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Divine Mercy Sunday and the Sacrament of Mercy

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Divine Mercy Sunday and the Sacrament of Reconciliation  

By: Marcellino D'Ambrosio



Divine Mercy, Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church, Marcellino D'Ambrosio


Divine Mercy Sunday or the Octave of Easter presents us with one of the most famous of gospel stories -- the story of Doubting Thomas.  But it shows us how and when the sacrament of penance and reconciliation was instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ -- and why.


Several years ago, the Catholic Church declared the Sunday after Easter “Divine Mercy Sunday.”  So what exactly is “mercy” anyway, and what does it have to do with the Easter season?


Mercy is not just pity.  Neither is it simply sparing someone the punishment that they deserve.  No, mercy is love’s response to suffering.  When mercy encounters suffering, it ultimately seeks to alleviate it.  God the Father is so “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4) that Paul calls him “the Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor 1:3).


Jesus is the perfect human image of the Father’s mercy.  When he meets those suffering from hunger, he feeds them.  When he encounters someone suffering from physical sickness, he heals them.  But true mercy is not superficial, but radical.  And Jesus sees that the deepest suffering in human life, the root cause of all other suffering, is sin.  Sin debases us, robbing us of our dignity, weakening and even rupturing our connection with God, our loving Father and the source of our life.  Sin is not just a transgression of some arbitrary law; it creates a wound in us that can fester and, if not attended to, corrupt us entirely.  It gives the Prince of Darkness a hold in our lives that he tries to turn into complete control of our lives.  True mercy seeks to alleviate this deeper suffering that can lead to eternal suffering.


Jesus died to do precisely this.  And the risen Christ instituted the sacrament of penance to apply the medicine of mercy, won on Calvary, to each individual sinner at the moment of their deepest need.

Divine Mercy, Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church, Marcellino D'Ambrosio 

Wait a minute.  So Jesus, not the Church, established this sacrament?  Where does the Bible say he did that?  Right there, in John’s gospel, on Easter Sunday afternoon.  Despite the locked doors, he stands amidst the apostles and says “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Jesus is the original “apostle” of the Father – the word means “one who is sent.”  As he was sent on a mission of mercy, so he sends out his “apostles” on the same mission.  He breathes on them and says “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound.”  (Jn 20:19-22).


If you have a problem with the Church intruding on what you think ought to be just between just you and God, you’ll have to take that one up with Jesus.  It was his idea.  From the looks of this text, he gave the apostles and their successors, whom we call bishops, a great deal of authority in this matter.  But he also gave them a great deal of power.  The same Holy Spirit responsible for the bringing of order out of chaos (Gen 1) and causing a virgin to conceive and bear a son, is breathed upon the apostles.  He is the Spirit of Mercy, the Spirit of healing, the Spirit of liberation and resurrection.


Divine Mercy, Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church, Marcellino D'Ambrosio, ConfessionGoing to confession is not just meeting an official of the institutional church.  It is meeting a man who has been anointed with the Spirit of Mercy to stand in the place of Christ (in persona Christi) and serve as an instrument of the divine physician.  True, this instrument is a sinner in need of mercy himself.  Peter and doubting Thomas make that abundantly clear right from the start.  But they are instruments of God’s healing, merciful love, nonetheless.  That is the case whether or not they are wise counselors and whether or not they are exceptionally holy.


The Spirit Christ breathed on the apostles on the first Easter afternoon has been passed on to these men through the sacrament of Holy Orders.  That means that Christ is the one you meet in confession.  And he comes not just to forgive, but to heal, to liberate, strengthen and transform.


Divine Mercy, Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church, Marcellino D'Ambrosio, ConfessionHis merciful love means that he died not just to “cover our sins,” to wipe them off God’s record book, leaving us the same miserable creatures we’d always been.  No, his mercy kills, the infection, heals the wound, and breaks the bonds.


In the sacrament of reconciliation, Jesus invites us penitents, like he did Lazarus, to come out of the place of darkness and decay.  And he says to his priestly confessors the same thing he said to the people standing around Lazarus’s tomb: “unbind him, and let him go free!”


That’s divine mercy.  I don’t know about you, but I want as much of it as I can get!



Are you a Doubting Thomas?


Do you need some more Divine Mercy?

Doubting Thomas - Cycle A

Divine Mercy Sunday Devotion - Cycle B


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This article on Divine Mercy Sunday originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor  on the Octave of Easter and is reprinted here with permission.


This Divine Mercy article is featured in the Easter Season and Prayer and Spirituality sections of The Crossroads Initiative Libary, for other articles by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, CLICK HERE. 


For readings from the Early Church Fathers about Easter and other many other subjects visit The Crossroads Library.  


To read Our Holy Father's writing on Sister Faustina Kowalska, promoter of the Divine Mercy Devotion, who was Cannonized a Saint on April 30, 2000, CLICK HERE!


To read more on Divine Mercy be sure to check out these articles by Marcellino:

Truly Catholic Mercy

Meaning of Mercy

Want information on the Works of Mercy and what they are? Click Here!


Download and Print The Prodigal Son

Click here to download and print Divine Mercy.


For more Catholic resources to feed your faith, visit the Crossroads Initiative Homepage.

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Who Needs Confession?

b Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Who Needs Confession CD, sacrament of penance and reconciliation y: Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

Since this talk dispels many of the common misconceptions about this sacrament, it has helped many find their way back to confession and has helped others find greater fruitfulness and frequency in their celebration of this sacrament. 



 Sacrament of Confirmation Sacrament of Champions, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio RCIA, Catholic Church, Confirmation Confirmation - The Sacrament of Champions 

Confirmation is often called the "Sacrament of the Spirit."  If we've already received the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism, why do we need the sacrament of confirmation? What is the purpose and meaning of this sacramental anointing? What difference should confirmation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit make in our lives? These questions and more are answered by this dynamic talk appropriate for both teens and adults.



Go In Peace - Father Mitch Pacwa Confession, Reconcilation, Penance, Father Mitch Pacwa

Confession, Penance, Reconciliation. The ancient Sacrament of Penance is called any names but has one purpose—the forgiveness of sins. In this much-needed book, Fr. Mitch Pacwa and Sean Brown put all the confusion and anxiety to rest by answering the most common questions and objections to this indispensable sacrament.


God's Seven Gifts: The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church - 6 CD Set
 God's 7 Gifts |The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church | 6 CD set on liturgy and sacraments The Catholic Church has always emphasized how important the seven sacraments are for our lives. Yet many take these 7 sacraments for granted. With little understanding of the sacraments, many are simply going through the motions. This CD will give you new insight into the meaning of these seven unique embraces of divine love that will unlock the power of the sacraments in your life!


 Divine Mercy - Kitty Cleveland Divine Mercy - Kitty Cleveland
Includes Kitty singing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with the St. Joseph Children's Choir to original music; "In the Breaking of the Bread"; and "I Place My Trust in You", as well as Kitty's testimony of God's Divine Mercy in her life.



 Mercy Minutes with Jesus Mercy Minutes with Jesus
Fr. George Kosicki, CSB, a well-known speaker and authority on the Diary and The Divine Mercy message and devotion, has compiled key passages of Jesus' own words to St. Faustina, following themes such as trust, deeds of mercy, and humble simplicity.




Why Be Catholic? (CD) Why NOT to leave the Catholic Church
 Why be Catholic? by Catholic theologian Marcellino D'Ambrosio exploring the catholic church Marcellino D'Ambrosio's personal pilgrimage of faith from nominal Catholic teen rock 'n roller to active and vibrant faith in Christ, and why he decided to remain in the Catholic church. 60 min. compact disc.






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