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By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Apr 22, 2017)
In St. Faustina's Diary, she recorded a message from Jesus about the extraordinary graces He wants to pour out upon souls through the devout reception of Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus says, "The soul that will go to confession and receive Holy Communion [on that day] shall obtain complete forgiveness [or remission] of sins and punishment" (699).

One of our readers, a Mr. Bradley, asked me precisely what this promise from Jesus really means. Believe me, Mr. Bradley, you are not alone. This is one of the most frequently asked questions in my e-mail letter-box!

First, a couple of clarifications. I will use the old translation of "remission" of sins and punishment rather than "forgiveness," just because people have very funny ideas about what forgiveness means these days, and that can further complicate an already difficult subject.

Second, when we talk about "the remission of sins and punishment," we are speaking about two very different aspects of reconciliation with God.

Remission of "punishment" obviously refers to the judicial aspect: God pardons us of the debt we owe to His divine justice for our sins. We offended Him, wronged Him, and He has a right to expect compensation, restitution or reparation of some kind from us, but on the basis of the merits of the life, agony and passion of His divine Son, Jesus Christ, when we repent of our sins, He remits what we owe to Him, "wipes the slate clean," and pardons us.

Remission of "sins," on the other hand, refers to the more relational aspect of reconciliation. "Sins" are remitted when God restores to us His friendship, pouring His Holy Spirit into our hearts, filling our hearts with sanctifying grace, which includes the virtues of faith, hope, and love.

God remits all sins and punishment whenever, by the help of His grace, we attain "perfect contrition" (in other words, repentance for sin out of pure love of God) — which, for most of us, is exceptionally rare! The trouble is that most of us are contrite for our sins for "mixed" reasons (love of God, but also fear of punishment, disgust at ourselves, social embarrassment, etc.), in which case, in response to such "imperfect contrition," God remits the "eternal punishment" for our mortal sins (in other words, He will not consign us to hell), but "temporal punishment" for them remains (in other words, we are still in a state of partial moral debt to Him because we have not fully repented of those sins).

With the help of His grace, and in union with Christ, the temporal punishment still due for our sins can be remitted in a number of ways: by prayer, penance, good works, etc., acts that are medicinal to our souls, helping us attain a purer love of God.

Only "mortal" (grave) sins deserve "eternal" punishment. While we might have confessed and had our mortal sins remitted (in other words, His grace restored to our souls, and the eternal punishment of them pardoned), nevertheless, there may still be a debt of "temporal" punishment due for them, because of our imperfect contrition for these grave sins. Moreover, we may, at times, have unconfessed or unacknowledged "venial" sins on our conscience: smaller sins that still call for temporal punishment, and that weaken our ability to cooperate with the grace He pours into our hearts when He remits our mortal sins. An imperfect contrition for venial sins, whether they have been confessed or not, does not remit all temporal punishment due for them either.

When we go to Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday, therefore, the extent to which we still need "the complete forgiveness (remission) of sins and punishment," as promised by our Lord, will vary a great deal from person to person, and will obviously depend upon the state of the soul at the time of Communion. At the very least, we must have confessed and had remitted all mortal sins, and the eternal punishment due to them (in other words, we must be in a "state of grace") to receive the Communion of Mercy Sunday. That is why the requirement of making a sacramental Confession precedes that of reception of Communion on Mercy Sunday.

But for most of us (since our contrition for these mortal sins is still imperfect), we still need the remission of the temporal punishment due to our mortal sins. Again, there are our smaller, venial sins. The ones we have not confessed or acknowledged still need to be pardoned of the temporal punishment that is their due, grace to combat them still needs to be strengthened in our hearts, and the temporal punishment for any venial sins that we have already admitted to ourselves, and confessed, but for which we never attained more than imperfect contrition, still needs to be remitted.

For most of us, therefore, there is still a lot of "remitting" that needs to be done on Mercy Sunday! God wants our friendship with Him to be completely renewed and restored. Out of His merciful love for us, therefore, He has provided for us a special way to do that on Mercy Sunday, a way that enables Him to apply to our souls all the medicines that we need (remitting for us all our remaining sins and all the remaining punishment due for our sins), so that he can make us the saints that He longs for us to be!

Of course, when we come to Holy Communion on Mercy Sunday, if we are already, by His grace, in a state of perfect contrition for all of our sins, both venial and mortal, then there is no more "remission" needed, and He will simply pour an even greater abundance of grace into our hearts, for there is no end or limit to His merciful love for us!

