“My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and a 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 are opened all the divine floodgates through which graces flow. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My mercy.” (Diary of Saint Faustina Kowalska, 699)
There are a number of extraordinary promises that Jesus revealed to Saint Faustina about obtaining His Mercy. The Feast of Divine Mercy is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. Note well what Jesus said to Saint Faustina about Divine Mercy Sunday: “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.”
We ordinarily receive forgiveness of mortal sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The confession of venial sins, while not strictly required, is highly encouraged by the Church, and the lives of the saints witness to the sanctity of this practice. In addition to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we can receive forgiveness of our venial sins through the worthy reception of the Eucharist (Catechism, 1394-1395).
However, even when our sins are forgiven, we are still subject to a temporal punishment for these sins. These punishments can take place in this world or the next, in purgatory. Our choices have consequences.
A good analogy (that I picked up from Catholic Answers) is to think of five year-old who recklessly breaks a neighbor’s window. The five year-old doesn’t have the money to fix the window, so his dad pays to have the window fixed. However, the dad is going to punish the son in some smaller way, to atone for his wrongdoing. That’s right and just. So it is with God. Jesus paid the price on the Cross that we could never pay. But our actions still have consequences, and our messy souls need to be made clean before we enter into the perfect purity of heaven. The temporal punishments that result from our sins are ultimately about purifying us to enter a place where perfect love prevails.
The Scriptural basis for this is, first of all, Jesus’ declaration to the apostles in the Sermon on the Mount, that they must be perfect as their heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Second, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews addresses this point when he writes:
You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:4-11)
The promise of Jesus, that we can receive complete remission of these temporal punishments, by going to Confession and receiving Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday, is an extraordinary gift.
Father Ignacy Rozycki wrote a comprehensive study of Faustina Kowalska’s writings in the 1970’s, as part of the Church’s official investigation of Faustina’s life and virtues, which would ultimately lead to her canonization and the establishment of the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday. Here is what Father Rozycki wrote about observing the Feast and receiving the extraordinary graces promised by Jesus:
“But Jesus surely desired that the greatest possible number of the faithful benefit from this grace and consequently, did not require that Communion as well as Confession be made on that same Sunday, since in the case of a large crowd it would be impossible, for example, in parishes with only one priest. It is permitted then to infer that He allows confession to be made several days before the Feast of Mercy; He insists, however, that one receive Holy Communion on the day of the Feast itself.
Our Lord’s words to St. Faustina about this requirement to be merciful are very strong and leave no room for misinterpretation: ‘Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be acts of mercy… I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.’
Thus, to fittingly observe the Feast of Mercy, we should:
- Celebrate the Feast on the Sunday after Easter;
- Sincerely repent of all our sins;
- Place our complete trust in Jesus;
- Go to Confession, preferably before that Sunday;
- Receive Holy Communion on the day of the Feast;
- Venerate* the Image of The Divine Mercy;
- Be merciful to others, through our actions, words, and prayers on their behalf.
*To venerate a sacred image or statue means to perform some act or make some gesture of deep religious respect toward it because of the person whom it represents — in this case, our Most Merciful Savior.
I would add that a simple deed of mercy one can perform on Divine Mercy Sunday, or any day for that matter, is to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for the sick and dying in the world.
Trust in the love and mercy of Jesus. Trust in His promises, and join His Church in celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday.