6 Ways to Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday is a significant feast in the Catholic Church, and it is celebrated on the second Sunday of the Easter season.

Contributing Writer
Updated Mar 22, 2024
6 Ways to Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday

Growing up in an evangelical church, we celebrated many Christian holidays. As I got older and had experience with other denominations and learned more about their traditions, I encountered other holidays and celebrations, all of them interesting in their own way. Divine Mercy Sunday is one of those. 

The Catholic Church especially had centuries to develop different holidays and traditions, honed and infused with meaning over time. I am thankful for my evangelical and somewhat Protestant upbringing, but evangelicalism is somewhat new, historically. Sincere believers in the Catholic Church found creative ways to express the narratives of Scripture and celebrate as a community. Despite a denominational label, followers of Jesus from centuries ago are still our brothers and sisters in Christ and can have something of value to teach us. 

Therefore, it is beneficial to take a moment to explore a holiday that is both new and obscure to some: Divine Mercy Sunday. 

What does the Bible say about God's mercy? 

The Bible portrays mercy as a central aspect of God's character and a foundational element of his relationship with humanity. As humans affected by the Fall, all have sinned, and because of our sin and rebellion, we deserve wrath. Ephesians 2:3 even says we were "children of wrath," a phrase poetically describing our source and identity with the punishment for sin we deserve. 

Mercy forgives and treats us with compassion despite what we deserve. 

In the Old Testament, God's mercy is often linked with his compassion and steadfast love for his people. The Psalms, in particular, are filled with expressions of gratitude for God's mercy and praise for his faithfulness. Psalm 103:8 declares, "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." God has patience and compassion toward his people, even in the face of their shortcomings and disobedience.

The prophets frequently point to God's mercy as a source of hope and salvation for Israel. Jeremiah reflects on God's compassion in the midst of suffering: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23). The unfailing nature of God's mercy is renewed each day and offers the promise of restoration and renewal.

In the New Testament, God's mercy is revealed in its fullest expression through the person of Jesus Christ. The Gospels recount numerous instances where Jesus demonstrates compassion and mercy towards those in need, healing the sick, forgiving sins, and reaching out to the marginalized and oppressed. In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), Jesus vividly portrays God's mercy as a father who eagerly welcomes his wayward son back into his loving embrace despite his rebellion and wrongdoing.

The apostle Paul expounds on the concept of God's mercy in his letters, emphasizing its central role in the plan of salvation. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, "For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all" (Romans 11:32). God's mercy extends to all humanity regardless of their background or status.

Jesus also teaches us to extend mercy, modeling our actions and compassion after God. "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36). This challenges believers to reflect his forgiving nature in their interactions with others.

What is Divine Mercy Sunday? 

Since God's mercy is the foundation of our salvation, God's people thank and praise the Father for his mercy. 

Divine Mercy Sunday is a significant feast in the Catholic Church, celebrated on the second Sunday of the Easter season. It honors the divine mercy of Jesus Christ, particularly as revealed to Saint Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who reported visions and messages from Jesus in the 1930s. Divine Mercy Sunday reminds believers of God's boundless love and forgiveness and encourages believers to seek His mercy with repentant hearts.

Saint Faustina reported visions of Jesus Christ as the Divine Mercy. In her "Divine Mercy in My Soul" diary, Faustina recorded Jesus' messages urging repentance and trust in his mercy. Christ instructed her to have an image painted according to his vision, with the inscription "Jesus, I trust in You." He also revealed prayers and promises associated with devotion to his mercy.

One significant message from Jesus to Saint Faustina was His desire for a feast day celebrating his mercy. He requested it be celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter, linking it to the solemnity of the Resurrection. Jesus promised extraordinary graces to those who participated in the feast and received the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion on that day.

Divine Mercy Sunday received official recognition in the Catholic Church through the efforts of Saint Faustina's spiritual director, Blessed Michael Sopocko, and the Archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, who later became Pope John Paul II. In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Saint Faustina and formally established Divine Mercy Sunday as a feast in the Catholic liturgical calendar.

Divine Mercy Sunday is significant because it invites believers to encounter God's mercy in a profound way. It reminds us of Jesus' promise of forgiveness and redemption for all who turn to him with contrite hearts. On this holiday, Catholics participate in the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion, reflecting on their sins and receiving God's mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation. 

The celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday typically includes special devotions such as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the veneration of the Divine Mercy image. Churches may also offer times for Eucharistic adoration and opportunities for individual confession. The faithful are encouraged to pray for God's mercy upon the whole world and to extend acts of mercy and compassion to others in their lives.

