Scripture Study: Divine Mercy Sunday

To view the readings for Mass this weekend, click here.

Sunday, April 8 - The Feast of Divine Mercy
• Acts 4:32-35
• Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
• 1 John 5:1-6
• John 20:19-31

We can know few things in life for certain. The future always remains beyond our grasp. But thanks to Christ's death and Resurrection, we can have complete confidence in God's love for us. He has given us everything we need to live holy, peaceful lives and make it to Heaven as quickly as possible. He just asks for us to rely completely upon Him. And on Divine Mercy Sunday, He gives us the opportunity to receive a great grace that reminds us why we trust at all.

The first reading this weekend exemplifies this essential element of the Divine Mercy message: trust. In the Acts of the Apostles, the early Church practiced radical charity by making any wealth they had available to all in need. They lived for nothing but giving witness to Christ's Resurrection, even going so far as selling their homes and "[putting their money] at the feet of the apostles" (Acts 4:35).

Though they gave everything away, it says, "There was no needy person among them" (Acts 4:34). In other words, the first believers did not fret about their basic needs but instead chose to live in complete confidence that God would provide for them. They would have understood what Jesus said to St. Faustina in her Diary, "The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is - trust" (Diary, 1578).

In the second reading from 1 John, we read another Scripture passage that's reminiscent of the Divine Mercy message. It says, "This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood" (1 Jn 5:6).

Here, John references the Passion narrative which says, "One soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true" (Jn 19:34-35). This blood and water flowing from Christ's Heart is not a metaphor. Blood and water actually gushed forth from Christ's wound. Of course, in the Divine Mercy Image, rays of blood and water pour forth from Christ's Heart. And furthermore, in the Divine Mercy Chaplet we say the prayer, "O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You!" (Diary, 84).

In St. Faustina's Diary, Jesus explains the meaning behind these two essential elements. He says, "The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls ..." (Diary, 299). The blood that "gives life to souls" is the Eucharist. The water that "makes souls righteous" is Baptism. Christ's blood and water summarize the Sacramental life of the Church, which provides us the grace that enables us to have a relationship with God the Father. We did nothing to deserve His grace, but Divine Mercy provides it.

In the Gospel reading this weekend, John says that after the Crucifixion, many of the disciples were gathered together in one room with the doors locked because they feared Jesus' enemies. Then the risen Christ appears to them and says, "Peace be with you" (Jn 20:19). It continues, "When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord" (Jn 20:20).

This scene recalls the Divine Mercy Image itself. But what Jesus says is an even more powerful connection to Divine Mercy. After revealing His wounds, Jesus breaths the Holy Spirit onto the apostles and tells them, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" (Jn 20:23). In this moment, Jesus delegates to the apostles the ability to forgive sins - the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

No matter how often or how gravely we have sinned, as long as we repent and confess to a priest, we can receive complete forgiveness. But on Divine Mercy Sunday, we receive an even greater grace. Jesus said to St. Faustina, "The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day [Divine Mercy Sunday] all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened" (Diary, 699).

Not only does receiving Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday in a state of grace give us complete forgiveness of sins, it also relieves us of any punishment due to sin. If a child breaks his parents' window playing baseball, he needs to ask for forgiveness. But that's not all. A loving father might make his child use his allowance to pay for the broken glass to be replaced. Of course, the father could replace the window himself, but out of a sense of loving discipline, he wants to teach his son about the consequences his actions.

On Divine Mercy Sunday, God the Father not only forgives us, but replaces the broken window for us. Any sins we've ever committed, no matter how grievous, will be forgiven, and furthermore, God casts aside any discipline, any temporal consequences, that He would normally have us undergo. All we have to do is receive Communion on that day in a state of grace, having gone to Confession relatively recently.

If we happen to die the moment after we receive Communion in a state of grace on Divine Mercy, we would go straight to Heaven, not even passing through Purgatory. We become as clean as the moment we were baptized. And this grace comes to us only once per year, reminding us about the incredible love of God, the grace of the Sacraments, and why we ought to trust relentlessly in His great love for us.

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