By now it is well known that the Sunday after Easter is celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. St. Faustina, a poorly educated daughter of a humble Polish family, kept a 600-page diary of the apparitions she had of Jesus for years. Her entries focus on God’s mercy, the call to accept God’s mercy and to be merciful, the need for conversion, and the call to trust in Jesus. It had been Jesus’ own wish, she wrote, to establish a feast day: “I [Jesus] desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls. . . . I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy.” When St. John Paul II canonized her in 2000, he proclaimed the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday, thereby widely promoting the devotional practices associated with Faustina’s visions, already popular in many communities.
Some have asked me: “Father, are we bound to believe in such revelations to individuals like St. Faustina?” Let me answer with a quote from the most authoritative document of the Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history” (#67).
Thus the Church is very clear that the revelations experienced by Saint Faustina were of a private nature, which are not essential to anyone’s acceptance of the Catholic faith. Yet, the Church promotes this popular devotion because God’s loving mercy, the focus of Divine Mercy Sunday, is the very heart of the gospel. The devotion to Divine Mercy fosters the virtue of trust in God’s mercy that finds its fulfillment in the liturgy of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.
We know Pope Francis has been an ardent promoter of divine mercy. His first book as pope is titled: The Name of God is Mercy. This year is the 90th anniversary (1931-2021) of the first apparition to St. Faustina. The Pope used this occasion to exhort all to “pass on the fire of Jesus’ merciful love.”
And yet, today’s gospel is about doubting the resurrection of Jesus by one of his own disciples! Presenting the famous profession of Faith from Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” the Gospel illustrates how Jesus showed his mercy to this doubting apostle and emphasizes the importance of faith and surrender. We are invited to be liberated from doubts and reservations about our faith, first by verbalizing our doubts and trying to get answers from those who know, and second by surrendering our lives to the Risen Lord of Mercy.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal