What I’m exploring here today is something I don’t fully understand myself, but I think it might help me if I put some thoughts down “on paper”.
Jesus told Sister Faustina, “I desire that this image be displayed in public on the first Sunday after Easter. That Sunday is the Feast of Mercy.” [Diary, Notebook I, No. 88] Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose the first Sunday after Easter and declared that it was the Feast of Mercy? This particular Sunday has other names as well, one of which is Low Sunday. Out of curiosity, I looked up Low Sunday in an old missal, one from prior to Vatican II, to see if there were any significant differences. One important difference that I found was that the Gospel, prior to Vatican II, opened with a Lesson from the Epistle of St. John the Apostle (First Letter of John, Chapter 5). I will just quote a small portion of it, to show you what we would have heard back then that we do not hear today:
“This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit which testifieth that Christ is the truth. And there are three who give testimony in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. And there are three that give testimony on earth; the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three are one.”
Even if you were to look up the First Letter of John, Ch. 5 in a current Bible, you would not find it translated (at least in the versions I looked at) as precisely as it is stated in the old missal.
And so we have Jesus choosing to establish Divine Mercy Sunday on a day in which we were traditionally being taught about water and blood, the Holy Spirit, and the Trinity. As I was pondering all these things, I took a look at what some bloggers had been saying about Divine Mercy Sunday over the last couple of years. I noticed some disturbing comments, two in particular – one from a priest who said that Divine Mercy Sunday, “changed nothing liturgically”, and another from someone who said that Divine Mercy Sunday had, “absolutely no effect on the liturgical celebration”, that it was only a devotion with an indulgence attached. Perhaps it is true that the devotion does not really change the liturgy of the day, but it changes our hearts, and immersion in the Divine Mercy message helps us understand the message of today’s gospel on a deeper level. Inclusion of the former passage from the First Letter of John would do so to an even greater degree.
In my post last year for Divine Mercy Sunday, if you had asked me why I included a picture of the Holy Trinity and a link to the beautiful Thrice Holy Hymn, I couldn’t have told you. I only did what the Spirit moved me to do. Today, I think I understand a little bit better.
At the risk of turning this post into a tome, I would just also like to share something with you from The Revelations of St. Gertrude the Great, from the entry for Low Sunday, which reinforces my glimpse of an understanding as to why Jesus chose this day. The entry opens with the words of Jesus, and continues with St. Gertrude’s understanding of His message:
“If you desire to receive the Holy Ghost…you must touch My Side and My Hands, like My disciples.” By this she understood that he who desires to receive the Holy Spirit must first touch the Side of Our Lord – that is, he must acknowledge how much the Divine Heart has loved us in having predestinated us from eternity to be His children and heirs of His kingdom, and in pouring forth such benefits upon us daily, notwithstanding our ingratitude…”