Saturday, April 30, 2011

White Sunday--Second Sunday of Easter--Divine Mercy

  We are coming upon the Second Sunday of Easter, a Sunday which in recent years has been called  Divine Mercy Sunday because of the devotion of the Polish St. Faustina, canonized by Pope John Paul II.  I struggle with this designation.  Now that may sound like I'm against mercy, as well as being against motherhood and apple pie.  Needless to say if anything helps someone who has strayed from God and the Church to find their way back I'm all for that, and the text of the Gospel includes Jesus' words to the apostles, "Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you  forgive,  are forgiven them."  (Jn 20,23) This text is the basis for calling it Divine Mercy Sunday.

   My problem then is not with the idea of mercy, but because it sets aside the centuries old notion of Whitsun, or White Sunday, a day when the newly baptized from the Easter Vigil were presented to the community in their white baptismal robes.  In the bulletin from my summer parish, St. Peter the Fisherman in Eagle River, WI, Fr. Bob Koszarek, the pastor there,  points out that in Europe the day is often set aside for First Communion which like Baptism is also a Sacrament of Initiation.  St. Peter's will be celebrating First Communion on that day as well, a very nice way of keeping that tradition.

   White Sunday then  is to be about Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.  Reconciliation is, of course, a Sacrament, but a Sacrament that is emphasized all through Lent.  Our diocese here in St. Petersburg even has a wonderful program called The Light is On For You.  TV, radio and newspaper ads let folks know that on a certain evening every Catholic Church in the diocese will be open from 5 PM-8PM for confession,  especially to welcome back those who have been away for a while. Several other diocese in the US are doing the same. I think that is certainly a great expression of Divine Mercy.

   With the impending beatification of Pope John Paul II on the same day it is interesting to note than he was once asked what was the most significant day of his life.  His answer was not his becoming pope, or even his priestly ordination.  He said it was the day of his baptism.

   So on this White Sunday let us rejoice with the many new members of our Church who were baptized, confirmed and received Eucharist for the first time during the Easter Vigil.  And certainly let us keep open the doors of mercy and forgiveness to all who are in need of that great gift.

1 comment:

  1. Father John, Thank you for the history of the feast of White Sunday and its relationship to Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation and your insights on the way White Sunday articulates with Divine Mercy Sunday with the sacrament of Reconciliation. Pat A.