The Second Sunday of Easter or The Sunday of Divine Mercy
First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 5:12-16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Second Reading: Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19
Gospel: According to St. John 20:19-31
What on earth could comedian Jim Gaffigan, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Harry Connick, Jr., Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles Robert Barron, and author and Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculee Ilibagiza have in common?
What they have in common is a painting. The painting is of Jesus, but a very particular image of Jesus – that of the Divine Mercy. These four people and almost three dozen others ranging from cardinals, bishops and spiritual directors to artists, journalists and ambassadors are part of a film project known as “The Original Image of Divine Mercy.”
This weekend we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, instituted in 2000 by St. John Paul II on the occasion of the canonization of a Polish nun, Sr. Faustina Kowalska. St. Faustina came from a humble background and was deemed unfit for any but the simplest tasks in her convent – working in the kitchen or vegetable garden and acting as the house porter. Despite her low station, or probably because of it, our Lord appeared to her beginning in February 1931, and conveyed a message that has the power to change lives unsurpassed since the Resurrection.
The message is simple: God’s mercy is greater than any of our sins, to ask for His mercy is to receive it, and to receive it is to share in God’s eternal joy.
Various devotions derive from the message given to Faustina. The Hour of Great Mercy, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and The Divine Mercy Novena all share a focus on remembering that the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross was the ultimate act of God’s love and mercy. These devotions have increased in popularity over the past three pontificates, with the declaration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy by Pope Francis in 2015 making them commonplace in many parishes, including my own home at St. Vincent de Paul Parish.
In His first visit to St. Faustina, Jesus showed her an image that He wanted her to have painted as a visible reminder of His mercy. This image is the subject of the film mentioned above. So many renditions of the Divine Mercy image have come down to us over the past eighty-five years that the original image, the only one that St. Faustina ever saw, had been forgotten. The film explores the journey that the original image has taken, as well as the theology behind the image.
Many of those interviewed in the film are people who have an expertise in theology or art, but some of them are simply Catholics with a devotion to the Divine Mercy. Comedian Jim Gaffigan astutely points out that the black background of the original painting is a perfect symbol of the world in which we live, a world invaded by the Light of Christ – serious stuff from a man whose career was made by mocking Hot Pockets and extolling the virtues of bacon. Of course he also jokes about the painting, “Here’s how I’d want to change it…”
None of us has ever seen Jesus face-to-face, but this film enables us to see what St. Faustina saw and to contemplate the love that shines upon us every day. A light so bright that even a self-proclaimed “noble ape” like Jim Gaffigan can bask in the warmth of Christ’s Divine Mercy.