This Sunday we will be celebrating a relatively new feast. Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of the canonization of Sr. Faustina Kowalska on April 30, 2000, stated in a decree that “throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will be ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’”
Amidst the beautiful Easter environment in your church, there may be a picture placed in a prominent spot. It is an image of Jesus known by the title “Divine Mercy.” There are many variations of the Divine Mercy image around the world. Each artist creates their own based on the original Divine Mercy picture painted in 1934 by Eugene Kazimirowski. Regardless of the artist interpretation, the message is consistent. God showers his mercy on us.
The readings support Mercy Sunday beautifully. Imagine the faith of the early Christians as expressed in the first reading. They believed that merely being in Peter’s shadow could bring God’s healing. In the Gospel we are told the apostles experienced the healing of the Holy Spirit through nothing more than Jesus’ breathing upon them.
When we gather for liturgy, healing can be found within the Eucharist, but consider the many other healing moments. Most obvious are the prayers of the penitential rite. During the season of Easter we experience the healing baptismal waters in the sprinkling rite. We may find healing in a word of hope from the Scriptures, or a hand extended to us at the sign of peace. Moments of healing can be experienced in the kind words exchanged in gathering areas and parking lots.
Our shadows do not hold the spiritual blessing that Peter’s did. Most of us will never be chosen by God to work great miracles in his name. What is more probable is that God challenges us to come out from the shadows and look upon one another. We need to be present to one another in times of difficulty, serious illness or sadness. However, we also need to be aware that a person’s brokenness may come from something as basic as not feeling welcome because everyone passes by without saying a word.
Thomas believed in the Risen Lord after he touched Christ’s human hand. Centuries later, we as the Body of Christ have the gift to use our humanness to extend Christ’s touch to one another, not just to our favorite people, but to everyone. After all, isn’t that what Divine Mercy is all about?
Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.