The second Sunday of Easter was declared “Divine Mercy Sunday” by St. John Paul II in 2000. In this Year of Mercy, we are called in a special way to show mercy, to live out mercy, to have a merciful heart. How can Divine Mercy Sunday help us with that?
First, the history of Divine Mercy. A Polish nun, St. Faustina Kowalska, under the obedience of her spiritual director, kept a diary of her experiences: Jesus appearing to her. Jesus, at one time, showed her his Sacred Heart, pointed to it, and said “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the prayer, ‘Jesus, I trust in you.'”
The Church decrees that private revelations, such as St. Faustina’s experience, are not required belief. However, since the Church has also approved St. Faustina’s experiences as reliable and truthful, we are free to to use this particular devotion in our own spiritual lives. Also, given that the Church now celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday annually, we can be assured that this devotion is a sound one.
In 2001, St. John Paul II gave a homily on the first Divine Mercy Sunday. In it, he said:
The Heart of Christ! His “Sacred Heart” has given men everything: redemption, salvation, sanctification. St Faustina Kowalska saw coming from this Heart that was overflowing with generous love, two rays of light which illuminated the world. “The two rays”, according to what Jesus himself told her, “represent the blood and the water” (Diary, p. 132). The blood recalls the sacrifice of Golgotha and the mystery of the Eucharist; the water, according to the rich symbolism of the Evangelist John, makes us think of Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3: 5; 4: 14).
Through the mystery of this wounded heart, the restorative tide of God’s merciful love continues to spread over the men and women of our time. Here alone can those who long for true and lasting happiness find its secret.
One writer sums up the message of Divine Mercy as “A, B, C:”
A — Ask for His Mercy. God 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 merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.
C — Completely trust in Jesus. God 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.
We experience Christ’s “wounded heart” every day. It may be the wounds we carry in our own hearts. That wounded heart may be the heart of a child who is struggling, or the heart of a loved one who is ill. Each and every person we encounter has been wounded by sin and sometimes, shame. It must be part of who we are as Catholics to bring the “restorative tide” of mercy to the world. Our own hearts must mirror Christ’s: a merciful heart, full of love and assured that the answer to the longing of every human heart is found in Christ.