A few years ago, I was coordinating the preparation of our Basilica children for their First Reconciliation; really I was hopefully helping their parents prepare them for this sacrament. I hoped that they would not just know what to do during the sacrament and what to say to the priest but be open to knowing God’s great mercy and love on that day and throughout their lives.
One young boy came up me after the First Reconciliation service and was beaming; I asked him how it went and he said, “That was awesome! Can I go again?” I looked at his mom and smiled and told him to keep sinning and he can definitely go again! That’s not exactly the idea of the sacrament, but I’m very glad that he had a positive experience. When I was working in college campus ministry, I met a Lutheran student who shared that he was raised Catholic, but became Lutheran because of an experience in Reconciliation when the priest scolded him for his sins, rather than offering mercy and compassion. I offer these brief stories to illustrate the power this particular sacrament can have, both in positive and negative experiences.
Today is known as Divine Mercy Sunday, and has been since 2000, when Pope John Paul II declared this to be celebrated every year on the 2nd Sunday of Easter. You may recall the Year of Mercy that Pope Francis called for in the Church in 2015; mercy has been one of the hallmarks of his papacy, both experiencing the mercy of God in our own lives and then sharing works of mercy with others.
Sr. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun of early 1900s, had powerful mystical experiences in prayer that she wrote in her diaries about God’s mercy; these helped to begin this movement in the Church. She shared a beautiful prayer for us; in this Easter season, may we know the mercy of the Risen Christ in many ways and never hesitate to share it with others.
Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbor’s souls and come to their rescue.
Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.
Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.
Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.
Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.
Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me. Amen.
Continued Easter blessings to all!