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April 02, 2008
Answer call to reconciliation on Divine Mercy Sunday

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At the beginning of Lent, I wrote a pastoral letter to all in our diocese. The title of the letter was taken from the words of St. Paul that we heard in the second reading at Mass on Ash Wednesday, "We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."

My hope was to amplify the invitation of Jesus Christ himself, an invitation to reconciliation in two aspects. The first is the gift of personal forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. The second is the opportunity to extend the reconciliation of Christ to members of our families, parishes and communities who may feel separated from the love of God because of particular hurt they have experienced.

I am grateful that so many of you heard and accepted this invitation to reconciliation during the weeks of Lent. In parishes all across our diocese, thousands of Catholics accepted responsibility for sin, confessed their guilt and received the gift of absolution from a priest. I am one of you who received this powerful sacramental gift. Others have been moved to apologize to those whom they may have hurt or to accept apologies that have been offered. Some have approached our diocesan tribunal for help with the circumstances of their marriages. I have heard from several people who are still hurting too deeply to approach the sacraments, but they have heard the invitation and the desire we have that they not be isolated.

At Easter we come to understand, once again, why profound and ongoing reconciliation is possible. In Jesus Christ, God has conquered sin and the effects of sin, including death itself. Because of the resurrection, we know that Jesus' promise of forgiveness and life is more than wishful thinking. A power is offered to us in the risen Christ beyond anything that we humans could do for ourselves. In the risen Christ, we are given the gift of hope, a gift that saves us from being satisfied with our current experience of sin and its effects. More than looking forward to eternal life, we long to experience it even now. This experience is possible in the celebration of the sacraments, which extend the power of Easter into the lives of the faithful all year long.

The hope of reconciliation in the risen Christ is highlighted this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter that is now called Divine Mercy Sunday. The particular devotion to Divine Mercy was promoted in the last century by St. Faustina Kowalska and renewed in our time by Pope John Paul II. The point of this devotion, now offered to the whole church, is precisely to stir up in us the baptismal gift of hope that sin and the effects of sin do not finally define the human experience. God intervenes in the human experience with his mercy, which is more powerful than sin. The mercy of God is, in fact, a person, God's only Son Jesus Christ.

The call to reconciliation is always an invitation to experience the mercy of God in a personal way. It is true that when the Lord comes in glory, heaven and earth will be put in right relationship. You and I begin to experience that cosmic shift even now when we meet the risen Jesus in the sacraments. He brings mercy and healing in a powerful, personal way in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

Divine Mercy Sunday reminds us that the gift of mercy is not dispensed only during Lent. It forms a river that flows all through the life of the church, all year long, right into eternity.

The original story can be found at Catholic Times.

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