What does Easter teach us about God's mercy? 

Easter instructs us about God's mercy through Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection. This pivotal event in the Christian calendar serves as a powerful reminder of God's unfathomable love and compassion for humanity, as demonstrated through His Son's sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection.

At the heart of Easter lies the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, where he willingly offered himself as a perfect sacrifice for humanity's sins. Despite being sinless, Jesus bore the weight of humanity's transgressions on the cross, enduring unimaginable suffering and humiliation out of love for mankind. In this act of supreme sacrifice, God reveals the depths of his mercy and grace, offering forgiveness and redemption to all who believe in Him.

Through the lens of Easter, we see God's mercy knows no bounds and extends to all people, regardless of their past mistakes or shortcomings. The apostle Paul encapsulates this truth in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God's mercy is not contingent upon our worthiness or merit but flows freely from his compassionate heart. Instead of giving us the punishment we deserve, he took that upon himself. 

Easter demonstrates the transformative power of God's mercy to overcome sin and death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the ultimate victory over sin and the grave, offering the promise of new life and eternal salvation to all who believe. Peter proclaims, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).

Through the resurrection, God's mercy triumphs over judgment and offers the hope of reconciliation and restoration to a broken and fallen world. It reminds us that no sin is too great for God's mercy to forgive, and no circumstance is beyond the reach of His redeeming love.

Furthermore, Easter challenges us to respond to God's mercy with gratitude, repentance, and faith. In light of the immeasurable sacrifice made on our behalf, we are called to turn away from sin and embrace the gift of salvation offered through Jesus Christ, trusting in the resurrection when we die to sin. As the apostle Paul exhorts, "In view of God's mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Romans 12:1).

What are some ways Christians today can celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday? 

Christians celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday around the world in various ways. While the primary focus of Divine Mercy Sunday is on the Catholic tradition, Christians from other denominations may also choose to observe this day in their own unique ways, acknowledging the universal message of God's mercy revealed through Jesus Christ.

  1. Attending Church Services. On Divine Mercy Sunday, we can attend church services, where special prayers, hymns, and readings related to God's mercy are offered. Priests and pastors may preach sermons emphasizing the importance of repentance, forgiveness, and trust in God's mercy, drawing from Scripture and the teachings of saints such as Saint Faustina Kowalska.
  2. Receiving the Sacraments. Most churches regularly take Communion, so we can choose to receive the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday, following Jesus' instructions to Saint Faustina. Confession allows believers to repent of their sins and receive God's forgiveness, while Holy Communion strengthens their union with Christ and his Church. In a church tradition where we may not have an official confession booth, it is biblical, and we can participate in confession with pastors or a discipleship group. 
  3. Praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a powerful prayer composed by Saint Faustina. It consists of a series of prayers and meditations on Jesus Christ's passion, death, and resurrection. We can print this out and pray it on Divine Mercy Sunday, either individually or in the community, asking for God's mercy upon ourselves and the whole world.
  4. Venerating the Divine Mercy Image. The Divine Mercy image, depicting Jesus with rays of red and white light emanating from his heart, holds special significance on Divine Mercy Sunday. We might choose to venerate this image by displaying it prominently in their homes or churches, meditating on the love and mercy of God as revealed through Jesus Christ. We could also engage artists in our churches to express the image in different ways. 
  5. Engaging in Acts of Mercy: In addition to spiritual practices, Divine Mercy Sunday also calls Christians to engage in acts of mercy and compassion towards others. This may include reaching out to the poor, visiting the sick and elderly, offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us, and extending a helping hand to those in need. By imitating God's mercy in their own lives, we bear witness to the transformative power of God's love and grace when reaching out to others.
  6. Participating in Special Devotions. Some churches and religious communities organize special devotions or events to commemorate Divine Mercy Sunday. This may include processions or retreats focused on the theme of God's mercy and forgiveness. These gatherings provide opportunities for us to deepen our understanding of the Father's mercy and to draw closer to God in prayer and worship. 

While it may not be part of our church's tradition, intentionally meditating on God's mercy and boundless love around Easter brings us more peace and gratitude in our relationship with the Father. Through these practices, we affirm our trust in God's promise of redemption and salvation, and we are inspired to live lives of faith, hope, and love, reflecting the mercy of their gracious God to a world in need of mercy and hope.

Photo Credit:  Kalawin from Getty Images via Canva Pro

Britt MooneyBritt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.


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