CNS photo
CNS photo
In my 2016 “Year of Mercy Pastoral Letter” to the Diocese of Trenton, I shared these reflections:
“Mercy is the love freely shown to us by God, who first reveals himself to us and makes his presence known and felt. We do not ‘earn’ this mercy; we do not ‘deserve’ it; we do not have a ‘right’ to it. Mercy is a free gift of God that, when given, draws us into God’s very being, making God present ‘to’ us and then, ‘through’ us to others.”

“Mercy shows itself in God’s care, concern and compassion for us and, in turn, our care, concern and compassion for others in the concrete situations of their lives and in the forgiveness extended toward those who wrong us. Again, mercy is freely given and not merited.”

“In the experience of most people, showing mercy lowers the defenses of both the giver and the receiver, so that both parties can experience life in God as God intended it to be.  Mercy does not diminish judgment or justice, as some suggest.  Mercy recognizes what lies before us in life as it truly is and makes what it encounters better, more worthy of love, of compassion, of forgiveness – not because the one shown mercy has earned or merits any of those things, but because we all need love, compassion and forgiveness to be what we ought to be; given our fallen human nature, only mercy can make that happen.  Mercy sees the truth of God’s creation as ‘good’ although somehow wounded by the introduction of evil and sin into human experience. Mercy calls creation and our wounded humanity back to its origin and nature in God.”

For the past twenty years, Catholics throughout the world have celebrated “Divine Mercy Sunday” on the Second Sunday of Easter.  Originally added to the Church calendar by Pope St. John Paul II, Divine Mercy Sunday is based upon the private revelations of a Polish nun, Sister now Saint Mary Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938).  

Related: What to do on Divine Mercy Sunday?

From her childhood, St. Faustina manifested great devotion to the Holy Eucharist and the mercy of God.  In a diary she kept, St. Faustina wrote: “O my Jesus, each of Your saints reflects one of Your virtues; I desire to reflect Your compassionate heart, full of mercy; I want to glorify it. Let Your mercy, O Jesus, be impressed upon my heart and soul like a seal, and this will be my badge in this and the future life (Diary 1242).”  Her prayers were answered.  

The Lord Jesus spoke to her, again recorded in her diary, “Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart (Diary 1588). ... Know that your task is to write down everything that I make known to you about My mercy, for the benefit of those who by reading these things will be comforted in their souls and will have the courage to approach Me (Diary 1693).”

At her canonization ceremony on April 30, 2000, Pope St. John Paul II referred to Sr. Mary Faustina in his homily as “a gift of God for our time,” quoting the Lord Jesus’ message to her, "Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to divine mercy.”

He continued, “Christ has taught us that man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but is also called ’to practice mercy' towards others:  ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy' (Mt 5: 7). ... He also showed us the many paths of mercy, which not only forgives sins but reaches out to all human needs. Jesus bent over every kind of human poverty, material and spiritual.”  

The sainted Holy Father concluded his homily, encouraging the world: “Today, fixing our gaze with you (St. Faustina) on the face of the risen Christ, let us make our own your prayer of trusting abandonment and say with firm hope:  ‘Christ Jesus, I trust in you!’”

As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday this year, please join me in recalling the words of Pope Francis as he inaugurated the “Year of Mercy” five years ago.”  From “Vultus Misericordiae,” Bull of Indiction for the “Year of Mercy,“ April 11, 2015:

“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.  These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him. Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God (VM, 1).”

“Mercy reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness (VM, 2).”

“As we can see in Sacred Scripture, mercy is a key word that indicates God’s action towards us. He does not limit himself merely to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living. The mercy of God is his loving concern for each one of us. He feels responsible; that is, he desires our well-being, and he wants to see us happy, full of joy and peaceful. This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel. As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other (VM, 9).”

May Mary, the Mother of Mercy, lead us to the All Merciful Heart of her Son, whose Divine Mercy is “the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14: 6).”