Saturday, April 14, 2007

Divine Mercy Sunday

I can remember some years back there was a certain perplexity on the part of one or another as to how that would work when Pope John Paul II designated the Second Sunday of Easter Divine Mercy Sunday. Low Sunday, as this Sunday is also called, is First Communion Sunday in many countries and many liturgists would like to see it, as the Octave Day of Easter, given a special place in the post-baptismal catechesis of the adult initiation process. Patience and calm have ruled the day and it seems this Sunday has taken on new importance precisely because of the focus on Divine Mercy. The beautiful invocation Jesus, I trust in You! is successfully making the rounds in some of the cultures which need it the most.
The real issue over this Sunday involving the "unrest" of the past was/is that of the recognition or admission of one's need for God's mercy, awareness not only of my fallen nature (original sin), but of my sin as well, of my personal / direct / real / actual / specific need for forgiveness. Giving universal status to St. Maria Faustina's message about the Divine Mercy amounted to a confrontation.
The problem in the life of the Church which Divine Mercy Sunday addresses is very real and the message given to her a very good reason for why St. Maria Faustina was raised to the dignity of sainthood. If you aren't convinced of the amount of denial of the reality of personal sin which goes on or characterizes an ample cross section of Catholics in our day and time and touching folks from the High Altar to the back pew, then just mention the proposal to retranslate in the next edition of the English Sacramentary the keystone of the 1st form of the penitential rite at Mass, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa with "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault". Albeit true that it's already quite a bit to get many people to confess that "I have sinned through my own fault", the word "grievous" seems not to want to apply for some reason.
The good news is that St. Maria Faustina's Divine Mercy Chaplet and even the Novena are catching on: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Catholic radio and EWTN deserve a lot of credit in this regard, but the truth is that the Divine Mercy Chaplet fills a genuine need and speaks to a burning issue. The prayer, Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world, is truly weighty. The Divine Mercy Chaplet seems to be able to ring into a noisy and distracted life like a tiny silver bell and bring calm, bring reason, bring that measure of silence or stillness needed to face up to our need to confess our sins and do penance.
Our dining room has two split unit air conditioners: an old original, noisy one, insufficient even when there are six people at the lunch table; its handmaid, robbed from another part of the house and installed here for just those occasions when the old unit can't quite hack it. Somehow both units went out in rapid succession, the second on Wednesday of Holy Week. We were able to enjoy the high holy days with the windows open and a quiet little circulation fan. Needless to say, I heard the neighborhood really for the first time in the two and a half years I've lived in the house. As there isn't really much traffic in the neighborhood and even less over Easter, it was truly enjoyable to pick up on smaller sounds, like the wind rustling through dry palm fronds and precipitating their fall to the ground. Although I'd hate to have to entertain guests without AC, it certainly was enjoyable to spend a week without the hum of compressors outside closed windows, sweat or no sweat.
Let the Divine Mercy Chaplet help you to contextualize today, too. Sort of like AC off and windows open to a beautiful world out there. The world of "you are loved and saved, washed clean of your sins, perhaps even grievous ones, in the Blood of the Lamb. Atonement is for me and for you personally and we rejoice in Christ's victory. Let the Divine Mercy Chaplet take the "thump" out of your life and let you see and hear clearly in the real presence of the Dearly Beloved Son!

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