April 7, 2017
Although Divine Mercy Sunday is a feast that has its origin in the lives of two saints of the twentieth century, St. Faustina Kowalska and Pope St. John Paul II, a charming story about another saint from centuries prior never fails to come to my mind when I think about God's untiring desire to forgive our sins and heal us with His love.
When St. Margaret Mary Alacoque began to receive visions from Jesus about devotion to His Most Sacred Heart, she sought a good confessor with whom to discuss her visions and to provide her with spiritual direction. That priest, Fr. Claude de la Colombière, asked for proof of her visions: he instructed her to ask God to reveal to her the last sin that he had asked forgiveness for in confession. Margaret Mary agreed to this request, and put this question to Jesus the next time He appeared to her.
And Jesus' answer, according to the story? "I have forgotten."
Whether true or merely a poetical embellishment upon St. Margaret Mary's life, I love this story because it makes it hard for me to forget the depth of God's mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation: "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us" (Ps. 103:12)! The Gospels are full of yet more vivid imagery that Jesus uses to emphasize his love for sinners—the lost sheep, the lost coin, the Prodigal Son. All of these, stories and saints' lives and Scripture alike, reassure us of God's love, love that takes the name of mercy when we have sinned, and becomes a marvelous "forgetfulness" after we have been forgiven.
As we prepare to rejoice in Christ's Resurrection at Easter and to give thanks for God's mercy in our lives a week later, on Divine Mercy Sunday, we might also consider praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for all who are involved in the destruction of human life. Pray for their repentance and return to God's love. Often, they struggle with guilt and grief long, long after confessing and asking forgiveness from God. Some struggle to even believe themselves worthy of such forgiveness. But no one is beyond the Lord's forgiveness. No one is beyond the love of a God who became man and died to atone for every sin, who pursues each of us with His love and mercy all our days. We should always remember this reason for our joy at Easter, this reason we celebrate a feast of mercy.
Caitlin Thomas is a staff assistant for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For Divine Mercy Sunday prayers and reflections, visit: www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/prayers/divine-mercy-sunday.cfm.