The First Sunday after Easter was named the Sunday of the Divine Mercy by St. John Paul II back in the year 2000. On April 30, 2000, Sister Faustina Kowalska, a polish nun, was canonized and it was soon after that moment that every First Sunday after Easter would be celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. The actual origin of Divine Mercy finds its roots in the beautiful diary of Sister Faustina. In different sections of her diary, Sister Faustina writes that Jesus, during the course of his revelations to her, asked that a feast day be dedicated to the Divine Mercy and that this feast be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. One part of the diary reads, “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 699).
An image was also revealed to Sister Faustina by Jesus in which from his heart two rays are shone, one red (representing blood) and the other white (symbolizing water), with the words, “Jesus, I Trust in You,” at the bottom. Faustina wrote in her diary that Jesus told her, “I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.” Jesus’ life, passion, death and resurrection speak of the great mercy of God, and Jesus continues to offer the gift of mercy through the sacraments, in particular the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said: “Mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God, the face with which He revealed himself in the Old Covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redemptive love. May this merciful love also shine on the face of the Church and show itself through the sacraments, in particular that of Reconciliation, and in works of charity, both communitarian and individual. May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God feels for man.”
From Good Friday until the Second Sunday of Easter, the Church around the world offers a nine day novena praying for different groups of people as told to Sister Faustina and written in her diary. Jesus tells her, “On each day of the novena you will bring to My heart a different group of souls and you will immerse them in this ocean of My mercy ... On each day you will beg My Father, on the strength of My passion, for the graces for these souls.” The words used to pray the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy are short, but indeed powerful. Using the beads of the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is prayed. The prayer begins with one Our Father, one Hail Mary and the Apostles Creed. Then on the usual Our Father beads of the Rosary the following phrase is prayed, “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.” And then on each bead when the Hail Mary is usually prayed the following is said instead: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Just like the Rosary this is done five times as you go around the Rosary beads. At the end of Chaplet the person praying concludes three times saying, “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
If you have not taken the time to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, I encourage you to begin. If you already pray this beautiful prayer be sure to understand its history and then share with someone you know. It is so important to contemplate the wonderous gift of God’s mercy. In difficult days and troubling times, may you recall the words found on the image of the Divine Mercy: Jesus, I Trust in You.
Now go forth and be a joyful witness.
Father Erik Esparza is the Director of the Office of Priest Personnel for the Diocese of San Bernardino.