In our missalettes, this Sunday is labeled: Second Sunday of Easter OR Sunday of Divine Mercy but according to liturgical guidelines the reverse would be more appropriate. During the Jubilee Year 2000 Pope John Paul decreed: “It is important 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”. It is this love which must inspire humanity today, if it is to face the crisis of the meaning of life, the challenges of the most diverse needs and, especially, the duty to defend the dignity of every human person.” The decree continues: “While “Divine Mercy” is clearly not a new feast, neither is this now an optional title for this solemnity.”
But, In a by-gone tradition, tomorrow was known as “Low Sunday” – a lesser Easter celebration or “Quasi-modo Sunday” from the first two words of the Entrance antiphon at Mass. Some places also refer to this Sunday as the “Sunday of putting away the albs – the white baptismal robes.”
Here’s another bit of trivia. In England, there was a strange custom, on the Monday and Tuesday after Low Sunday, between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon. Those two days became known as “Hoke Day.” (“Hoke” – related to “hocus pocus” – actions performed in an exaggerated or overly sentimental way.) On Monday, men “captured” women to auction. On Tuesday, the women reciprocated by capturing the men for ransom and both days the money was given to the Church.
The Gospel for this feast begins with the risen Christ appearing to the apostles on Easter night. Jesus calms his disciples by sharing with them “Peace.” He shows them the scars of his Passion, his wounded hands and side, the evidence of his saving work through his suffering, death and resurrection. Then he breathes on them and explains what the divine breathing means with the words, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He gives to the apostles, from His treasury of divine mercy, the assurance, so important to remember, that there is nothing to fear.
A trend that became more prominent since COVID times is one among media services – the practice of closing the evening news with a pleasant event in hopes that in some small way it will balance the stories of violence, horror and tragedy. The newscaster shares illustrations of volunteer service, almsgiving, one-on-one forgiveness and kindness and similar examples of “divine mercy” in action. Some of these incidents, like this one in 2006, seem to keep resurfacing. You may remember the story of the Amish community that walked to the home of the man who had killed 5 of their children to tell his widow they forgave her husband. They consoled her for the loss of her spouse. They buried their anger before they buried their children.
Another not-to-be-forgotten story of forgiveness was depicted on the cover of TIME magazine in 1984. Two men sit knee-to-knee, up close and personal in a prison cell. The younger man wears a black turtleneck sweater, blue jeans and white running shoes. The older man is dressed in a white robe and a white skullcap on his head. The two spoke quietly, so discretely that no one else was privy to the words that passed between them. The young man was an attempted assassin; the older man was Pope John Paul II, his intended victim. The two men gave living witness to the words, that 26 years later, the intended victim, Pope John Paul spoke in his declaration on the first DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY. In the picture on the journal is of the pope holding the hand that had held the gun with the bullet that had torn into his body. At the end of their 20-minute meeting, raising the pope’s hand, Ali pressed the pope’s hand to his own forehead as a sign of respect. John Paul shook Ali’s hand tenderly. When the pope left the cell he said, “What we talked about must remain a secret between us. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.” John Paul’s deed has become an icon of living mercy.
These, and other stories, teach us that forgiveness is central. They show us in a real sense that God’s forgiveness depends on our being the first to extend forgiveness, starting with forgiveness of self for shortcomings. That’s what the mercy of God is all about. This is the gift of mercy we celebrate on Divine Mercy Sunday.
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB
Kindly include in your prayers a remembrance of our monastery cook, Shawnn Leach, who passed away at home on Thursday afternoon. At this time any information and arrangements are pending. May Angie, his wife, and Shane, his son who found Shawnn in distress at home, be comforted by faith and caring friends. May Shawnn rest in peace!