On Holy Thursday, one of the points the Church desired for us to reflect on was that on that evening, the gift of the Holy Eucharist was instituted, a gift that would serve as a continual pledge of Christ’s love for us until He returns in glory. On this Octave Day of Easter, the Gospel invites us to notice the institution of another sacrament, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After appearing to His Apostles after the Resurrection, Jesus tells them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (Jn 20:23)
It is therefore no coincidence that Jesus asked St. Faustina to ask for the institution of the Feast of Mercy on the Second Sunday of Easter each year, a request that was fulfilled by Pope St. John Paul II in 2000 shortly after St. Faustina’s canonization. Every year since 2001, the Church has celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday on this Second Sunday of Easter, recalling the beautiful words of Jesus regarding this day:
My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. 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 complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. … Let no soul fear to draw near to Me. … It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy. (Diary, 699)
Notice how Jesus asks that people go to Confession and to receive Holy Communion, thus emphasizing the intrinsic connection between the two. It is for that reason that I believe that to truly grow in our love for the Eucharist, we must grow in our love for Jesus’s Divine Mercy offered freely to us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
One of the ways to accomplish this is to resolve to never receive the gift of the Eucharist with mortal sin on our souls. I find it interesting that when people come to Mass, almost everybody comes forward to receive Holy Communion. Is everybody free from mortal sin? I sure hope so, but I wonder. I place myself in the shoes of one coming to Mass, and I realize there were times many, many years ago when I went to Holy Communion any time I went to Mass, even though I did not go every week, sad to say. When I came to an awareness that my continuing to go to Holy Communion without first going to Confession was a very serious sin, it shook me to the core.
Perhaps my situation from long ago does not apply to you, and thanks be to God if that is the case. But, if it does apply to you (and it does not just have to be missing Mass, it can be having any unconfessed grave sins) I plead with you repent and ask for God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to Holy Communion again, confessing anything that needs to be confessed, but especially any times you have received Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin. What you will encounter will not be judgment, disappointment, or anger. You will encounter a loving Father who rejoices to have His beloved child back in right relationship with Him.
Then, once we have received that gift of His Divine Mercy, we are cleansed and set free, ready to begin again, ready to receive Jesus in a worthy manner. And when we receive Holy Communion in the state of grace, this gift will truly transform us. But if we receive Him in an unworthy manner, we derive no benefit for ourselves and we in effect reject the gift that He made possible for us with His Passion, death, and Resurrection. So let us run to His mercy and be renewed in His love for us, poured out freely in all of His sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist.