Pope John Paul II established the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. The Divine Mercy, of course, is the unconditional love of God seen from the point of view of the sinner. It is the fidelity of the love of God. Divine Mercy Sunday can be seen as the convergence of all the mysteries and graces of Holy Week and Easter Week. The feast focuses the light of the Risen Christ into a radiant beam of merciful love and grace for the whole world. In his revelations to St. Faustina Jesus expressed His desire to celebrate this special feast. Jesus told St. Faustina, that “mankind would not have peace, until it turns to the fount of His Divine Mercy”. Jesus says that the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened and let no soul fear to draw near to him, even though his sins be as scarlet because the Feast of Mercy emerged from the very depths of his tenderness.
In the Gospel today, although the doors were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before the apostles, and said, “Peace be with you”. After the greeting Jesus performs three significant actions: a) Jesus commissions them. He sends them out: “’As the Father sent me, so am I sending you” (John. 20:21).b) “He breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit” (John. 20:22). The disciples, who were fearful, received the strength of the Spirit to proclaim the good news boldly in front of everyone. c) Finally, on the same occasion, Jesus institutes the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained” (John 20:23) and gives authority to his disciples to forgive sins.
In the sacrament of reconciliation it is God who really forgives. This understanding is still maintained in the formula of absolution that the priest utters during the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation: “….. through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (CCC # 1449).
Often, a lot of people ask, “Why should I go to a priest for confession?” “Why can’t I confess directly to God? It is true that God forgives our sins, but how will God let me know that He has forgiven me fully in a way that I can hear and see, except through the instrument of another human person. Of course, this human person has to be anointed and set apart (ordained) for this purpose, so that the sign becomes very real. This is the wonderful possibility available in the Sacrament of Reconciliation: the visible sign of God’s invisible mercy. Jesus has handed over the ministry of forgiveness to the apostles and from the apostles to the elders and from them to the ordained priest who is set apart for this purpose. And from the ordained minister we hear these words “God has forgiven you, go in peace.”
The word “mercy,” is derived from the Latin word misericordia. It, in turn, derives from two words: misereri, meaning “to have pity on” or “compassion for” and cordia, meaning “heart”. Mercy, therefore, carries the idea of having compassion on someone with all of one’s heart. Compassion is the most important attribute of God which is the core of the Bible. The Psalmist cried out “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his mercy endures forever” (Ps 118: 1,136:1). God wishes to pour out His abundant mercy upon us. But we have to desire that mercy. We must ask God from the depths of our hearts to pour out His mercy on us. We have to acknowledge that we are in need of His mercy. We have to acknowledge that we are all sinners in His sight. Then, He will pour out His abundant ocean of mercy upon us. Jesus tells us to go to sacramental Confession to receive this ocean of grace and mercy.
“Human prudence begins to search for motives ad reasons for their fall and instead of looking at the kind Providence of God, it concentrates on the lack of grace.” St. Francis de Sales