A Note From Fr. Timothy
Divine Mercy Sunday
Most Catholics know that one of the Precepts of the Church is to go to confession at least once a year. The Precepts of the Church are those minimum requirements that Catholics are to do regarding the Church. Unfortunately, I think there are all too many Catholics who conflate the minimum requirements with the maximum and will do no more then what they are required to do. If the precepts require that we go to confession at least once a year – then once each year is all they will ever darken the door of the confessional.
But the precepts are given to us as a place to start, not to finish. We should have the goal to build on those basic requirements, that our faith might truly take center place in our lives and be ever more evident to the world around us. The precepts say that we are to attend Mass every Sunday and each Holy Day of Obligation, and it is good for us to do so. But if we were able to attend Masses during the week, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist more often than just the minimum, it would only help grow our relationship with Christ and our love for the Blessed Sacrament.
It is kind of like if the Church came out and said that since ice cream is so good, everyone should have a serving of it at least once a year (or whatever other delectables you care to substitute). People around the world would hopefully come to appreciate ice cream even more and they would willingly choose to partake in it more often than just the minimum.
The same is true for the sacrament of reconciliation. Going once a year is a good thing, but it is just the minimum expectation. The hope of the Church is that we will take advantage of the graces offered far more often than just once in a year. In fact, there can be something joyous about not having that much to confess in the confessional because you went to the sacrament just a week or two ago. It can help us see the evidence that God is at work in our lives and within our hearts to help us avoid the temptations of sin and even the near occasions of it. It also continues to strengthen our resolve to sin no more, to be holy as God has called us to be.
Divine Mercy Sunday is the Sunday after Easter Sunday, which follows the penitential season of Lent. Lent is a time for us to prepare for the celebration of the most sacred time of the liturgical year in the Triduum and the Octave of Easter. As part of that preparation, it is good for us to go to confession and so prepare to receive the Eucharist at those great feasts (cf. the first Precept of the Church). So it might seem odd to have Divine Mercy Sunday with its emphasis on God’s mercy and going to confession, so close to the season in which most Catholics already go to confession.
I think that Divine Mercy Sunday is a reminder for us all that we should not be focusing only on the minimum requirements of the Church, but instead see the goodness and value of frequent reception of the sacraments. This Sunday is an opportunity for us to experience again for ourselves how good it can be to be forgiven of our sins. Even if you do not have that many sins to confess, or if you do not know of any mortal sins on your conscience, and even if it has only been a few days since your last confession, I still encourage you to go to the sacrament and partake in that Divine Mercy of God. Rejoice that God’s mercy is so abundant, and let it inspire you to receive it even more often.
Fr. Timothy Gapinski