Dear Friends in Christ,
Christos Anesti! (Christ is Risen) Alithos Anesti! (Truly He is Risen) In the Christian East these Greek acclamations replace the usual greetings of hello and goodbye during the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost, the liturgical season of Eastertide, the first eight days of which have a special identity. Today is the eighth day since the Solemnity of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and this day in the sacred liturgy has three names: 1) the Octave Day of Easter, 2) the Second Sunday of Easter, and 3) Divine Mercy Sunday.
The number eight has a special liturgical meaning because it is a symbol of the new creation. The drama of creation unfolded over seven symbolic days, and the eighth day is the sign of God’s pluperfect love revealed in the new creation. This is foreshadowed in the Old Covenant through circumcision taking place eight days after birth and is confirmed by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ taking place on Sunday, both the first day of the week and the eighth day. In the liturgical calendar, therefore, the eight days from Easter Sunday until today are kept as one festive celebration of the Resurrection, and today completes the eighth day or Octave of Easter.
Last Sunday in the sacred liturgy we were asked to renew the promises of our Baptism because in the sacrament of Holy Baptism we are washed clean of sin and made a new creation equipped for the life of grace by being born again of water and the Holy Spirit. Today the Gospel speaks of another sacrament given to the Church for the forgiveness of sins – the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation that we commonly call Confession. St John tells us that when the Lord Jesus had risen from dead and appeared to the Apostles in the Upper Room, “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” In other words, the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is the Easter gift of the Risen Lord to his Church, and when we fall into sin after Baptism, going to Confession is Christ’s chosen means of reconciling us to God, restoring us to full communion with his Church, and giving us the peace which surpasses understanding, the peace which the world cannot give.
The Sacrament of Penance is not an option that Catholics are free to choose or not according to their preference. The Sacrament of Penance is the only ordinary way after Baptism for mortal sins to be forgiven and for those who are dead in sin to be restored to the new life of grace. So on this Divine Mercy Sunday, let us resolve to go to Confession whenever we commit grave sin and strive to be instruments of God’s mercy for others so that we may bear witness to the truth of the Resurrection. Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!