Divine Mercy Sunday - homily
I have a great deal for you! It has to do with today’s feast. The Church has been celebrating the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday since 2000. It is also the eighth day of the Easter octave, so it’s the ‘grand finale’ of our eight day Easter celebration. In general, Divine Mercy Sunday celebrates God’s infinite and tender mercy which we experience most fully through the death and resurrection of Christ. But, the specific opportunity we have today is incredible! It is a sweet deal!
Today, any Catholic can receive a plenary indulgence. A plenary indulgence removes all punishment due to sin. To understand this, let’s use an example of someone committing the sin of gluttony (overeating or overdrinking). The person who commits this sin needs to do two things to be right with God again: they need to be forgiven (go to Confession) and they need to make satisfaction for their sin. To make satisfaction is commonly understood as serving some type of punishment and this is usually done by time in Purgatory.
Each sin carries some type of temporal punishment. Let’s say for the sin of gluttony, the punishment is 10 days in Purgatory. Now, “days” in Purgatory may not be 24 hours, but they are some increment of time. And, let’s say that the person commits the sin of gluttony 50 times in his or her lifetime. That would be 500 days in Purgatory for that sin alone. Some of us can expect a long stay in Purgatory (which would be fine because it means we’re going to Heaven)!
A plenary indulgence removes all that punishment, all that time in Purgatory. We can apply the indulgence to ourselves or to someone who has died. If we apply it to ourselves, then all punishment is removed for sins we have committed to this point. If we apply it to someone who is in Purgatory, then it sends them straight to Heaven! In order for a Catholic to gain a plenary indulgence on a feast like today, he or she has to do three things within eight days: 1) go to Confession, 2) receive Holy Communion, and 3) say prayers for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI – commonly this is an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. In order to give you a better chance to receive the plenary indulgence, I will be hearing confessions after Mass and from 12:30 – 2:30 today. May you take advantage of this great deal!
Much of what we celebrate on Divine Mercy Sunday coincides with what Our Lord revealed to St. Faustina in the 1930s. He told her to remind people of his great mercy in specific and extraordinary ways. Of course, we already know of his incredible mercy from Scripture and Tradition. We know that his whole life is a mission of mercy. Was this mercy only offered to the people of his time, the people who lived 2000 years ago? No. We know that his mercy is offered to all people, including us.
As we just heard in the Gospel, he hands on his mission of mercy to the first priests, the Apostles, for them to continue. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”. He gives them his power to forgive sins: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained”. Was the opportunity for people to go to priests for Confession only for the people who lived 2000 years ago? No. We know that the power to forgive sins has been passed down from the first priests all the way to current priests.
As a reminder for us that it’s really Jesus in the confessional and it’s really his power of forgiveness that is given through the priest, our Lord said to St. Faustina, “When you approach the confessional, know this, that I myself am waiting there for you”.
Finally, we hear in the first reading about the life of the first Christian community who experience God’s great mercy. It was a community filled with joy, happiness, and unity. If you picked up on it (it was said twice in the reading), they were centered on the breaking of bread - the Eucharist. I see similarities between their community and our parish community. May we continue to grow as a community centered on the Eucharist. May we continue to grow in unity open to the Mercy of God as we continue to attain the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.