Divine Mercy Sunday: a “Jubilee Day” of Mercy

By Br. Stephen J.

One day, a Catholic biblical scholar announced to his family that he intended to imitate an Old Testament custom, called the “jubilee.” During a year of jubilee, which occurred every 50 years in ancient Israel, every family was restored to their original heritage plot of land, which was marked out by ancient landmarks dating from the time when Israel first occupied Canaan. All debts were forgiven, indentured slaves freed, and contract obligations cancelled.

This father announced that he was going to do something similar: On this special day, if anyone in the family wanted to confess something they’d done wrong, there would be no punishment.

Following God’s example

This man had two young sons, who had been quarreling for some time. Despite both parents’ concern, neither had learned the cause of the quarrel. However, on this “jubilee day,” each son in turn knocked timidly on the father’s door and asked, “Dad, if I tell you what’s been going on with me and my brother, will you really not punish me?”

The father assured each son that he was correct. When the father learned both sides of the story, he was able to reconcile his two sons, and he did so without needing to punish either of them. Afterward, his wife asked him in amazement, “How did you do it?”

He responded, “I’m simply following the example of my heavenly Father.”

An “ocean of graces”

The Feast of Divine Mercy, happening this year on Apr. 24, is a lot like that “jubilee day.” Jesus told St. Faustina that He wanted the Second Sunday of Easter to be celebrated throughout the Church as “Divine Mercy Sunday.” Although this name was already inscribed in the liturgical books, the importance of preaching Divine Mercy on that Sunday had been long overlooked. Jesus wanted to re-establish this Feast as “a refuge and shelter for all souls,” a day on which He would “pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of [His] Mercy” (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 699).

The vastness of this ocean only begins to be grasped when we consider the extraordinary grace of Divine Mercy Sunday. In the early Church, sinners were expected to perform great bodily penances as a sign of their repentance. These penances could last for months, even years.

Indulgences

Eventually, the Church began to attach indulgences to certain prayers in order to shorten the time of penance. So, if you’ve ever read a note after a prayer that says “100 days” or “300 days,” this refers to such days spent in bodily penances (and not to “Purgatory time”). Shorter and lighter penances permitted more frequent Confession, until today it is possible to go to Confession almost anytime you can find a private moment with a priest.

After going to Confession and saying your penance, however, you still must bear the temporal punishment due to sin. Past sins committed affect our character, our desires, and our perceptions of the world around us. We need healing from these aftereffects of original and personal sin, and part of our healing involves the need to make up for past personal sins.

Grace, even the grace of Divine Mercy Sunday, does not usually make people instantly strong, self-controlled, and clear-sighted. It does, however, remove all obstacles between us and God’s healing action, which can then transform us gradually, as long as we do not deliberately put up new obstacles.

Extraordinary grace

Jesus said to St. Faustina that on Divine Mercy Sunday, “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment” (Diary, 699). This is the extraordinary grace of Divine Mercy Sunday: In God’s eyes, we are given a clean slate. One of our Divine Mercy experts, the late Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, compared it to “a second Baptism.”

What a grace — to be able to tell God all our sins and receive pardon, not punishment! What a special day of jubilee has been given to us by our Heavenly Father!

In order to receive this special grace, all you have to do is prepare yourself for it. Make a good Confession, either before or on Divine Mercy Sunday, so that you may worthily receive Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday. I also recommend reading St. Faustina’s Diary, particularly the sections beginning at entry 340 and 1804, and make an examination of conscience. To worthily receive the Sacrament of Confession requires that we examine our lives to find all the ways we have offended God. Only mortal sins absolutely need to be confessed in order to be forgiven, but it’s useful to confess venial sins, too, in order that we may have no obstacles at all between ourselves and God’s mercy. After a good Confession, you will be in the state of grace, rightly disposed to receive Holy Communion worthily.

Lastly, you have to trust in the promise of Jesus, that His mercy will overcome your sinfulness and take away all temporal punishment. If you don’t feel like anything is different afterwards, then perhaps the Lord is asking you to trust a little longer. Jesus tells St. Faustina, “Do not lose heart in coming for pardon, for I am always ready to forgive you. As often as you beg for it, you glorify My mercy” (Diary, 1488).

Remember: The grace of Divine Mercy Sunday is not the end of the journey; it’s just a new beginning for the rest of your life.

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