In the Great Jubilee Year 2000 Saint John Paul II placed into the Church’s liturgical calendar the observance of Divine Mercy Sunday on the Second Sunday of Easter. In so doing he confirmed devotion to Christ as the Divine Mercy, a devotion which flowed from visions of our Lord received by Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun whom Saint John Paul II also canonized on April 30, 2000.
Today’s Gospel tells us, appropriately, of the Divine Mercy. Jesus’ passion and death were an act of Divine Mercy. His was a sacrificial death offered for the forgiveness of sins. With his resurrection from the dead, his victory over sin and death is complete. Saint Peter speaks of this connection in today’s Second Reading: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” There seems to be a sense of urgency about Jesus in the narrative of today’s Gospel, which tells of his first appearance to his disciples on the very evening of the resurrection: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.…Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Catholic Tradition regards this event as the institution of the Sacrament of Penance, through which Jesus has given the Church the power to forgive sins in his name. It is the sacrament of the Divine Mercy. For this gift our psalm refrain expresses our gratitude: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love is everlasting.”
The Divine Mercy Devotions for the Chippewa Falls Deanery will be held at Saint Paul Church in Bloomer beginning at 1:00 PM with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and concluding with Benediction at 4:00. Doctor Robert Stackpole, Director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, will give a talk at 1:00 on “Mary the Mother of Mercy,” and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy will be prayed at 3:00. There will be opportunities for confession throughout the afternoon. You are welcome to participate in any or all of the program.
Like the Easter mystery itself, the Easter season is full of grace, especially the grace of the sacraments of initiation. Second graders from St. Charles will receive their First Holy Communion on Sunday, April 29, during the 10:30 Mass; and those from St. Peter on Sunday, May 13, during the 9:00 Mass. Confirmation will be conferred upon young people from both parishes on Sunday afternoon, May 6, at St. Charles Church, at 1:00. The Church is enriched and renewed by the grace of these sacraments effective in the lives of her members.
This Sunday a second collection is traditionally taken up throughout our diocese for the support of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. There is an envelope in your packet for this collection. Please take this opportunity to support them and the many ways in which they contribute to the work of the Church in our diocese.
This week Father Miller and I will be participating in the annual priests’ retreat being held at Saint Anthony Retreat Center in Marathon City. The retreat begins Monday evening and continues through lunch on Friday. Consequently there will be no weekday Masses here except this Monday morning, April 9, at 8:30, when we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation, transferred because March 25 was Palm Sunday this year. You are welcome to attend Mass at another parish the rest of the week. Please pray for all the priests who will be participating in this retreat, so that we may be renewed in the grace of our vocations and in our service of Christ’s faithful in our diocese.
Pray the rosary this week for people most in need of the grace of Divine Mercy. Pray for good weather for a productive planting and growing season. Pray for the needs of the Church in our diocese and for the priests who will be on retreat. As always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.