“So the other disciples said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’
But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’”
For big feasts in the church, and Easter is the biggest, we celebrate for eight days, or an octave. The Octave of Easter finds it completion today. We could certainly go more in depth, but creation took six days and on the seventh, the Lord God rested from all the work he had accomplished. The sabbath, the day of rest or the seventh day, was set aside for rest and worship of God. On the first day of the week, the day following the sabbath, Jesus rose from the dead, a new first day of creation, the Lord’s day or Sunday. It is the eighth day from the original beginning of creation and an octave became the way we recall salvation history from the first day of creation to the resurrection of Jesus, from the Lord’s day to the Lord’s day. Sunday to Sunday.
The second Sunday of Easter, the end of the Octave of Easter, has also been designated by the church as the Feast of the Divine Mercy. God’s mercy, present from before creation as an eternal attribute of God in the Trinity, found its greatest revelation in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The ultimate gift of mercy for us. It is, perhaps at the same time, both the greatest attribute of God and the hardest for us to comprehend. We have an easier time grasping God’s justice, that a good God cannot abide evil. That God’s power is most fully exercised in mercy, forgiveness, and grace isn’t how we normally experience power. Yet it is the very heart of the resurrection, even expressed by Jesus on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Mercy is God’s greatest gift, the greatest exercise of his power.
The devotion to Divine Mercy, however, had a relatively late and obscure beginning. On August 25, 1905, Helena Kowalska was born as the third of ten children to a family on a farm in the small village of Głogowiec, Poland. In 1924, she had a vision of the scourged Jesus calling her to religious life and entered the Congregation of the sisters of Our Lady of Mercy as Sr. Faustina, taking her perpetual vows in 1933. She dies in 1938. Sr. Faustina had a vision of Jesus asking her to paint the image of Divine Mercy and had regular revelations from Jesus which she recorded in her diary. When published, her diary was placed on the list of banned books by the church and the devotion to Divine Mercy was banned from 1959 to 1978 during which time an investigation was completed by the Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, soon to become Pope (and later Saint) John Paul II. Cleared of theological errors, the devotion was received by the church, spread worldwide, and Sr. Faustina was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000. The Feast of the Divine Mercy was celebrated throughout the world for the first time in 2001. It is a story of God’s providence for us to grasp more fully the attribute of God’s mercy.
From Saint Faustina’s diary, “All grace flows from mercy, and the last hour abounds with mercy for us. Let no one doubt concerning the goodness of God; even if a person’s sins were as dark as night, God’s mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary; that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest.” (No. 1507)