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Divine Mercy Image, painted by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski, as advised by Sister Faustina

(LifeSiteNews) — Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has borne witness to his Son.” (1 John 5:5-9)

When reading this beautiful passage of Scripture one can immediately call to mind the Image of Divine Mercy, which is publicly venerated on Divine Mercy Sunday as one of the conditions for proper celebration of this day of grace, and in it we see the Risen Savior with red and pale (or blue) rays streaming from His Sacred Heart. This was exactly as St. Faustina saw Jesus on February 22, 1931, when He revealed Himself to her as the Merciful Savior. The rays are, of course, the Blood and Water that streamed from His Heart at the moment the soldier’s spear pierced His side and, as they flowed down over him, instantly converted his heart of stone into a heart of living flesh, beating for the Lord. 

Not only was the soldier converted, however, but so are all those who, through their own actions or those of others (prayer, penance, offerings), immerse themselves in the great ocean of mercy that was filled by the suffering, death, and shedding of blood and water by Jesus Christ upon the Cross of Calvary. 

For Catholics, in particular, this is most fully revealed to us in the Sacraments and most especially in the sacraments of cleansing (water/pale ray), Baptism and Reconciliation, and the sacrament of life, the Eucharist (blood/red ray).

For it is these sacraments, more than any others, that most fully enter us into and sustain us on the way of Christian holiness. They are an intimate sharing in the life of Christ, and it is this sharing, this mercy, that Jesus most poignantly wished to emphasize in his vision of Divine Mercy to His servant St. Faustina. He said, “These rays shield souls from the wrath of My Father. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him.” They are sacraments of mercy given to us from the Father, by the Savior, and through the Spirit as vehicles of grace by which we share in His life and are prepared for eternity.

Is it any wonder then that Jesus wanted this great mystery more fully recognized and fittingly celebrated? Enter the Image of Divine Mercy, of which Jesus says, “Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace.”

This leads us to Our Savior’s great desire to have the first Sunday after Easter, the Second Sunday of Easter, honored as a great celebration of His mercy offered from the cross to humanity.

Rather than being a cause for hesitation in the face of incomprehension as to our need for mercy, Divine Mercy Sunday should be a great cause for joy and celebration in the face of the Lord Jesus’s incomprehensible and unfathomable mercy for His creatures: “for this is God’s testimony which he gave us about His Son.” Water, blood, and Spirit. He gives all in abundance to those who trust in Him, through His grace, consumed through the sacraments of water and blood (Baptism, Confession, and Holy Mass).

Among all the special features of the devotion to Divine Mercy requested by Our Lord through St. Faustina, the Feast of Mercy – Divine Mercy Sunday – is preeminent. This solemnity was decreed at the same time that Pope John Paul the Great canonized St. Faustina. 

It offers us, the children of God, the greatest possible annual boost to personal holiness the Church has ever witnessed, so much so that it has been compared to a “second baptism,” were this possible. Holiness, perfect holiness, with God is our goal and our life’s work, and now, through this feast, we have an annual day on which to attain perfect holiness, albeit for a time only.

The grace of Divine Mercy Sunday

Fr. Professor Ignacy Rozycki, theological censor for St. Faustina’s Diary and professor to seminarian Karol Wojtyła, the future Pope John Paul II, had this to say, “This grace is much more than a plenary indulgence*, as this entails merely the remission of temporal punishment for sins committed.” This echoes the words of Jesus, “The soul that will go to confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day are opened all the divine floodgates through which graces flow.” (Diary 699)

“In these promises Jesus has attributed the power to remit sins and punishment to Holy Communion received on the Feast of Mercy, thereby elevating it to the rank of a ‘second baptism’,” Fr Rozycki said.

“By Baptism all sins are forgiven… In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God,” The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches (1263).

Note that Divine Mercy Sunday is NOT an optional feast day – it is a solemnity and has been since 2000! It is part of the Easter celebration and always has been. THAT is why the Lord and Pope St. John Paul II chose it to be a special feast day of His Mercy, as it is the Octave Day, a very special day in the life of the Church, as the Octave is a compendium, summary, and perfection of the first day, which is Easter Sunday. No less than St. Thomas Aquinas stated this regarding the Octave of Easter, as it was known then, but is now known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

Father Seraphim Michalenko (MIC, USA), vice-postulator for the cause of St. Faustina, agreed. “The Octave Day of Easter (the Sunday after Easter) has always held a very special place in the heart of the Church that has been fogged over for the longest time. Saint Faustina speaks about the celebration of Mercy Sunday as being ‘dormant.'”

