Diocesan News

Divine Mercy Sunday Encourages Focus on Mercy

(SNR) - This Sunday, April 11, the Catholic Church will close the octave of Easter with the Feast of Divine Mercy.

A universal celebration since Pope John Paul II established it in April 2000, Divine Mercy Sunday is a day to dwell upon the great mercy of the Lord and to pray for all who are crushed under the burden of sin.

Though the Church has always taught us that God is merciful and forgiving, the origins of this remarkable feast day began February 22, 1931. On that day, a religious sister in Poland, St. Faustina Kowalska, was startled when the Lord appeared to her with a message of mercy for all mankind.

“In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment,” she wrote in her diary. “One hand was raised in blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale.”

She continued, “In silence I gazed intently at the Lord; my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After a while Jesus said to me, ‘paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’”

After some disappointing attempts, an appropriate image was finally painted by a professional artist in accordance with St. Faustina’s vision. That Divine Mercy image now hangs in nearly every Catholic Church, in various Catholic institutions and homes, and even on billboards and bumper stickers.

As the Lord explained to St. Faustina in another apparition, “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 depths of My most tender Mercy at that time when My agonizing Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross... ”

In just a few years after the image was painted, the message recorded by St. Faustina and devotion to Jesus as the Divine Mercy began to spread. Her diary, written in obedience to her spiritual director, reveals many details about the revelations she received.

The core message of the Divine Mercy is that God’s mercy is so much greater than our sins, we can call upon Him with complete trust, receive His mercy and allow it to flow through us to other people, so that all will come to share in His joy.

Catholics who have a particular devotion to the Divine Mercy frequently use an A-B-C mnemonic device to remember the message given to St. Faustina:
A: Ask for His MercyGod wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.

B: Be mercifulGod wants us to receive His mercy and then extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.

C: Completely trust in JesusGod wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.

Devotion to the Divine Mercy can include very simple acts, such as meditating on the image of the Divine Mercy, receiving Holy Communion on the Sunday after Easter, and pausing for prayer at 3 p.m. (the hour of Divine Mercy, referring to the moment Christ died on the Cross), in particular, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which St. Faustina received (please see the sidebar on page 9).

More importantly, St. Faustina’s writings encourage us to avoid “giving lip service” to the Lord’s mercy by actively practicing mercy in all our daily interactions.

She recorded a strongly worded message from the Lord about this in her diary: “I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse yourself from it.”

This demand, however, is tempered with a comforting promise.

“When a soul approaches Me with trust,” the Lord told St. Faustina, “I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls.”

By this, Catholics can realize the ability to practice the corporal and spiritual works of Mercy in very fruitful ways.

The corporal works of mercy are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, comforting the imprisoned, visiting the sick and burying the dead.

Spiritual works of mercy include teaching the ignorant, praying for the living and the dead, correcting sinners, counseling those in doubt, consoling the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently and forgiving wrongs willingly.

The Lord asked Saint Faustina to help establish the Feast of Divine Mercy with the words, “I want the image solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it.”

On June 29, 2002, a plenary indulgence was issued for Divine Mercy Sunday. To obtain this indulgence, the faithful must observe the usual conditions: sacramental confession, receiving the Eucharist on Divine Sunday, praying for the intentions of the Holy Father, and praying the Our Father, the Creed and the Divine Mercy prayer, “Merciful Jesus, I trust in You!”

All this must be done “in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for sin, even a venial sin.”

Divine Mercy Sunday is an opportunity for all Catholics to dedicate ourselves to the Divine Mercy, completely trusting in Jesus and allowing His grace to permeate our thoughts, words and deeds. As Jesus promised in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

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