Catholics are taught from childhood that, if they go to God for His mercy, He lovingly forgives their offenses, relieves them of their distress and draws them more closely to Himself. This process is normally completed by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Lent is a special time to learn about this gift of God’s mercy, to receive it ourselves, and to share it with others.
In 1980, Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote a beautiful encyclical entitled, “On the Mercy of God.” In this document he taught about God the Father’s mercy, but he also emphasized that Jesus Himself lived the message of mercy and called His followers to do the same. “Jesus makes mercy one of the principal themes of His preaching…Christ proclaims by His actions even more than by His words that call to mercy which is one of the essential elements of the Gospel ethos” (n.3).
The Lenten season helps shed light on another passage from the same work. “The cross of Christ…is also a radical revelation of mercy… The cross is like a touch of eternal love upon the most painful wounds of man’s earthly existence…Love must be revealed above all as mercy and must also be actualized as mercy…Do not the words of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,’ constitute, in a certain sense, a synthesis of the whole of the Good News?...The paschal Christ is the definitive incarnation of mercy.” (n.8).
When we reflect upon such insights, or even when we pray the Stations of the Cross, we come to appreciate why sinners who trust in God’s mercy are joyful people. They realize that Jesus died to redeem them and reserve a place for them in the Kingdom of God. Spreading the Divine Mercy devotion and message is a valuable means of evangelizing people in our lives who need relief from the pain and distress brought on by their own sins.
In her Diary that chronicles the message of mercy given by our Lord, St. Faustina reported that Jesus wanted the world to be evangelized with the Good News of His Mercy. “Proclaim to the whole world My unfathomable mercy” (1142). “Souls who spread the honor of My mercy I shield through their entire life as a tender mother her infant, and at the hour of death I will not be a Judge for them, but the Merciful Savior” (1075).
While courage is required to confront sinners, we should not hesitate to do so, considering what is at stake. Jesus encouraged St. Faustina: “Oh, if sinners knew My mercy, they would not perish in such great numbers. Tell sinful souls not to be afraid to approach Me; speak to them of My great mercy” (1396). Too often our efforts to evangelize are hampered by our fear of offending others. Our recent popes have called us to be prophets, proclaiming the truth in all circumstances, even when that means sacrificing human respect or popularity. The message of mercy and the practice of mercy must always accompany such proclamations.
In the coming weeks we have special opportunities to grow in our love and appreciation for the Divine Mercy message. A special live production, Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy, will be hosted at Pius X High School in Lincoln at 7:30 pm on Sunday, March 30. A one day seminar entitled “Divine Mercy: A Catholic Spiritual Gift We Receive and Give as Health Care Professionals” will be offered at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Lincoln on Friday, April 11. Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, provides an occasion for parishes to host special devotions for the faithful. And finally, Holy Week brings Lent to its climax as we reflect upon and celebrate the ultimate gift of our salvation: Jesus Christ, who is the incarnation of mercy itself.