Second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday

08 April 2024

Appears in: Messages and Homilies

Second Sunday of Easter

Divine Mercy Sunday


[Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 118; 1John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31]

Today we surround our beloved parishioners, who are celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation. To receive the message of God’s Word, I invite us all to consider first one particular element of the Rite of Confirmation itself, and then place it against the backdrop of the Gospel passage for this mass.

Specifically, let’s focus upon the renewal of baptismal promises, which our candidates will make momentarily. This is a beautiful moment, because it affords the candidates the occasion to profess publicly their Christian faith. Everyone will remember that we all did the same thing last week on Easter Sunday during the Solemn Mass of the Resurrection. We, too, rose and made a public declaration of the faith we profess and our commitment to accept all that Jesus has revealed and do all he has commanded. What is the significance of this, not only for those to be confirmed but also for us all?

The renewal of baptismal promises unfolds in question-and-answer form. First, our candidates will be asked, as we were, “Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty show?” In other words, do you, in your thoughts, actions, choices, relationships, and so on say “No!” to all that is evil and contrary to the love of God? To this we all readily reply, “I do!” Then they are asked, as we were: do you believe in God the Father as Creator of all that is, in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our crucified and risen Lord, in the Holy Spirit as the breath of life, and in God’s saving plan as revealed by Jesus? To all of this, they say again, as we did, “I do!” In other words, we are a people who say “yes” to God, “yes” to who He is, “yes” to the truth He has made known to us in Jesus, and “yes” to how He commands us to live. In short, by our answers we proclaim we are a people who strive always to say “Yes” to God, and “No” to evil.

However, we know from experience that we often get this backward. There are many times in our lives when our actions show that we are saying “no” to God and “yes” to Satan. It is important to acknowledge this, because here we touch the reason our world is in such disarray. The rejection of God’s love and refusal to follow His commandments form the root cause of the widespread injustice, societal division, moral confusion, and wars among nations that have plagued history and mar our present time. By our own “No” to God we contribute in some way to this sad state of affairs. Only by getting the answers right in all aspects of our daily living, only by a careful and deliberate commitment always to say “yes” to God and “no” to evil, will the multiple wrongs of our world be righted.

At the same time, experience also convinces us that we cannot do this without help. Human weakness continues to get the answers mixed up. But God is also aware of our need, and out of His great love sends to us the One who can straighten us out and keep us always on the right path. That One is the Holy Spirit, poured out today as pure gift upon those who are to be confirmed. So, let us all pray that our candidates will be fully open and receptive to this wondrous gift, and docile always to the Holy Spirit’s daily promptings to say “yes” to the love and fidelity of God, and “no” to the lies and deception of Satan.

Now, when we consider all of this in light of the Gospel passage for today, another aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work emerges. Not only does he prompt us to get the answers right and say “yes” to God; He also brings God’s forgiveness of our sins when we get the answers wrong. We hear Jesus, the Risen Lord, say to his apostles, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” The Church has always understood that this action by Jesus is his institution of the Sacrament of Penance, in which we confess our sins and are set free from them by God’s forgiveness, bestowed by the Holy Spirit through the ministry of the priest, who acts in the person of Jesus.

This is Divine Mercy Sunday, a day established by Saint John Paul II, who wanted in this way for the whole Church to reflect upon God’s great mercy toward us, the assurance of which was communicated in a special way to Saint Faustina. The “yes” we give to God embraces our awareness that we are in constant need of mercy, and our confidence that, when we are truly repentant for the many ways we instead say “no” to Him, God will surely send us the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of our sins.

As our candidates for Confirmation now stand and renew their baptismal promises, let us all do the same. Together, let us thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who unites to Jesus, our Risen Lord, prompts us to stay always faithful to him, and brings to our human frailty the divine mercy without which we cannot live.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

Saint Martin, Heisler, Our Lady of the Prairies, Daysland, and Saint Joseph, Killam

April 6-7th, 2024