By Archbishop William E. Lori
As you and your family arrived at your parish for Easter Sunday Mass, you may have noticed that the parking lot was more crowded than usual. In fact, the church was probably filled to overflowing. You may have even had trouble finding a seat in church, especially if you arrived just before Mass began (or perhaps a bit later). As I celebrate Easter Sunday Mass for an overflow crowd, I am always happy to see so many people filling the pews. Yet, in many parishes, the crowds are gone on the following Sunday, which traditionally is called “Low Sunday.”
I earnestly hope and pray that you will not see it that way. Every Sunday is a day when the church celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, his defeat of sin and death, and every Sunday is a time when families should pull themselves together and aim for an on-time arrival at Mass. In an era when Mass attendance is in decline, we should make it a priority to take part in Mass every Sunday and to do our best to ensure that our family members and extended families take part in Sunday Mass.
Given the importance of Sunday Mass, I would also point out the special significance of the Second Sunday of Easter for every Catholic but in a special way for every Catholic family. Since the days of St. John Paul II it has become known as “Divine Mercy Sunday,” and it is a wonderful key to the church’s extended celebration of Easter.
After all, during Holy Week and on Easter Sunday, the church remembers and, in a certain sense, re-lives the Lord’s victory over sin and death. Easter is a celebration of the Lord’s merciful love, a love that is tender and personal and yet a love that is so strong that it triumphs over sin and death. After Easter Sunday, we don’t simply want to return to “business as usual” – living as if the Lord had not come into the world, living as if he had not died for our sins, living as if he had not rose up in triumph – giving each of us the possibility of finding mercy and forgiveness, and the restoration of true joy in our lives.
Divine Mercy is very important for the divided and violent world in which we live. In the early years of the 20th century, a Polish sister named Sister Faustina Kowalska received extraordinary revelations concerning the mercy of God. She captured this message of Divine Mercy and it was given through her to a world then in the grip of violent wars and totalitarian governments. The message of mercy is no less necessary in our times, for we live in a world constantly threatened by terrorism, religious persecution and an unmerciful secularism which, in the words of the late Cardinal Francis George, “permits everything and forgives nothing.”
All of which leads us back to Divine Mercy Sunday. As with every Sunday, Holy Mass – in which we celebrate the triumph of mercy – is central. But it is also a time when many people receive the sacrament of penance, take part in eucharistic adoration and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and pray together the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. (Click here for a guide.)
Many young people have never experienced devotions outside of Mass, especially Benediction. Given the chance to open their hearts to Christ, many young people choose to do so.
My prayer is that you and your family will rejoice in the power of God’s merciful love and become agents of his mercy in our world!
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