeback.
Divine Mercy is about knowing that we could never have made it on our own to heaven, no matter how holy or saintly we may think we have lived our lives.
Divine Mercy is being able to say that heaven is all about Him, and not all about us.
Divine Mercy is allowing God’s forgiveness to be balm to our wounds, and for us to become healing salve to others when asked for it.
Divine Mercy is being unwilling to hold any grudges against others for their transgressions against us because God never holds ours against us.
Divine Mercy results in our willing to go the extra mile because God went the distance for us.
Divine Mercy is wielding forgiveness as the greatest weapon in the fight against evil, because in exercising it, God shows where real strength and power lies.