Here’s how one newspaper describes Divine Mercy Sunday:
Catholics can get salvation by celebrating Divine Mercy
In the 1930s, Jesus asked a Polish saint to establish a feast day that would be the last hope of salvation for Catholics.
In 2000, Pope John Paul II designated that feast, on the Sunday after Easter, as the feast of the Divine Mercy, where Catholics can go to confession, receive Holy Communion and “obtain the complete forgiveness of sins and punishment,” said Robert Allard, director of the Apostles of Divine Mercy ministry in Port St. Lucie.
“It’s important especially for Catholics, because if they would die on that day, they’d go straight to heaven,” he said. “Normally as a Catholic, sins are forgiven because you make reparation for those sins. But because Jesus is coming and he wants people to return to church and get right with him before he comes, he makes this extraordinary offer.”
I’m going to ignore Allard’s comment about how sins are forgiven, because I want to focus on something else he says here on the theology of the feast of Divine Mercy (see also his recent article in the National Catholic Register).
The Feast of Mercy is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Day of Atonement (see Lv 16, Lv 23:26-32 and Sir 50). It is a day of forgiveness of sins for those who approach the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is an annual celebration like the Day of Atonement – all sins and punishment are washed away in His infinite mercy. The focus of this paschal event is on God’s mercy for us sinners and His free gift to those who turn to Him with trust.
Interestingly enough, the texts of the liturgy for that Sunday (Second Sunday of Easter) already focus on the forgiveness of sins and mercy. The gospel is of Jesus appearing in the upper room and bestowing the authority to forgive sins (see Jn 20:19-5 1), and the other readings are about the blood and water and the proclamation of mercy (there was no need to change the texts)!
Our Easter liturgy had fulfilled the major feasts of the Old Testament – Passover and Pentecost – and was only missing the Day of Atonement. This Feast of Mercy now completes the needed fulfillment of Old Testament feasts.
In another place, he connects the feast with the return of Christ:
The main message that the Lord was revealing to the World was that He wanted to pour out His Mercy before His return. Jesus told Faustina, “Before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy.” (Diary, 1146) This wide-opened door is Divine Mercy Sunday and the promise of the forgiveness of all sins and punishment for going to Confession and Communion on that feast day.
Jesus said, “On that day are open all the divine floodgates through which graces flow. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls.” (Diary, 699)
“I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain the complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (Diary 699)
EWTN makes similar suggestions.
I draw attention to this for a couple of reasons. First, because today is the Second Sunday of Easter, also called the Feast of Divine Mercy.
Second, because there is something interesting in what these say. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is applied to a special message of mercy and cleansing from sin to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus. That just happens to be one of the distinctive teachings of Seventh-day Adventism–which Adventists started preaching some 85 years before St. Faustina’s apparitions.