SANDY — The Sunday following Easter was designated Divine Mercy Sunday by Pope John Paul II in 2000, the same year that he canonized St. Faustina Kowalska, whose visions of Christ speaking of his mercy led to the creation of the feast. The Church offers a plenary indulgence to those who devotedly observe the day, pray to the merciful Jesus, receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, recite the Our Father and the Creed, and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.
In the Diocese of Salt Lake City, several parishes traditionally celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. This year, Bishop Oscar A. Solis joined the gathering at St. Thomas More Parish in Sandy, where he was the main celebrant of the Mass. Concelebrants were Father John Evans, the parish pastor, and Dominican Father Dominic Briese, chaplain of Judge Memorial Catholic High School. Deacon John Keyser was Deacon of the Mass; Deacon Lynn Johnson was Master of Ceremonies.
Prior to the Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation was offered, and the lines were such that it continued for almost two hours.
At the beginning of the Mass, Bishop Solis blessed the image of the Divine Mercy with holy water. It was then placed to the side of the altar.
During his homily, Bishop Solis pointed out that the readings for the day (Acts 4:32-35, 1 Jn 5:1-6 and Jn 20:19-31) “speak very clearly about God’s mercy.” In the Gospel reading, Jesus appears to the disciples, who are cowering in fear behind locked doors after the crucifixion, but rather than shaming or punishing them for abandoning him, Christ offers them his peace.
“What a beautiful manifestation of God’s mercy and God’s forgiveness,” Bishop Solis said, adding that St. John Paul II explained that divine mercy is the ultimate manifestation of God’s love in history. “This is a very important teaching, making us understand that mercy is the very essence of God’s existence and God’s love for us,” he said.
A second message in the bishop’s homily was that “God never gets tired of forgiveness. In spite of humanity’s endless litany of sins and transgressions of God’s commandments, Our Lord never gets tired of forgiving us,” he said, and the image of Divine Mercy reveals this.
The feast of Divine Mercy “reminds us of God’s invitation to open our hearts and receive God’s embracing love,” the bishop said. “The simple message of this feast is quite clear: God loves us – all of us. His mercy is greater than our sins, and God calls upon us to trust and receive his mercy, even if we don’t have proof; to believe in him with such trust and confidence that we won’t need any other proof other than understanding that Christ has already proven his love and mercy for us by his suffering, death and resurrection. So today, let us renew our trust in God’s mercy and open our hearts to his saving love.”
After the Mass, Greg Werking, who organized the event, said the bishop’s homily tied in beautifully with the message of mercy. This year’s celebration was the best they have had, he said.
“We measure how successful Divine Mercy Sunday is by how many people that don’t go to church come back to church, come back to Confession and start receiving the sacraments. And by the long lines that we had for Confession and the people that seemed to be new to the church, we got the feeling that we were bringing a lot of people back to the church, which brings great joy to me,” he said.
Among those who attended was Isaac Romero, who brought his two children. A parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes in Magna, Romero said he has been attending Divine Mercy celebrations for two years because he has felt God’s divine mercy poured out on him.
After attending the Mass and receiving the plenary indulgence, “you just feel blessed. Very blessed,” said Barbara Granja, a St. Thomas More parishioner who has been attending the Divine Mercy Sunday celebration for at least four years.
“We love the Divine Mercy devotion,” said Carol Sanderson, a St. Vincent de Paul parishioner who attended with her family. “It’s a great time for our family to come together and go to Confession together and enjoy the beauty and the grace of the day.”
In his comments at the end of the Mass, Fr. Evans prayed that “we all not only receive the mercy of God but go and share it with others.”