“There is nothing more that man needs than Divine Mercy — that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights of the holiness of God.”
These striking words of St. John Paul II — and even more his life — show us his deep understanding of the mystery of the heart of God, as well as the mystery of the human heart. From the depths of our being, we cry out for someone who will look upon us with empathy, seeing our imperfections and struggles and also seeing beyond them. Whether we are aware of it or not, our hearts are crying out for the merciful God, and his heart is filled with compassion for us. He is not scandalized by our misery and brokenness, and he never tires of forgiving. He is always ready to generously bestow graces upon us, even more than we dare to ask for.
We meditate upon God’s infinite, merciful love — most powerfully revealed in Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection — in a special way during the seasons of Lent and Easter. And to crown these most holy days, we’ve been given the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday on the last day of the Easter Octave (this year April 19). St. John Paul II instituted this solemn feast for the universal Church 20 years ago; he died on its vigil five years later, in 2005; he was beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2011; and he was canonized on the same feast in 2014.
By establishing this feast, on the same day he canonized Sister Faustina Kowalska, St. John Paul II fulfilled the desire that Jesus expressed in a vision to St. Faustina nearly 70 years earlier. As recounted in her Diary, Jesus said: “My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable Mercy. I desire that the feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. “ The soul that will go to confession and receive holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day, all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are open. Let no soul fear to draw near to me, even though its sins be as scarlet” (Diary, 699).
Jesus’ words recorded in St. Faustina’s Diary are filled with passionate love for us. The phrase “I desire” appears approximately 70 times in her journal! The message is that God gives himself to us fully; he offers us his own heart, first and foremost in the sacraments. In the Divine Mercy image, we see rays pouring forth from Jesus’ heart. They symbolize the purifying and life-giving sacraments — most of all his merciful presence in the sacraments of baptism, confession and the Eucharist. He patiently waits for us, his hands overflowing with gifts.
For some of us, it may be a temptation to undervalue our own personal need for Divine Mercy. If this is the case, may this feast day be an occasion to ask for the grace to see what God has done for us and is doing for us; the grace to see that our very lives are the work of his mercy.
It is also an occasion to examine our conscience and to ask: How am I using my time and encounters with others to share the good news of God’s great mercy? St. John Paul II encouraged all of us: “Be apostles of Divine Mercy!” Let us humbly turn to our merciful Father in prayer, asking him to open our eyes and hearts to gratefully receive and enthusiastically share his mercy — so that, through us, he may heal all wounded hearts.
SISTER GAUDIA SKASS is a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, founded in Poland. She gives talks and works with pilgrims at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C.
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