The Divine Mercy of Christ
In the 1930’s, a Polish nun named Maria Faustina Kowalska wrote a diary which communicated to the world the great message of God’s mercy and revealed the way of Christian perfection based on trust in God and on an attitude of mercy toward one’s neighbors. On April 30, 2000, the day when Sr. Faustina was canonized a saint, Pope John Paul II proclaimed the 2nd Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.
God’s mercy has always been manifested in the Scriptures. In the Gospels, we can see the Divine Mercy of Christ in His love and compassion for all people, especially the poor, the sick and the sinners. Let us now look back in Scripture at one of the many instances of His Divine Mercy.
We read in the Gospels that Jesus’ disciples were locked in a room for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). And why wouldn’t they be afraid? The Jews had put their Master to death, and in all likelihood, the Jews would do the same to them. However, in His Divine Mercy, the risen Christ appeared to the disciples who had deserted Him during his Passion and Death, and His first words to them were: “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19, 21) Jesus’ words not only helped to dispel the fears of His disciples and to pacify their troubled minds and hearts, but it also fulfilled what he said to them at the Last Supper: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give it to you… I am going away, and I will come back to you.” (John 14:27-28) Jesus kept his promise. In returning to His disciples in the midst of their tribulations, He imparted to them the grace of His peace.
Christ breathed on His disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit. In His Divine Mercy, Christ also gave them the authority to forgive sins; He said to His disciples: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:23) Catholics hold that, through those words, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Penance, and thereby passing on His ministry of mercy to the Apostles; which the Apostles, in turn, passed on to their successors – the bishops; and which the bishops, in turn, passed on to the priests of the Church. When the bishops and priests minister the Sacraments, they do so not on their own power, but in persona Christi – which means, in the person of Christ. For example, in the Sacrament of Penance, as the bishops and priests perform the liturgical actions, it is Jesus Himself who forgives people’s sins. Christ’s Divine Mercy is made manifest in this Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins.
On this Second Sunday of Easter, which the Church has designated as Divine Mercy Sunday, we are reminded anew of God’s great and merciful love. God is merciful, and He wants all of mankind to turn to Him in repentance: “Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment. (Joel 2:12-13) Jesus desired to save the sinners so much that He sat down and ate with them. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do… I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13). We should all reflect carefully on what Jesus said. If we do not consider ourselves as sinners, then how can we avail of the graces of the Lord’s Divine Mercy?
Jesus also said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7) Jesus wants us to ask for His mercy and to spread it to others. Therefore, we should not only ask to receive God’s mercy, we should also be merciful to others in thought, word and deed. There are many different acts of mercy in addition to making a donation or helping others; for example: speaking and thinking kindly of others, holding our tongue when we are tempted to react with harsh words, being patient with others, etc. The graces that we receive from the Lord’s Divine Mercy enable us to continue His works of mercy on earth.