Monday, April 7, 2014

Divine Mercy Sunday: The Message of Mercy From Jesus

Image of Divine Mercy with St. Pope John Paul II and Sr. Faustina Kowalska
Pope John Paul II, the Divine Mercy image and Sister Faustina Kowalska

Mark your calendars Divine Mercy Sunday is April 27. I decided to publish today's post well in advance of the feast day to afford those who have never heard of or practiced this devotion, the time to become familiar with it. If you are such an individual, I hope today's post will help you to understand and embrace this beautiful devotion.

The Divine Mercy message was nothing new, but it was a powerful reminder of what the Church has always taught through scripture and tradition: that God is merciful and forgiving and that we too must show mercy and forgiveness with others, always and everywhere. With the Divine Mercy Devotion, this message takes on a greater focus, calling the faithful to a deeper understanding that God’s love is unlimited and available to everyone, especially the greatest sinners.

The Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday which had initially been granted to Poland and celebrated within Vatican City, was extended to the Universal Catholic Church on April 30, 2000, by Pope John Paul II. The origin of the Divine Mercy Devotion comes from the writings of Sister Faustina Kowalska, a young uneducated Polish nun who in obedience to her spiritual director, wrote a diary of approximately six hundred pages recording the revelations she received from Jesus about God’s mercy. On February 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to Sister Faustina as was noted in her diary:
In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord; my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After a while Jesus said to me, 'paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.'
The dialogue continued later as Jesus explained the significance of the coloured rays emanating from His heart:
The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous; the red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My most tender Mercy at that time when My agonizing Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross....Fortunate is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him.
The message of mercy is that Jesus loves all of us, no matter how great our sins may be. Jesus wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins. With this recognition, we are to call upon Him with trust, that we will receive His mercy and let it flow to others. The result will be that everyone will come to share His joy. The following are three fundamental aspects of the Divine Mercy Devotion: 

  • Ask Jesus For His Mercy: Jesus wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, with a spirit of true repentance, imploring His mercy upon us and the entire world. 
  • Be Merciful: Not only does Jesus want us to receive His mercy, but He wants us to let it flow to others, extending His love and forgiveness that we received.
  • Completely Trust in Jesus: Jesus wants us to understand that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust in Him. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.

Living the message of mercy is essential to the Divine Mercy Devotion. The devotional practices associated with the Divine Mercy Devotion are but vessels of mercy through which God's love can be poured out upon the world. It does not suffice for us to recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet, nor to hang a picture of the Divine Mercy image in our homes or pray at 3:00pm each day, the Divine Mercy hour; we must strive to put mercy into action. This is not an option of the Divine Mercy Devotion, it is a requirement. Jesus made this abundantly clear in his direct communication to Sister Faustina, "I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to your neighbours always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse yourself from it (Diary, 742). 

If you are new to this devotion, showing mercy always and everywhere may seem somewhat difficult if not impossible under certain circumstances, but Jesus assures us that it is possible, "When a soul approaches Me with trust," He explains, "I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls" (Diary, 1074). This is something we should not only strive for, but pray for daily that we may fulfill the Gospel command, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36).

The question remains, how do we radiate God's mercy to others? We do this in three ways: by our actions, by our words, and by our prayers. In these three degrees, Jesus told Sister Faustina, "is contained the fullness of mercy" (Diary 742). This threefold practice of mercy is what Jesus is calling us to, but we are not all called in the same way. Jesus who understands our personalities, and individual circumstances in our lives, knows perfectly how to help us recognize the ways with which we can show mercy in our daily lives; therefore, we must pray for this imploring Jesus to show us the way. 

In our sincere desire to live the message of mercy, we must completely trust in Jesus and His mercy. In so doing, we can be assured that He will grant us all the graces we need to fulfill the devotional requirements of being merciful with others. It is with such sincerity that we can be confident that Jesus will not categorize us as one of those people who "...[D]raw near with their mouths and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are from from me..." (Is 29:13)

Today's post is but an introduction to the Divine Mercy Devotion. There are other aspects of this devotion that I have reserved for subsequent posts. If after today's reading, you have welcomed Jesus' mercy in your life, then this post has accomplished its goal. For if we truly receive God's mercy and extend it to others, we will be deserving of Christ's wonderful promise, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matthew 5:7).


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