In view of God’s will in the propagation of His Divine Mercy, St Faustina (1905-1938) left prophetic words in her Diary – “I feel certain that my mission will not come to an end upon my death, but will begin” (Diary, 281). On 30 April 2000, Pope John Paul II canonised Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska. And on the same day – bringing into effect Jesus’ request – he instituted Divine Mercy Sunday, which the Lord had asked to be on the Sunday after Easter Sunday.
In his homily, the Holy Father recalled words of the risen Christ, who in the Upper Room “Bears the great message of divine mercy and entrusts its ministry to the Apostles [John 20:21-23]”.
The Pope recalled that Jesus shows His hands and side – the wounds of the Passion, especially the wound in His heart, the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity. The Holy Father spoke of a vision of Sister Faustina; she saw two rays of light shining from that heart and illuminating the world: “The two rays,” Jesus himself explained to her one day, “represent blood and water” (Diary, 299).
Here, John Paul II takes us to the testimony of the Evangelist John, who, when a solider on Calvary pierced Christ’s side with his spear, sees blood and water flowing from it (John 19:34). The Holy Father emphasizes that, while the blood recalls the sacrifice of the Cross and the gift of the Eucharist, the water, in Johannine symbolism, represents not only Baptism but also the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5; 4:14; 7:37-39). “Christ pours out this mercy on humanity though the sending of the Spirit who, in the Trinity, is the Person-Love,” says John Paul II.
In his reflection, the Vicar of Christ, while reflecting on the uncertainties of the future that are always present, gives us comfort by leading us to trust in God’s mercy – “What will the years ahead bring us? What will man’s future on earth be like? We are not given to know. However, it is certain that in addition to new progress there will unfortunately be no lack of painful experiences. But the light of divine mercy, which the Lord in a way wished to return to the world through Sr Faustina’s charism, will illumine the way for the men and women of the third millennium.”
For John Paul II, this path requires that humanity must let itself be touched and pervaded by the Spirit given to it by the risen Christ. The Pope points out that it is the Spirit who heals the wounds of the heart, pulls down the barriers that separate us from God and divide us from one another, and at the same time, restores the joy of the Father’s love and of fraternal unity.
At the time, the Roman Pontiff stressed that it is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, “Which from now on [30 April 2000] throughout the Church will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’. In the various readings, the liturgy seems to indicate the path of mercy which, while re-establishing the relationship of each person with God, also creates new relations of fraternal solidarity among human beings. Christ has taught us that ‘man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God,’ but is also called ‘to practise mercy’ towards others: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’ [Mt 5:7] [Dives in misericordia, n. 14]. He also showed us the many paths of mercy, which not only forgives sins but reaches out to all human needs. Jesus bent over every kind of human poverty, material and spiritual.”
In conclusion, the Holy Father encouraged each person to feel confident in seeking God’s mercy. He stressed that 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 all those who entrust themselves to Divine Mercy, John Paul II comforts saying: “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’ [Jezu, ufam tobie], 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.”
Seven years later (2007), on Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI called for an awakening to a deeper reflection on divine mercy. He pointed out that God’s mercy accompanies us daily. And how can we feel it? The Holy Father indicated a way: “It suffices to have a heart that is alert. We are excessively inclined to notice only the daily effort that has been imposed upon us as children of Adam. If, however, we open our hearts, then as well as immersing ourselves in them we can be constantly aware of how good God is to us; how He thinks of us precisely in little things, thus helping us to achieve important ones.”
The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary have an online project dedicated to the Divine Mercy. They remind us that, to “A humble Polish nun, St Faustina, Our Lord told her, ‘In the Old Covenant I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart’ [Diary, 1588]. Jesus specially chose her for the mission of bringing His message of Mercy to the world, and He called Divine Mercy Sunday mankind’s ‘last hope of salvation’ [Diary, 965].”
(Image: Stained glass window of St Faustina Kowalska with Merciful Jesus. Chapel in the Se Cathedral Church, Macau. Photo: Miguel Augusto)