“But mercy is the heart of the Gospel,” he continues. “And Mercy Sunday is a hopeful sign that God knows we need mercy and forgiveness. If any generation does, it is ours. That gives us hope because mercy was granted before anyone asked or realized it was needed.”

Divine Mercy Sunday concludes the Easter liturgy, which is also the reason why the Novena of Chaplets is prayed, beginning on Good Friday, nine days before the Feast of Mercy, the Second Sunday of Easter. It is one complete feast, including Divine Mercy Sunday.

This link is further established and proclaimed by the Church through the Gospel reading on the Second Sunday of Easter, which draws our attention to the appearance of the Risen Christ in the Upper Room and the institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is a direct reference to the Divine Mercy Image showing the rays of blood and water (red and pale rays) gushing forth from the side of Jesus – the One Whom they pierced on the cross on Good Friday. It also links, through His Blood shown in the red ray in the Image of Mercy, the institution of the Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist on Holy Thursday. Divine Mercy Sunday forms an integral part of this greatest of all Christian feasts. 

When the Church changed the readings for Sundays, after Vatican II, Divine Mercy Sunday (low Sunday of Easter) was the only one on which the readings stayed the same as they had been for centuries!

It is an extraordinary feast day, a day on which souls can attain sainthood and go directly to heaven should they die that day! No purgatory, no punishment for sin, and no atonement needed! THAT is why it is so important.

I think the Lord and Pope John Paul II knew what they were about. Let us trust in Jesus, not doubt His goodness and mercy.

The conditions for properly observing Divine Mercy Sunday and receiving the graces promised are: 

  • Celebrate the feast and receive the Blessed Eucharist on Divine Mercy Sunday.
  • Sincerely repent of all our sins.
  • Go to Reconciliation, preferably before the day. 
  • Completely trust in Jesus.
  • Acts of mercy toward your neighbor, daily, and of course on Divine Mercy Sunday, through prayer, word, or deed. 
  • Veneration of the Divine Mercy Image.
  • Jesus also asked St. Faustina for the recitation of the Novena of Chaplets, beginning on Good Friday, as part of the preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday. 

*(A plenary indulgence is also attached to the celebration of this day. Note that a plenary indulgence is more difficult to attain than the extraordinary grace of Divine Mercy Sunday, particularly because we MUST have NO attachment to sin, not even venial. This is not a condition for the grace of Divine Mercy Sunday).

As Fr. Chris Alar, provincial superior of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, has said:

What is required is receiving Holy Communion worthily, in a state of grace, with trust in Jesus’ promise. Trust is the key. What Jesus wants is for us to trust in Him and come to Him without fear of our sins. When we do, our souls are completely renewed! It is important to point out, however, that this grace is not automatically effective without any effort on our part. We cannot have the intention to remain living in a state of sin with no desire for conversion. If we are living in a perpetual state of mortal sin, we need to do whatever possible to break free of the grip Satan has on us. When we do, we can then open the doors of our hearts to receive God’s grace. It is imperative that we do this, because His grace is only fully received if we have some rectification of the will (similar to firm purpose of amendment), meaning that we are sorry for our past sins and will at least try to amend our lives. It doesn’t mean that we will be perfect, it only means that we will try our best. This change of heart is necessary to receive the graces of Divine Mercy Sunday.

“Oh, if sinners knew My mercy, they would not perish in such great numbers. Tell sinful souls not to be afraid to approach Me; speak to them of My great mercy” (Jesus’ words to St. Faustina, Diary 1396) 

 “I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially 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.” (Diary 699)

With such extraordinary graces available to the faithful, we must be compelled to reach out to those in our society who are hurting the most – the poor, the disenfranchised, the elderly, and the unborn. If only we would proclaim His Mercy and encourage all to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday – it is THE vessel of hope for the world.

In closing I would like to quote the Holy Father’s words at the canonization of Sister Faustina in Rome, April 30, 2000:

This message has become forever linked to the 20th century… the last of the second millennium and the bridge to the third. It is not a new message but can be considered a gift of special enlightenment that helps us to relive the Gospel of Easter more intensely, to offer it as a ray of light to the men and women of our time.

It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church will be called “Divine Mercy Sunday.”

“The Feast of My Mercy has issued forth from My very depths for the consolation of the whole world.” (Jesus’ words to St. Faustina, Diary 1517)