Over the past decade I have noticed that everything seems to be offered to consumers with a “V.I.P. upgrade.” There’s the sporting event or concert that has an upgrade to include dinner, valet parking, and a collector’s item from the home team or the band. Then there’s the V.I.P ticket to the amusement park, which lets you bypass the long lines while the average Joe waits for hours. Now that we’re in the digital age, there are many websites that have free content, but if you want the full experience or unlimited access, you can opt for the “platinum” (or V.I.P.) membership. Of course, unless you’re a person with “connections,” all of these upgrades come with a price tag.
To draw a somewhat playful analogy, you might say that the Catholic Church offers the V.I.P. experience of Christianity. Oftentimes you’ll hear this referred to in more sober terms as “the fullness of the faith.” Now, the paramount privilege of our Catholic faith is the grace we receive through the sacraments, and this Sunday we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, which calls our attention to the sacrament of Reconciliation in particular.
Established by Blessed Pope John Paul II in the year 2000 (the Great Jubilee year), Divine Mercy Sunday now marks its twelfth anniversary on the General Roman Calendar. Although Christ’s revelations to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, as found in her diary, remain private revelations and need not be accepted by the individual believer, it is well known that Pope John Paul believed in their authenticity and that they played a key role in prompting him to establish Divine Mercy Sunday. In the diaries, Jesus calls Saint Faustina his “Secretary of His Divine Mercy” and speaks of the love and mercy that he desires to lavish on aching humanity. In his homily for Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001, Blessed John Paul wrote, “Jesus said to Sr. Faustina one day: ‘Humanity will never find peace until it turns with trust to Divine Mercy.’ Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium.”
This Sunday’s Gospel recounts how Christ established the Sacrament of Reconciliation when he appeared to the Apostles in the upper room (John 20:19–31). “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” We can read this in light of Christ’s words in the Gospel of Matthew: “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” (10:8). In the Sacrament of Confession, through Christ’s Divine Mercy, we have “V.I.P. access” to the forgiveness of our sins and the healing of our sick souls—free and without charge. Whether it’s been a week or several years or half a lifetime, this weekend go to Confession and use your V.I.P. access to Divine Mercy.