Aiming Easter at Mercy
User’s Guide to Sunday
By Tom and April Hoopes
Sunday, April 11 (Liturgical Year C, Cycle II), is the Second Sunday of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday.
April 15 is the feast of St. Damien of Molokai, who was born in 1840 and was the son of Belgian farmers. He and his brother joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. His brother was chosen to go to the kingdom of Hawaii in 1863 but got sick before he was scheduled to leave. Damien took his place.
He built chapels until volunteers were needed to go to the island of Molokai. Damien had to make a choice: Return to Europe or live with the lepers and be quarantined on Molokai until death. He stayed with his flock and died of leprosy after 18 years of service. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him last year. The universal Church will celebrate his feast this year for the first time.
There are several movies available about Damien of Molokai, including one your boys might like, since Damien is played by the guy who played Faramir in Lord of the Rings.
The Divine Mercy plenary indulgence is available on Divine Mercy Sunday, offering complete pardon of punishments due to sin. It can be applied to yourself or for someone who has died.
To receive the indulgence:
1. Celebrate the feast of Mercy on the first Sunday after Easter.
2. Go to confession eight days before, on or after Mercy Sunday, and be free of attachment to sin.
3. Receive holy Communion on Mercy Sunday.
4. Venerate an image of the Divine Mercy.
5. Perform acts of mercy through words or deeds.
Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31
Christmas lasts for eight days, and on the eighth day we have the feast of Mary, Mother of God. Easter is celebrated for eight days, too, and on the eighth day comes the Second Sunday of Easter, on which Pope John Paul II instituted Divine Mercy Sunday.
The octave of Christmas Day was always a celebration of the maternity of Mary — the Nativity — even before the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God was moved to that day in 1974. In the same way, Easter Sunday II was always a celebration of Divine Mercy, even before it formally received the name.
The first reading shows the early Church involved in corporal works of mercy. The seven corporal works of mercy:
• Feed the hungry.
• Give drink to the thirsty.
• Clothe the naked.
• Shelter the homeless.
• Visit the sick.
• Visit those in prison.
• Bury the dead.
The Psalm, in which we hear “his mercy endures forever,” is a cry of encouragement, the spiritual work of mercy to “comfort the sorrowful.” In the second reading, Christ both encourages John and asks him to “Instruct the ignorant,” another one of the seven spiritual works of mercy, which are:
• Admonish sinners.
• Instruct the ignorant.
• Counsel the doubtful.
• Comfort the sorrowful.
• Bear wrongs patiently.
• Forgive injuries.
• Pray for the living and the dead.
These readings thus deliver uniquely Easter messages of mercy: This is what people do when they have come into contact with the risen Christ.
The Gospel continues the theme, recounting how Christ himself focused his resurrection on Divine Mercy. By the time of his death on the cross, he had instituted all the sacraments except one. In today’s Gospel, he instituted the sacrament of penance, the only sacrament instituted after the Resurrection.
As we read, he breathes on the apostles to give them the power to forgive sins, a power that has been handed down from them through the authority of the Church, person to person through time, down to your parish priest.
It’s significant that in the same Gospel Jesus allows Thomas to probe his wounds, the ultimate source of the power to forgive. The Divine Mercy image depicts the same reality, with light emanating from the wounded Christ.
In his crucifixion, Christ “became sin” to suffer our fate for us. “By his wounds we are healed,” we heard on Good Friday. Today we see what that means in practice.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.