(Second Sunday After Easter)
By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
History Of The Message And Devotion To Divine Mercy
The Message of the Divine Mercy that Sr. Faustina received from the Lord was not only directed toward her personal growth in faith but also toward the good of the people. With the command of our Lord to paint an image according to the pattern that Sr. Faustina had seen, came also a request to have this image venerated, first in the Sisters’ chapel, and then throughout the world.
The same is true with the revelations of the Chaplet. The Lord requested that this Chaplet be said not only by Sr. Faustina, but by others: “Encourage souls to say the Chaplet that I have given you.”
The same is true of the revelation of the Feast of Mercy. “The Feast of Mercy emerged from my very depths of tenderness. It is my desire that it solemnly be celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the fount of My Mercy.”
These requests of the Lord given to Sr. Faustina between 1931 and 1938 can be considered the beginning of the Divine Mercy Message and Devotion in the new forms.
Through the efforts of Sr. Faustina’s spiritual directors, Fr. Michael Sopocko, and Fr. Joseph Andrasz, SJ, and others — including the Marians of the Immaculate Conception — this message began to spread throughout the world.
However, it is important to remember that this message of The Divine Mercy, revealed to St. Faustina and to our present generation is not new. It is a powerful reminder of who God is and has been from the very beginning. This truth that God is in His very nature Love and Mercy Itself, is given to us by our Judeo-Christian faith and God’s self-revelation.
The veil that has hidden the mystery of God from eternity was lifted by God Himself. In His goodness and love God chose to reveal Himself to us, His creatures, and to make known His eternal plan of salvation. This He had done partly through the Old Testament Patriarchs, Moses and the Prophets, and fully through His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In the person of Jesus Christ, conceived through power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, the unseen God was made visible.
Jesus Reveals God As Merciful Father
The Old Testament speaks frequently and with great tenderness about God’s mercy. Yet, it was Jesus, who through His words and actions, revealed to us in an extraordinary way, God as a loving Father, rich in mercy and abounding in great kindness and love.
In Jesus’ merciful love and care for the poor, the oppressed, the sick and the sinful, and especially in His freely choosing to take upon Himself the punishment for our sins (a truly horrible suffering and death on the Cross), so that all may be freed from destructive consequences and death, He manifested in a superabundant and radical way the greatness of God’s love and mercy for humanity.
In His person as God-Man, one in being with the Father, Jesus both reveals and is God’s Love and Mercy Itself.
The Message Of God’s Love And Mercy Is Especially Made Known By The Gospels.
The good news revealed through Jesus Christ is that God’s love for each person knows no bounds, and no sin or infidelity, no matter how horrible, will separate us from God and His love when we turn to Him in confidence, and seek his mercy. God’s will is our salvation.
He has done all on our behalf, but since He made us free, He invites us to choose Him and partake of His divine life. We become partakers of His divine life when we believe in His revealed truth and trust Him, when we love Him and remain true to His word, when we honor Him and seek His Kingdom, when we receive Him in Communion and turn away from sin; when we are mutually caring and forgiving.
Forms Of Devotion
Through St. Faustina, the Merciful Savior has given the aching world new channels for the outpouring of His grace. These new channels include the Image of The Divine Mercy, the Feast of Mercy (Divine Mercy Sunday), the Chaplet, the Novena to The Divine Mercy, and prayer at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the Hour of Great Mercy.
Although these means of receiving God’s mercy are new in form, they all proclaim the timeless message of God’s merciful love. They also draw us back to the great Sacrament of Mercy, the Holy Eucharist, where the living Lord, who suffered and died on the Cross and whose Heart was pierced with a lance, pours forth His mercy on all mankind, and grants pardon to all who draw near and honor Him. As Jesus told St. Faustina:
My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners…[I]t is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy. For them I dwell in the tabernacle as King of Mercy. (Diary, 367)
The Image Of The Divine Mercy
In 1931, our Lord appeared to St. Faustina in a vision. She saw Jesus clothed in a white garment with His right hand raised in blessing. His left hand was touching His garment in the area of the Heart, from where two large rays came forth, one red and the other pale. She gazed intently at the Lord in silence, her soul filled with awe, but also with great joy. Jesus said to her:
Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory (Diary, 47, 48). I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You (327). I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world (47).
At the request of her spiritual director, St. Faustina asked the Lord about the meaning of the rays in the image. She heard these words in reply:
The two rays denote Blood and Water. 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 tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross.
Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him (299). By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works (742).
These words indicate that the Image represents the graces of Divine Mercy poured out upon the world, especially through Baptism and the Eucharist.
Many different versions of this image have been painted, but our Lord made it clear that the painting itself is not what is important. When St. Faustina first saw the original image that was being painted under her direction, she wept in disappointment and complained to Jesus: “Who will paint You as beautiful as You are?” (313).
In answer, she heard these words: “Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace” (313).
So, no matter which version of the image we prefer, we can be assured that it is a vehicle of God’s grace if it is revered with trust in His mercy.
If You’re Not Catholic
Does Jesus Reject Someone Who Is Not Sacramentally Baptized?
Although our Lord did not reveal to St. Faustina the extent to which the extraordinary graces of Divine Mercy Sunday are available to non-Catholics, it is theologically certain that anyone who is seeking Jesus with a sincere heart and trusts in His love and mercy will be richly blessed on that day: “No one who comes to Me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in Me shall ever thirst. No one who comes will I ever reject” (Jn. 6:35-37).
Just as in the Baptism of desire the first grace that forgives original sin is present in the original longing or turning to God, even of a person not sacramentally baptized, a mere desire to receive the Eucharist already bestows grace which gives spiritual life. (Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 3a. 79,1.)
Non-Catholics, therefore, may participate in the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday by making a Spiritual Communion with great trust, since it is by the degree of trust that we receive graces.
Act of Spiritual Communion
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love You above all things and I desire You in my soul.
Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
As though You were already there,
I embrace You and unite myself to You;
permit not that I should ever be separated from You.