1. Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained (John 20:22-23). With these words, Jesus gave the authority to forgive sins to the Church. As Catholics, we believe to this authority is exercised through the ministry of priests in the Sacrament of Penance. Many people fear this sacrament, mainly because of not wanting to admit their sins to another person. On the other hand, many others have found that humbly revealing their sins in Confession and receiving absolution a source of great healing and even joy.
2. Certainly when Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave them the Gift of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins, He was not intending to terrorize the world. Rather our Lord desired to pour His Divine Mercy on the world. God’s mercy motivated the Father to send His only Son into the world to save it. His Divine Mercy is what motivated Jesus to heal the sick, feed the hungry and associate with sinners. Mercifully our Lord sent out His apostles to anoint and heal the sick and expell demons. In His mercy for sinners, Jesus the Son of God offered Himself on the cross, dying to destroy our death, and rising to restore our life. In His mercy, Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after His resurrection and said Peace be with you, and filled them with joy (John 20:19-20).
3. The Risen Jesus sent His apostles into the world to teach and baptize all nations so that all people might be able to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness in their lives. It is then that same mercy that is operative in the Sacrament of Penance through which the sins of those who are already baptized are forgiven and we are returned to the purity with which God graced us on the day we were born again by water and the Holy Spirit (see John 3:5).
4. As a penitent, I have experienced God’s mercy so many times. In spite of my sins, the Lord has not just accepted me, not just forgiven me, but taken the sins away so that I am no longer guilty. That does not mean that I am not tempted or that there is no possibility of doing the same thing again. It means that I am no longer burdened by the past and I can start fresh. And as long as we are truly sorry for our sins, God will always forgive us and absolves us of our sins.
5. As a priest, I have witnessed God’s mercy and love in the confessional too. People humbly present throw themselves at the mercy of God, and receive it. Even when I do not know what to say, God helps me as a confessor with words of comfort and advice. But most importantly with the authority to take the guilt away so that the sin no longer oppresses a person.
6. Today is known as Divine Mercy Sunday. God’s mercy endures forever (Psalm 136, often translated mercy in place of love) and it is available always. But today is a special day to recall the quality and the quantity of God’s mercy. To confidently call upon our Lord for His mercy for ourselves and others who most need it. When our Lord appeared to Saint Faustina, He commanded her to paint a picture of Himself with red and white rays coming forth from His Sacred Heart. At the bottom were to be the words Jesus, I trust in You. Jesus asks that those who meditate on this image to reflect on Jesus’ Mercy and to trust in His mercy. In spite of all the sorrows that we endure as the result of sin, others and our own, God wants to share with us His mercy. And He has given that mercy as a gift to the Church to share with others.