March 30, 2016 // Local

The ABCs of Divine Mercy

By Father George Gabet

The first Sunday after Easter has traditionally been known as “Low Sunday” since it follows the highest and greatest of all Sundays, to which all Sundays are “low” in comparison. However, on May 5, the Sunday after Easter of the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II declared this Sunday as “Divine Mercy Sunday” and established the Feast of Mercy as requested by Our Lord through St. Faustina. It was on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, April 2, 2005 that now saint John Paul II died.

Nothing changes liturgically, yet we are able to take advantage of the plenary indulgence offered by Holy Mother Church on this day under the usual conditions. It is granted to those who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or in the tabernacle, recite one Our Father and one Apostles Creed adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus — such as “Merciful Jesus, I trust in Thee.”

The “usual conditions” for gaining a plenary indulgence, besides doing the prescribed work, are: participating in the sacrament of confession, receiving Holy Communion, saying a prayer for the Pope as well as a detachment from all sins.

In the diary of St. Faustina, Our Lord revealed to her the following: He said, “I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, especially poor sinners on that day the very depths of my tender mercy are open. . .” (Diary #699). Our Lord also related to her how important it is to take advantage of His Mercy now. He told her, “Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore my Mercy they will perish for all eternity. . . tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My Justice is near”(#965).

It is through the diary of St. Faustina, which she wrote out of obedience to her superiors and to Christ Himself, that we find the very rich and mystical reality of the soul’s interior relationship with God. In it we find that our Lord wished to communicate to the world the great message of God’s mercy and to reveal the pattern of Christian perfection based on trust in God and in having mercy to our neighbor. How especially fitting during this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

What is the message of Divine Mercy? 

This message of Mercy is that God loves us, all of us, no matter how great our sins in the past have been.  We see His Mercy to King David (who committed adultery and murder) Mary Magdalene (a prostitute) and the good thief, St. Dimas, to name just as few examples. Our Lord wishes us to recognize that His Mercy is greater than our sins so that we call upon Him with trust, receive His Mercy and let it flow through us to others. The message of mercy can be broken down into three parts that are as simple to remember as A, B and C.

A — Ask for His mercy. We must first realize that God is merciful! He wishes us to ask for His Mercy —  upon ourselves, our nation and the whole world! Today’s Gospel contains the institution of the sacrament of Penance whereby Jesus gave the power to forgive sins to the Apostles on that first Easter Sunday.

B — Be merciful to others. He 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. Remember the beatitude, “Blessed are the Merciful for they shall obtain Mercy.” We set the limits of how much we want God to forgive us by how much we forgive others each day when we say the prayer Jesus Himself taught us: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We must, therefore, be merciful to others!

C — Confidence and completely trust in God. God wants us to trust in Him; to know and truly believe that He is God. He is in charge and is a loving God who is infinitely merciful. He does care for you! During Holy Week last week, we recalled just how much He cares for you. It is for this reason that on the image of Divine Mercy, Jesus had St. Faustina paint the words “Jesus I trust in Thee.”

So, we enter into that Great Feast of Mercy — Divine Mercy Sunday. We see how appropriate that it is this Sunday — one week after Holy Week with the image of Our Lord’s Passion and Death for love of us still fresh in our minds, so that we would contemplate His great Mercy — especially in this Year of Mercy!

In the Gospel, we see that Our Lord instituted the means by which we can receive His Mercy — the Sacrament of Confession. This is a very important Scripture for our Protestant friends who ask us, “Why do you have to confess to a priest? Why not confess directly to God?” In John 20:22, Jesus appeared to the apostles, breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them and whose sins you retain, they are retained.” Our Lord gave the power to forgive sins to men — to the apostles who became first Christians, priests and  bishops. Why would He give that power? It is because He wanted us to use it.

The institution of the Sacrament of Penance shows to us the great Mercy of our God who wishes us to be at peace and know our sins are forgiven when confessed with a contrite heart. We also see in the Gospel a story of our Lord’s desire that we have faith in Him. As St. Thomas the Apostle puts his fingers in Jesus’ wounds, he kneels before Him and says “My Lord and My God!” Jesus responded, “Blessed are you Thomas, for you have seen and believed. Blessed are they who have not seen, but still believe!

So during this Feast of Mercy in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us ask for God’s Mercy — for ourselves, our parish, our friends and our nation. Secondly, let us be merciful to others by living the beatitudes. Finally, let us have confidence, completely believing and trusting in Our Lord. Let us say always those words He wants to hear, “Jesus I trust in Thee!”

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