On April 30, 2000, Pope St. John Paul II designated the second Sunday after Easter to be a celebration of Divine Mercy. Why this day? This is the day which the Church proclaims that Jesus, “the first and the last,” whom we put to death by our sins, comes through our locked doors in order to offer us the peace of reconciliation. This extraordinary mercy, of course, is nothing new. In fact, immediately after the original sin of Adam and Eve, God shows his mercy towards them by giving them, as one ancient translation (the Targums) says, “garments of glory” (Gen. 3:21) on their way out of Eden. Time and time again, God offers his chosen people mercy which they do not deserve.
But he offers this new reconciliation to the Church in a particular way. St. John tells us that Jesus breathed on the Eleven and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Thus, he gives the apostles the power to forgive (or not forgive!) sins, which would be organically developed into what we know today as the sacrament of reconciliation.
This most important sacrament is the ordinary means by which all sins, but especially mortal sins, are forgiven. There are many and various ways that venial sins can be forgiven (such as receiving the Eucharist and/or making an act of contrition), but mortal sins, due to their gravity, require the sacrament of reconciliation for forgiveness (CCC 1455-1458). We do not need to have any doubt about whether our sins are forgiven in this sacrament. When the priest says, “I absolve you from your sins,” it is Christ himself who is speaking, not merely the priest. As Jesus revealed to St. Faustina, “When the priest acts in My place, he does not act of himself, but I act through him” (Diary, 331).
There is no more fitting time to go to confession than on Divine Mercy Sunday. So let us all take the time to examine our consciences and to renew our commitment to total conversion by approaching this sacrament with total confidence in God’s infinite mercy!