What Has Christ Told us about His Divine Mercy?
During this Octave of Easter, we are truly in a time of rejoicing and celebration. Our King has conquered death and sin! The Octave is one of the most important times in the liturgical year and lasts eight days after Easter. It begins with the resurrection of Our Lord, which is celebrated with great solemnity. The last day of the Octave is Divine Mercy Sunday.
We tend to remember the last thing that happens in any event. I remember the last dance of my wedding, the last play of a major sporting event, the last time I was in my favorite place. Ending the Octave with Divine Mercy Sunday is not happenchance.
Why then, would Divine Mercy Sunday be the last thing we officially celebrate in the Easter Octave? What is it that Christ wishes to instill in us? To better reflect upon these questions, let’s take a look at what has been written about Divine Mercy.
Through St. Faustina’s Diary entries, along with scripture, we can get a better idea of what is meant by Divine Mercy. These quotes are certainly not exhaustive. I would encourage you to read St. Faustina’s Diary if you would like to hear more about the message of Divine Mercy. If you would like to read more about the background and history of Divine Mercy, you may read about that HERE .
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again. ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.’” (John 20: 19-23)
Christ did not rise from the dead to enact vengeance on those who had harmed him. In fact, it’s the opposite. He looks to comfort us and show us mercy. How often have we locked our door to Christ? How often have we hidden our love for Christ out of fear of what others think?
The first words Christ says to his apostles are “Peace be with you”, then He shows His wounds. In the image of Divine Mercy, this is where the source of His mercy pours forth. His wounds are revealed to give us peace. Christ himself said to St. Faustina “Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to my mercy.” (Diary #300)
The Polish word for “peace” spoken to St. Faustina in this instance is uspokojenia. The word can also be used for tranquility, calmness, and security. Christ’s mercy goes beyond merely “feeling good” as often times the word “peace” can be thought of in our modern culture. He wishes to heal us from our restlessness, anxiety, agitation, and insecurity.
Upon granting this peace to His apostles, Christ endows on them the ability to forgive sins. He wishes to establish this mercy on earth through the sacrament of Confession. This great gift is something that I oftentimes take for granted. However, like many of us, I am in need of healing from restlessness, anxiety, agitation, and all the rest. Let us take advantage of this special outpouring of His mercy during this Easter Octave!
“In this retreat I am giving you, not only peace, but also such a disposition of soul that even if you wanted to experience uneasiness you could not do so. My love has taken possession of your soul, and I want you to be confirmed in it. Bring your ear close to My heart, forget everything else, and meditate upon My wondrous mercy. My love will give you the strength and courage in these matters.” (Message from Jesus to St. Faustina, Diary entry #229)
In St. Faustina’s diary, the desire of Christ is made clear to press mankind close to His Merciful Heart (Diary #1588). St. Faustina told Jesus: “I yet feel the caress of Your Divine Heart” (Diary # 1479).
The repetition of this imagery has given me pause to reflect on John the apostle, whom Jesus loved. In John 13:23, at The Last Supper, John “was reclining at table at Jesus’ side.” The Greek translation of these words are: “in the bosom of Jesus.” John, who desired to be so near Our Lord also pressed himself close to His Sacred Heart. The Heart from which flows the rays of Divine Mercy.
John showed great trust in Our Lord, which gave him the courage to stand at the foot of the cross. John showed great mercy to comfort The Mother of God in her time of need. He took her into his home and accepted her as his own mother. (John 19:26-27)
Desiring to be so close to Our Lord, John was privileged to witness the outpouring of Christ’s Divine Mercy. John was there when Christ’s side was pierced with a lance, and according to his eyewitness, immediately, blood and water flowed from his side.
Two millennia later, Christ tells St. Faustina about His Divine Mercy image and explains the two rays in the image. Our Lord says that “The two rays denote Blood and Water. 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 very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross.” (Diary #299)
In the spirituality of St. Faustina, she uses the terms “trust” and “mercy” often. “Trust” referred to our general attitude towards God and “mercy” refers to our attitude toward our neighbor. May we imitate the actions of John the apostle to trust The Lord to the extent of standing at the foot of His Cross and be merciful toward our neighbors, to give them comfort in time of need.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’” (Luke 15: 20-24)
The Prodigal son is a well-known parable. The father in the parable sees his son from afar, as if he had been scanning the horizon for him all the time of his absence. Upon seeing his son, he runs out to greet him. One can imagine how dramatic it must have been for the son to see his father approaching. The son may have asked himself “Will he rebuke me? Will he let me stay? Could he ever forgive me?”
How does the father respond? He gives him a robe, shoes, and even a ring. The ring shows he has authority, given to him by his father. The son has been reinstated as a member of the family whose faculties are now the same as before he left.
I have always thought of this parable as simply one of forgiveness. It wasn’t until a local parish priest spoke on this parable that I began to see it in connection with mercy. I remember the priest saying that “Clemency is the act of forgiving the violation. Mercy goes beyond this and restores our identity as sons and daughters of God.”
As his son, the father in the parable makes a point to restore his son’s identity. God ardently desires to restore us to our original identity, lost by sin. The throne of God’s mercy is made available to us whenever we receive the sacrament of confession. Christ told St. Faustina “. . . I pursue sinners along all their paths, and My Heart rejoices when they return to Me. I forget the bitterness with which they fed My Heart and rejoice at their return.” (Diary #1728)
“This consoling message is addressed above all to those who, afflicted by a particularly harsh trial or crushed by the weight of the sins they committed, have lost all confidence in life and are tempted to give in to despair. To them the gentle face of Christ is offered; those rays from his heart touch them and shine upon them, warm them, show them the way and fill them with hope. How many souls have been consoled by the prayer "Jesus, I trust in you", which Providence intimated through Sr. Faustina! This simple act of abandonment to Jesus dispels the thickest clouds and lets a ray of light penetrate every life. Jezu, ufam tobie. “ (St. John Paull II, in his homily during the canonization Mass of St. Faustina)
Christ ardently wishes to extend His Mercy to every soul in the world and he dispenses it in a particular way on Divine Mercy Sunday. He desires our trust in Him and to share mercy with our neighbors, expressed through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
My most memorable confession experience came about from direct, simple, yet profoundly compassionate words. I was visiting a parish, and after saying my confession, the priest waited a moment. He then said, very consolingly, “Christ just wants all of you. That’s all.”
Up until that moment, I couldn’t remember anyone directly saying anything like that to me. I believe it was the grace of the Holy Spirit to really trust those words. Once I trusted in those words, I realized I didn’t have to worry anymore. Peace entered my soul.
Christ wishes to enter into our locked upper rooms this Easter season. He wants all of us. He wants everything we are in our identity and dignity as sons and daughters of Christ. He wishes to expose His wounds to us. Not to hold them against us, but to heal us. He desires to give us His Mercy in the form of blood and water. All we need is to trust in Him. “Jesus I trust in You!”