By Stephen Ojapah MSP
Today is divine mercy Sunday. Every second Sunday of Easter is traditionally celebrated by all Catholics as such. It is based on the private revelations of St. Faustina Kowalska, which recommended a particular devotion to the Divine Mercy. In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized St. Faustina and, during the ceremony, he declared: 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. In his Homily of the Mass of Canonization on the 30th April 2000, Pope John Paul II said; “In the various readings, the liturgy seems to indicate the path of mercy which, while re-establishing the relationship of each person with God, also creates new relations of fraternal solidarity among human beings” We see this solidarity in (Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35). A period where everyone’s need was met. A time when greed had no space to breed. The scripture tells us “no one said any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. (Acts of the Apostles 4: 33). Greed was conquered “There was not anyone needy among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles feet and distribution was made to each as any had need”. Acts of the Apostles 4:35).
The other side of the coin about this day is the path of mercy which re-establishes our relationships with God. The mercy we experience in the Sacrament of Confession, or Reconciliation. The path that demonstrates God’s might through His Mercies. In the Divine Mercy image Jesus is depicted at the moment he appears to the disciples in the Upper Room, after the Resurrection, when he empowered them to forgive or retain sins. This moment is recorded in John 20:19-31. For many Christians who are not Catholics this scriptural passage is hard for them to understand. This passage of the scriptures are almost completely avoided by many or at worst grossly misinterpreted. But it’s very clear what Jesus meant and intended. Give the apostles and their successors powers to forgive sins. “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” He thus gave them a special empowerment with the Holy Spirit to forgive or retain sins (John 20: 21-23).
Because they are empowered through God’s Spirit to do this, their administration of forgiveness is efficacious, it really removes sin rather than just being a symbol of forgiveness a person is already thought to have obtained. Because they are instructed to forgive or retain, they must discern which they are to do. This means that they need to know about the sin and whether we are truly repentant of it. As a result, we must tell them about the sin and our sorrow for it. Hence: confession. And the Church Fathers understood Christ’s ministers as having this power. As a Priest who administers this sacrament and equally enjoys it. Its only experience of sin and forgiveness at the confessional that can convince you. The spiritual benefits are unmatched, and incomparable. No amount of professional psycho-therapists can undo a conscience tinted by sin and guilt; only the Sacrament of Reconciliation can.
The spiritual preparation for this Sunday actually began on Good Friday, and every day carries special intention and request by our Lord, in the revelation Sr Faustina received. For those who could not join in these nine day journey I have decided to summarize the prayer requests and intentions of our Lord in the past nine days as . For those who were able to do the nine day novena. We congratulate you, and for the many who could not. The mercies of our God is endless. And It can be said anytime. On Good Friday Our Lord requested: Today bring to Me all mankind especially all sinners. And immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me. On Holy Saturday Jesus asked Sr Faustina Today bring to Me The souls of Priests and Religious and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave Me strength to endure My bitter Passion. Through them as through channels My mercy flows out upon mankind. On the third day of the Novena our Lord requested Faustina to bring to Me all devout and faithful souls, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. These souls brought Me consolation on the Way of the Cross. They were that drop of consolation in the midst of an ocean of bitterness. The 4th day of the novena is very real for our generation Jesus requested Faustina: Today bring to Me those who not believe in God and those who do not yet know me. I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.
Today bring to Me the souls of those who have separated themselves from my church, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church, My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion. The sixth day is equally touching Our Lord requested: Today bring to Me the meek and humble souls and the souls of little children, and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I saw them as earthly Angels, who will keep vigil at My altars. I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace. Only the humble soul is capable of receiving My grace. I favor humble souls with My confidence.
In the seventh day the request is for the souls who especially venerate and glorify my mercy and immerse them in My mercy. These souls sorrowed most over my Passion and entered most deeply into My spirit. They are living images of My Compassionate Heart. These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life. Not one of them will go into the fire of hell. I shall particularly defend each one of them at the hour of death. In the eight day our Lord said bring me the souls in purgatory and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice. On the final day of the Novena, Jesus requested Faustina to bring to Me souls who have become lukewarm, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’ For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy.
Mercy is one of the greatest attribute of God. He is almighty because he is merciful. No created being can equal God in the display of mercy. We can testify to this by our experience of sin and pardon, and by the way God looks out for us even when we are below His moral and spiritual expectations.
Fr Stephen Ojapah is a priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is equally the director for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism for the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, a member of IDFP. He is also a KAICIID Fellow. (firstname.lastname@example.org)