There’s something kind of sad about the Second Sunday of Easter.
Even though Pope John Paul II in the year 2000 designated this day as Divine Mercy Sunday, and the Congregation for Divine Worship issued a clarifying Decree in 2001 which spoke of the “duty of priests to inform parishioners, hear confessions, and lead prayers” specifically geared toward the Divine Mercy and the Plenary Indulgence made available on this day, many if not most parishes in the U.S. don’t give the Solemnity any real attention. I can only hope the situation is different in other parts of the world.
Where I live, there are only a handful of parishes that offer a liturgy on this day with the specific intention of celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday by displaying the image inspired by St. Faustina’s encounters with Christ or by preaching on the Lord’s tremendous promises concerning the remission of sin on this day, etc.
The unfortunate truth is that some pastors are flat out resistant to Divine Mercy Sunday, sometimes even treating those who seek its incorporation into the liturgy as some sort of kook fringe. Others reluctantly acquiesce by offering a solitary liturgy at a time of day that won’t “interfere” with the “regular” Mass schedule. But rare is the pastor who enthusiastically embraces the gift that’s been given by making Divine Mercy the liturgical centerpiece of every Mass offered in the parish on this wonderful day.
One might wonder why this is the case, but a look at the Lord’s incredible promise as given to St. Faustina offers a hint:
“On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment… even though its sins be as scarlet.” (Diary of Sr. Faustina – 699)
The promise is so profound and the stakes so high, it only stands to reason that we should expect the establishment of this Solemnity to be fraught with resistance and confusion, not merely on a human level, but on a spiritual one as well. Divine Mercy is where the rubber meets the road in the battle for souls, and so you better believe that Satan is doing everything in his power to deceive all concerned – bishops, pastors and laity alike.
As the Council warns, “But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie…” (LG 16)
Ambivalence toward Divine Mercy aside, just pulling onto the parish parking lot on the Second Sunday of Easter is a little bit sad. What a difference a week makes!
On Easter Sunday, throngs of joy filled people — often dressed in the kind of finery one might expect for a privileged encounter with Christ – flood our parishes. So much so that the parking lot is a zoo! And you can forget sitting in your “regular pew;” if you don’t arrive early enough, you might just find that it’s standing-room-only!
Sure, we all expect the following Sunday to offer a completely different scene, but there’s still that element of disappointment in it just the same.
This is just our modern culture in full view. Alleluias are a whole lot easier to say than mea culpas. Easter is fun; it feels good. Walking the way of the Cross? Not so much. We are the “want it now” generation of credit card debt and liposuction. We are a people who love the honeymoon, but shun the relationship. That we want to take part in the Resurrection apart from the Crucifixion is not all that surprising, I suppose.
The most disturbing thing about the Second Sunday of Easter isn’t just the small number of people who show up for Holy Mass, but the fact that huge numbers of people apparently don’t know that every Sunday liturgy is a solemn remembrance of the Lord’s sorrowful Passion and a joyous celebration of the His glorious Resurrection!
As the Council Fathers tell us:
Every week, on the day which Holy Mother Church has called the Lord’s Day, she keeps the memory of the Lord’s resurrection, which she also celebrates once in the year, together with His blessed passion, in the most solemn festival of Easter. (SC 102)
If only we could enlighten those who don’t yet know what is offered in every Holy Mass? If only we could help more people discover what Divine Mercy is all about? Let us pray for the opportunity and the grace to do just that and who knows; maybe next year we’ll have to struggle to find a place to park, not just on the Second Sunday of Easter, but all the Sundays to follow as well.