Among the vast spiritual treasures that Pope St. John Paul II left to the Church, Divine Mercy Sunday may be his greatest gift. During his canonization homily of St. Faustina, he declared that the Sunday after Easter, the final day of the Octave of Easter, would be called Divine Mercy Sunday. The timing was no accident. Among the requests that Our Lord gave to St. Faustina, was His request that a Feast of Mercy be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. In the midst of the terrible “Century of Sin,” Our Lord desired to give the Church new channels for the outpouring of His grace—“where sin abounds, grace abounds the more” (Romans 5:20)—through devotion to Divine Mercy, and more specifically through the Feast of Mercy. Our Lord told St. Faustina that “on the day of My feast, the Feast of Mercy, you will go through the world and bring fainting souls to the spring of My mercy. I shall heal and strengthen them” (Diary, 206).
Divine Mercy and Private Revelation
First, a word about Private Revelation in general is necessary. All too often we will look at certain devotions like Divine Mercy as something optional, that is, not binding on us in faith to believe as Catholics. But this is an overly simplistic way of looking at them. If the Church deems some apparitions and private revelations worthy of belief, then we should treat them as anything else that is sufficiently proved, namely that it is true. In other words, we may not be bound in faith to believe these things but we are bound by reason and logic.
We should treat St. Faustina then as a great prophet of our age. She brought no new doctrine or dogma, she added nothing to the deposit of faith. What she did add is a blueprint for how the Gospel can be lived in our age. Public revelation may have ceased at the death of the last Apostle, but prophecy did not—“where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint” (Proverbs 29:18). Faustina, the prophet’s message? A radical trust in the mercy of God.
Our Lord promised through the pen of St. Faustina “to heal and strengthen” fainting souls on the Feast of Mercy. What was He promising? Our Lord promised to “grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy” (Dairy, 687). What are “the unimaginable graces” attached to Mercy Sunday? “Whomever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment” (Diary, 300).
This is unimaginable indeed! Those who approach the Fountain of Life, that is Our Lord in the Eucharist, will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishments. It is as if the person is to receive the Baptismal grace again, a spiritual do-over. Where sin abounds, grace abounds the more!
We can see that one of the obstacles then to celebrating the Feast of Mercy is that it is practically unbelievable. The Father who is “rich in mercy” is a prodigal Father, pouring graces everywhere and anywhere. But like the lost son in the parable, there are conditions on our part. It is not a magic wand, but like all things depends on how well we prepare for the Feast.
How is it then that we, “the fainting souls”, can approach “the spring of Our Lord’s mercy”? Jesus lays out the conditions to St. Faustina; the things that we must do to “be healed and strengthened.”
A Special Grace Won
The first we have already mentioned, that is to receive Communion on the day of the Feast of Mercy. If the “unimaginable grace” attached to the Feast is one similar to the grace of Baptism, then it will be delivered through the Eucharist. In other words, if Our Lord is to bestow a grace of a “second Baptism” He will do so through the Eucharist. Receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist with that intention will only strengthen our own resolve to both desire and receive this extraordinary grace.
Provided we receive Our Lord worthily, that is in a state of grace, then we may receive this extraordinary grace. Those who are conscious of mortal sin must first approach the Sacrament of Confession. However, that is not the only reason why going to Confession prior to the Feast of Mercy is a good idea. One of the graces of Confession is to receive true repentance for our sins, a condition of receiving the unimaginable grace. Our imperfect contrition meeting Our Lord’s perfect contrition on the Cross through the Sacrament, brings with it the grace to have true repentance for our sins. The better disposed we are to receive the grace of the Feast, the more likely we are to have it lead to true conversion and not a mere one time event.
Our Lord, repeatedly tells St. Faustina how important Confession is calling it the place where “the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy” (Diary, 1602). Our Lord tells St. Faustina that “every time you go to Confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy with great trust, so that I many pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I myself am waiting there for you” (ibid). The Confessional is the place where we encounter Our Lord, face to face and where we find the “fount of mercy.”
This extraordinary grace, seemingly too good to be true, can only be received by those who are willing to admit the possibility that God really is that merciful. In other words, only those who have a radical trust in the mercy of Jesus can win this grace. This is why Our Lord attaches this necessity—an absolute trust in Him—to its reception on the Feast of Mercy.
This is also why veneration of the image of Divine Mercy is also a key component of the Feast. It is a visual reminder, with the Blood and Water flowing from the Sacred Heart that we always have access to God’s mercy by offering “the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Only Begotten Son Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
With this great Feast of Mercy upon us, let us approach Our Lord’s throne of Mercy well prepared to receive all that Jesus wants to give us. Jesus, I trust in You!