Sometimes it happens that I become troubled over what to say in my weekly Descant, now running well over twenty years. Writing for the Sunday after Easter poses no such problem. It’s always Divine Mercy Sunday, even before it became so titled. The Gospel for this Mass in the old and new rite as well presents the recollection of the happenings in the upper room on Easter night. How thoughtful, so to say, that our Lord’s visit to His trembling apostles should have been for the express purpose of endowing them with the divine ability to remit sins. His explanation to them in doing this was that since He had been sent into the world by His Father for this very reason, He was in turn sending the apostles unto the same end: to forgive the sins of men. Not being familiar with Protestant biblical exegetes (scholars who probe the meaning of biblical texts), I don’t know how they, who neither believe in Confession nor have it, explain away the Catholic teaching on this biblical episode wherein certain men–ordained–were clearly given the ability and duty to perform a divine service on behalf of men by wiping out their sins–acts which are properly speaking God’s alone. This they were to do, or not do, as circumstances allowed or disallowed. Just as in the time of our Lord some people were disposed to receive forgiveness while others were not, so it has been in succeeding ages. “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them; whose sins you retain they are retained,” He told the eleven apostles. That’s unsettling, is it not, that there are some whose sins were to be “retained,” that is, not forgiven? The sacraments of the Church are unlike magical formulas which make their effects without human cooperation. In the sacraments, and in Confession in particular, have necessary conditions to be effective: there must be real priests to do absolving and real repentant people seeking their absolution. Lacking this reality there is no forgiveness of sins.
We have in our time the lamentable circumstance of some priests being unwilling to hear Confessions (or believing them unnecessary) and of some lay people unwilling to seek absolution for their sins from priests. Both are attempting ‘other ways’ to be disburdened of sins–ways other than Christ established by instituting this Sacrament. Priests, for example, have attempted general absolution without hearing Confessions, while lay people have tried to be forgiven through the secretiveness of their private prayers. Forgiveness, however, can’t be had on man’s terms, but on God’s–on Him who does the pardoning. Vain therefore are attempts to circumvent the divinely ordained terms upon which forgiveness of sins is obtained.
This is the time designated for divine mercy (not that it has an exclusive season outside of which mercy cannot be come by; one can confess to a priest anytime). In our day when the situation is such as I have outlined it above (viz., priests and people unwilling to do what forgiveness requires them to do), the Church has established a special period of divine mercy from Good Friday through today, Mercy Sunday. You need divine mercy because you sin; you need Confession to be rid of your sins. If you say you have no sins, you’re a liar: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Conclusion: people who are honest with themselves go to Confession.
Easter thanks are due to so many people who made the Great Week possible, especially in consideration of the solemn way we go about it in our parish. The Lord knows who you are and what you did for Him. The reward be yours in heaven!
An addendum. Responding to repeated requests, we will now have the Tuesday and Thursday evening Masses in the Tridentine (“extraordinary”) form. These are the two evening Masses for which the Holy Cross fathers were the celebrants. Because they did not offer Mass in the old rite, we had those Masses in the new Latin form. Now with your two parish priests assuming the whole Mass load, we can respond to those requests from our parishioners and offer the Tridentine Mass every weekday evening.