Mr. Bradley, I hope this fully answers your question about the complete forgiveness (remission) of sins and punishment available to all on the Feast of The Divine Mercy. Of course, you do not have to think about all these things on that wonderful day — just receive Him in a state of repentance and trust in His Mercy, and He will take care of all of these theological details!

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

J - Mar 29, 2016

I normally go to mass/confession on Sat. pm. This says Confession and Communion on the Day of Divine Mercy. Does this mean that when I go to confession/mass for Divine Mercy Sunday, on Sat., that this does not apply? I just want to be sure I understand.

Divine Mercy devotee - Apr 11, 2015

Regarding the comment made May 7, 2014... I do not believe that such a person as described (not validly married and living in sin) is even eligible to receive the promise as this person would not be able to make a "good" confession and therefore could not attain the requirement of being in a state of grace on Divine Mercy Sunday to fulfill the other requirement of taking communion worthily. So it appears you have not found a loophole by which any old habitual sinner with no intention of trying to amend his ways can wipe the slate clean while planning to continue full speed ahead living in mortal sin.

Tradition - May 7, 2014

What this is is a kind of super indulgence. One vital piece is missing here- the promise to amend the sinner's life. So, one could be living with a person who is not that person's true spouse (like someone who remarried without an annulment) and be pardoned of all punishment and then go back to fake spouse and continue on as before. No need now to amend, no need for great faith, no need to live a holy life, no need for 1st Friday or Saturday Mass-we are all saved! We don't even need to be prudent in our selection of a confessor! This is very clearly a weakening of the Faith to support the canonizations of John XXIII and JP II. If only Padre Pio (who is still not canonized a saint) were here to see the destruction of Low Sunday with the replacement of DMS. Sr. Faustina was an illiterate nun who was known to be holy. If she were still alive today, she wouldn't even be able to read her own diary! Divine Mercy was condemned twice by the church, but now has been accepted? This is a mockery that completely negates the words of Our Lady of Fatima and La Sallette where she warns us of the day of judgment. She instructs us to pray and do penance. No mention of either prayer or penance in DM. I guess they are just too much to expect of people today. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us in this time of apostacy!

Fr. Bruce, I.C. - Apr 11, 2010

Mike: here is a link to Robert Stackpole's excellent answer to your question.

Mike - Apr 10, 2010

Dave, This is what is extra special about the Divine Mercy promise - the requirement of complete detachment from sin does not apply for the complete remission of temporal punishment as it does for a plenary indulgence.

Dave - Apr 7, 2010

My understanding is that a Plenary indulgence offers a complete remission of all punishment due to sin (similar to Baptism) when all conditions are met, including a perfect detachment from all sin. Does the Divine Mercy Novena provide the same benefit without requiring the perfect detachment from sin ?

Davd Paul Fontes - Apr 7, 2010

To add to Maria's last two words she used--->"Embattled church. Yes it is embattled big time, again! It rears its ugly head again and it will until all is brought out in the open. This year is the ending of the "Year of the Priests". Those "priests" who hid facts, covered up facts, and who did those horrible facts should be the ones that need "DIVINE MERCEY SUNDAY MORE THAN THEY LAY". ....PERIOD!

Maria - Mar 29, 2010

It might take more attending more than one Feast of Mercy , for many , to take in and habitually practice the concept of ongoing surrender of persons and situations into the Ocean of His mercy !
It opens our hearts to recognise how much abuse we all deal with and even perpetrate in many forms - for, any sin is an abuse against oneself and God
- even the seldom mentioned sins such as use of artificial birth control, that damage the sacredness of marriage and could also lead to worse abuse is an example !

Access to mercy allow us to honestly face these , with the peace that the balm for the pain is also at hand and The Feast , not so extraordinary in its format ,yet possibly convey graces
that are very much needed , to help us to kick the abuse and to be at peace of being holy , in friendship with our Father !
Hope many would benefit greatly and be a source of vitality for our embatteld Church !

Jim - Mar 24, 2010

The Divine Mercy Novena, Divine Mercy Sunday, the Eucharist, what else could we possibly need from God to prove his love for us! Let the distrustful soul, trust in the power of His Divine Mercy through which ALL things are possible. Ask and you shall receive...not words of magic, but of God's promise to all who trust in His Divine Mercy for each of us, individually and collectively.