Miracle of God's mercy changed human destiny
Divine Mercy devotions remind us of God's eternal devotion to each of us
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
Several parishes in our diocese will have Divine Mercy devotions on April 18. Devotions vary, but usually include the Chaplet of Mercy (similar to the rosary), Eucharistic
Adoration and opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation. Local parishes hosting devotions include:
Appleton: Divine Mercy devotions begin with reconciliation at 1:30. at St. Pius X. Mass at 3 p.m. will be followed by dedication of the Divine Mercy Chapel for perpetual adoration.
Baileys Harbor: St. Mary of the Lake will begin adoration and reconciliation at noon, with Mass after the 3 p.m. Chaplet of Mercy.
Green Bay: St. Agnes Parish will have reconciliation, starting at 11:30, and celebrate Mass at 3:15 p.m.
Stockbridge: St. Mary Parish will start reconciliation at 2 p.m. and conclude with Mass at 3:15.
The Second Sunday of Easter (April 18) is Divine Mercy Sunday, set by Pope John Paul on May 5, 2000. The devotion derives from the private revelations of St. Faustina Kowalska, recorded in her diary in the 1930s.
St. Faustina reported that Jesus appeared to her and requested devotion to his divine mercy. "I have opened my heart as a living fountain of mercy," she recorded him saying. "Let all souls draw life from it."
To explain God's mercy, as revealed through Jesus, we must begin in Old Testament times. In Hebrew Scriptures, the word hesed is most often translated as "mercy." However, it had a broader meaning. Early Greek translations of Scripture used eleos for hesed. From it, we get the word eleison, as in Kyrie eleison or "Lord, have mercy." But that phrase did not originally mean what it commonly does today - "forgive
us, Lord." It was much broader, just like the word hesed. As with many Hebrew words, something got lost in translation.
Scripture scholar, Fr. Eugene LeVerdiere, SSS, called hesed an elusive term that can be translated many ways: love, mercy, kindness, faithfulness and care for those in need. Others, like archaeologist Nelson Glueck, describe it as covenant love, such as between a husband and wife, parent and child, or God and Israel.
These translations, rather than confuse us, should tell us what all-encompassing love is entailed in God's mercy. To fully understand this all-encompassing love, we turn to Jesus. As Pope John Paul says, "Christ confers on the whole of the Old Testament tradition about God's mercy a definitive meaning. ... above all, He Himself makes it incarnate and personifies it. He Himself, in a certain sense, is mercy" (On the Mercy of God).
In Jesus, we can fully perceive God's mercy - and understand what devotion to Divine Mercy should mean. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says "the Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God's mercy to sinners" (no. 1846). In the Gospel, we can see God's mercy in action. Through Jesus, God's saving love - God's mercy - is offered to all who seek it. And finally, through his saving death and resurrection, Jesus poured out God's love and mercy completely.
"This miracle of mercy has radically changed humanity's destiny," said John Paul in his homily for the first celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001. "It is a miracle in which is unfolded the fullness of the love of the Father who, for our redemption, does not even draw back before the sacrifice of His Only-begotten Son."
God does not hold back his love. In the images of Jesus as Divine Mercy, based upon St. Faustina's visions, we see that immense outpouring of divine love personified. From Jesus' heart, pour two rays of light - red and white. These rays represent the divine gifts of Eucharist and the Spirit. Through both, Jesus unites us to himself and God's mercy.
Here is the key to understanding God's mercy: God freely gives - even to the point of death - even when we don't deserve it. In Jesus, God lavishes us with blessings and love which come from God's own heart, the center of divine existence. All God asks in return is for us to turn toward that mercy and be saved.
Some of the words St. Faustina attributed to Christ in her diary stressed the imperative nature of this turning back to his mercy. So strong was her vision that it seemed to threaten those who did not accept divine mercy. This, in part, led to the Church suppressing devotions to Divine Mercy in 1959. Even John Paul, while Archbishop of Krakow, said that exploring the matter was "as if treading on glass." Nonetheless, he was the archbishop
who opened Faustina's sainthood cause.
By 1978, the Vatican was able to clarify the understanding promoted by Sr. Faustina's devotion and lifted the ban. After that, her cause proceeded and she was canonized on April 30, 2000. Now, this Polish saint's message about trust in God's divine mercy is spreading.
It is fittingly heard by Christ's modern disciples during Easter Season. As John Paul said at Faustina's canonization, "as the Apostles once did, today, too, humanity must welcome into the upper room of history the risen Christ, who shows the wounds of his Crucifixion and repeats: Peace be with you! Humanity must let itself be touched and pervaded by the Spirit given to it by the risen Christ. 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."
Easter reminds us that God's pouring out of mercy, revealed in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, is offered to all who seek it. As disciples of the Good News, we are called to reveal that mercy - that Good News - to others.
(Sources: The New Jerome Biblical Commentary; Dives in Misericordia; Catechism of the Catholic Church; Catholic News Service and www.divinemercysunday.com.)