Forgive us our Sins – The Feast of Divine Mercy
Today is a very special Feast. It is “Divine Mercy Sunday” and so the Divine Mercy image which normally hangs near St Joseph’s altar will be brought to the front and blessed at all Masses as Our Lord requested. He made the most incredible promise regarding this Feast of Mercy to St Faustina (1905-38), a Polish nun, and told her:
“I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened.” Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.” (Diary of St Faustina, # 699).
This is an amazing promise! In the normal way, while confession forgives the guilt of our sins, we still have to do penance and make reparation for them even though we have received absolution. But today, the Feast of Mercy, if you make a good confession and receive Holy Communion, all guilt and temporal punishment is removed. Confession and Holy Communion on this Feast is all that is required to obtain complete forgiveness of sins and all punishment. This is the equivalent of a second Baptism! Because of the greatness of this promise, there will be extra opportunities for Confession this weekend.
In today’s Gospel we also hear how Our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Confession. He appeared in the Upper Room to the disciples in the evening on the day of His Resurrection, breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain they are retained.” This is the Sacrament of Confession. It’s true the word ‘confession’ is not mentioned here, but giving them the power to forgive and retain sins presupposes that a confession of sins would take place, so that the Apostle would know the sins of the person and either forgive or retain them in the name of JESUS. People today often say, “Why should I have to confess my sins to a priest? I can go direct to God.” The answer is simple. JESUS willed it to be so.
So thanks be to God for His mercy and for instituting this great Sacrament. We should never think that mercy means judgement, sin and Hell don’t exist. There is mercy because they exist! But there is just one requirement to obtain it, and that is repentance. In the book of the Apocalypse Our Lord says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me” (Apocalypse 3:20). In other words, the door to our hearts and repentance must be opened from the inside. “Doubting Thomas” does this in today’s Gospel. Our Lord rebukes his lack of faith but then rewards him for his penitence. Thomas then falls to his knees, amazed at Our Lord’s mercy and proclaims, “My Lord and my God.” Our Lord never stopped calling Thomas. He kept on knocking at the door of his heart. Is Our Lord knocking today at the door of your heart, and are you going to open it to His mercy?
Fr Paul Gillham, IC