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April 15, 2009
Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
April 19: Divine Mercy Sunday
Overview: During the Easter season the first reading is always taken from the book of Acts. The reason for this is to show how the risen Lord was active in the Church. The most obvious sign of his activity was the care and concern of believers for one another. Compassion for the poor, the sick and the outcast was one of the most distinctive attributes of the early Church and one of the reasons why it grew so rapidly. The first reading tells us that the disciples “had everything in common.” This was not merely the expression of an economic theory, but the manifestation of genuine Christian love. The mercy of God, emanating from the heart of Jesus, transformed the little band of believers into a community of heroic generosity, united in heart and mind. The love they showed to one another sprang from their love of God and their obedience to the commandments (second reading). From the wounded heart of the crucified and risen One, the mercy of God flowed into the hearts of the Apostles to heal hearts wounded by sin (Gospel reading). “Receive the Holy Spirit,” Jesus said to them. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The mercy of God, which had been poured into their hearts, was not something they could keep to themselves. Having received God’s mercy, they in turn were commissioned to impart that mercy to others.
Key verse: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting” (Ps 118:1).
“Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “It is the normal flowering of the baptismal grace which has begotten us in the womb of the Church and made us members of the Body of Christ. In her motherly care, the Church grants us the mercy of God which prevails over all our sins and is especially at work in the sacrament of reconciliation. With a mother’s foresight, she also lavishes on us day after day in her liturgy the nourishment of the Word and Eucharist of the Lord” (No. 2040).
Pope Benedict XVI: “Mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God, the face with which he revealed himself in the old covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redemptive love. May this merciful love also shine on the face of the Church and show itself through the sacraments, in particular that of reconciliation and in works of charity, both communitarian and individual. May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God” (Regina Caeli, Divine Mercy Sunday, 2008).
Application: On April 30, 2000, Pope John Paul II formally dedicated the second Sunday of Easter as “Divine Mercy Sunday” during the canonization ceremony of Sister Mary Faustina Kowalska (now known as “St. Faustina”). May her prayer become your own: “May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.”