The second Sunday of Easter is known by numerous titles which I have discussed in columns in past years, but above all it is especially known as Divine Mercy Sunday.
While the idea that a devotion of recent origins (and one resting on private revelation) should overshadow the final day of the Easter Octave must be carefully avoided, it is instructive and humbling for us to reflect on God’s mercy, and in this sense the title Divine Mercy Sunday provides us all with a beautiful opportunity.
Diving into that invitation to consider the mercy and forbearance of the Lord, after hearing in the Acts of the Apostles how the earliest Christians rejoiced in the power of God to heal the body, we then encounter the responsorial verse and we sing together with the Psalmist as he extols God’s power to heal the soul: “Let the house of Israel say, ‘His mercy endures forever’” (Ps 118:2).
In the Book of Revelation and in the Gospel of John as well we find something of central meaning to our reflection on mercy: the authors of both of these great works note that they have heeded the command “write down what you have seen” (see Rev 1:19). Remembering how mercy has shaped our lives, and handing on this recollection to those we meet and to the next generation is of paramount importance in both one’s personal Christian discipleship and in the Church’s work of evangelization.
We have John of Patmos to thank for keeping the command of the Lord in today’s reading and for committing to writing the marvelous visions he had while “caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day” (Rev 1:10). We also have John the Evangelist to thank for being open to the Spirit of God and putting in writing the events he recounts “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
In a culture that in many ways is inimical to mercy, since mercy flows from self-giving love, mercy can nonetheless have a profound impact on people precisely since it is often unexpected. Here we see a powerful and convincing means of spreading the Gospel of Christ whose resurrection we celebrate today, in a time when traditional means of conveying the faith are sometimes taken lightly or seen as quaint.
Mercy is powerful and convincing because no one who has been truly forgiven something sees that forgiveness as quaint. The new lease on life, on a treasured relationship, on a job or career, and on the future in general that mercy gives is too valuable to think trite—even for someone with a normally cynical heart.
For someone of faith, a moment of mercy received consciously and understood for what it is cannot help but be a moving impetus to a deeper faith, or a deeper questioning of God and his ways that in a paradoxical way leads to firmer faith.
On this Second Sunday of Easter, Low Sunday, Quasimodo Sunday, Dominica in Albis, Divine Mercy Sunday—whatever we may call it—let us rejoice over the mercy we have freely received from the Lord, let us hand on the saving word of this life-giving mercy to others, and let us humbly thank the Lord whose mercy endures forever for allowing us to join the huge crowd of those of whom Jesus says: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?… Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29).
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.