It is very fitting that the Church celebrates today – on the octave day of Easter – the wonderful mercy of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. At the Easter Vigil the Church burst in a prayer of praise and exultation calling on all creation to join in rejoicing:

Rejoice O earth, in shining splendour
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you
Darkness vanishes for ever! – Alleluia.

Rejoice O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The Risen Saviour shines upon you!

The cause for this great joy is the fact that Christ has conquered sin and death. As we look around our world or, indeed, just look within our own hearts we can often be discouraged and feel overwhelmed by the darkness of sin and selfishness. But the great truth which we celebrate at Easter, and especially today on Divine Mercy Sunday, is that no matter how many sins weigh on our conscience we have only to turn to Jesus and mercy and forgiveness are ours – what a wonderful cause of joy and peace and thanksgiving!!

When the Risen Jesus appears to the apostles on Easter Sunday evening He breathes on them and says:

“Receive the Holy Spirit
for those whose sins you forgive
they are forgiven
for those whose sins you retain
they are retained” (Jn 20:19 – 31)

It is interesting that St John has Jesus appear to the disciples where they are locked away behind closed doors – terrified! Again this detail can be encouraging for us who sometimes feel too frightened to open the door of our heart to the Lord – He can come inside the locked doors of our insecurity and fear and obstinacy with His healing love and mercy.

At the renewal of our Baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil, among other questions we were asked “Do you believe in the forgiveness of sins?” and we answer “I do” – this is the cause of our joy for we are freed of the burden of sin and given a new life in Christ Jesus and are now called to extend the forgiveness which we have experienced in our own lives to our brothers and sisters as the letter to the Colosians reminds us:

You are the people of God; He loved you and chose you for His own. So then, you must put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be helpful to one another, and forgive one another, whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must gorgive each other in the same way that the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. And be thankful.

See also a reflection on the icon of the Merciful Christ, through the eyes of St Catherine of Siena – on the Reflections page of our main website –