Divine Mercy, Sacred Heart of Jesus | Terezia Sedlakova
“My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy” (Diary, 699)
Mercy. We’ve heard it proclaimed in Scripture and preached from the pulpit. Saints have written about it and Saint Pope John Paul II’s pontificate was immersed in its message. Pope Francis even declared an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. But how many of us truly understand just what God’s mercy is and what its significance is meant to be in our lives?
Like many, I was familiar with those often heard Scripture passages that spoke of God’s mercy. I also had heard about Sister Faustina, the Polish nun who had experienced visions of Christ and had written a diary about Divine Mercy, and I had dutifully added the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to my occasional repertoire of recited prayers. In the years following the institution of Divine Mercy Sunday, I attended our parish’s Divine Mercy Hour on the Feast Day, where we would gather to pray the Chaplet and venerate the Image. And that summed up the extent of my “devotion” – an occasional, somewhat obligatory recitation of the Chaplet and participation in a once-a-year Feast Day. But God, in His infinite mercy, wasn’t about to leave me there.
When God really wants your attention, He often resorts to using a 2×4. It was the summer of 2015 and as I headed poolside, I hastily grabbed a book from my “to read” pile, The Second Greatest Story Ever Told by Fr. Michael Gaitley. I wasn’t sure what I expected, but I certainly didn’t expect to be riveted to its pages. Far more than just imparting information, Fr. Gaitley distinctly wove together all the bits and pieces I had learned into a compelling story of God’s persistent efforts to woo us back to Him after the fall. The story spanned the entire history of God’s people, culminating in the pontificate of St. Pope John Paul II which continually proclaimed that “now is the time of mercy.” I couldn’t put the book down, and as the summer sun bore down upon me, there was a spark that was being ignited from within. By the time I finished, Divine Mercy had started moving from my head to my heart and the book’s call to action, echoed in the words of St. Pope John Paul II, refused to let me rest. “This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world.” So, there it was. An urgent call, a sudden burning desire, and … absolutely no clue on how to respond. Again, God wasn’t about to leave me there.
In its Spring 2016 edition, the Marian Helper ran an article with an invitation to consecrate to Divine Mercy using Fr. Gaitley’s newest book, 33 Days to Merciful Love. That Divine Mercy Sunday, I consecrated myself to Divine Mercy along with thousands of other viewers (60,000 copies of the book had been ordered as a result of the invitation) as Fr. Gaitley recited the prayer of Consecration live on EWTN from the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA. That day was truly a “mountaintop” experience. Not only had I been called to embrace the message, but I had consecrated myself to being a witness to His merciful love to the world. But, once again, God wasn’t about to leave me there.
“Lynette, I have another project for you.” It was one of the members of our little retreat group. “Have you seen the trailer for the documentary on the original Image of Divine Mercy?” My stomach sank. Yes, I had seen it. But no, I wasn’t about to approach our pastor to get the rights to show it at our parish. “Oh, you need to. I’ll help you.” Long story short, I did and the documentary (The Original Image of Divine Mercy) was shown a few months later at three difference times to full crowds in our parish conference room. Task done. Or so I thought. Another parish had expressed interest and over the next few months God quite miraculously worked out the details to not only host the documentary there, but for the director of the film to fly in for a “Director’s Cut.” What transpired that next Palm Sunday as several hundred people gathered to watch this miraculous story, hear the presentation by the Director, and then venerate the life-size replica of the Image, was truly humbling. Then, as if God couldn’t bless me enough, I was humbled once again as I was gifted with a large 3rd class relic of the Image for my home. In gratitude, I vowed to God that the Image wouldn’t just hang in my home. It would be a “pilgrim” Image that would travel to others as the Holy Spirit would lead. The call to spread the message of Divine Mercy had deepened to include the witness of the Original Image. The mission was now complete. Yet again, God wasn’t about to leave me there.
He didn’t leave me there because I needed Him. Despite all I had been learning and doing to promote the message of His Mercy, there were parts of my life, past and present, that I was struggling to relinquish. Sure, I had received absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but deep down I clung to the false security of my pride that said some things would never be forgiven, resolved, healed. Letting go would mean I had to completely trust the words I had so often repeated to others – “Jesus, I trust in You.” My refusal of His mercy wove a nasty, almost hidden web of distrust into my spiritual life and into every relationship I had, affecting both my mental and my physical health. It was time for God to do the astonishing.
“Come to Vilnius.” For several weeks this persistent statement came to me. I wasn’t convinced. I had never been out of the country, let alone entertain the idea of going to some less-traveled to destination. But in faith, we made plans to join a pilgrimage, and when that didn’t materialize, my husband followed what had to have been the Holy Spirit’s prompting and pronounced simply, “We’re going.” Less than two months later, off we went, just the two of us. There is much I could write about being in the “City of Mercy,” but being in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Vilnius, kneeling before the Image of Divine Mercy that was painted at St. Faustina’s instruction and knowing its miraculous history, was truly a “transfiguration” experience. We began and ended almost every day there, basking in the rays of His Mercy, rays that began the process of healing my brokenness and turning my heart back to embrace my vocation as my husband’s wife.
“I am Love and Mercy Itself.” (Jesus’s words to St. Faustina, Diary, 1074) If we, as Catholic Christians, are called to become “Christ” to one another, then love and mercy must permeate every aspect of our life. “Divine Mercy is not a secondary devotion, but an integral dimension of Christian faith and prayer.” (St. Benedict) “How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy.” (Pope Francis) As Mathew N. Schmalz writes in Mercy Matters, “Mercy responds not just to human sin, but also to human need … mercy is love that responds to human need in an unexpected or unmerited way.” For many of us, “sometimes it’s not that we’re open to mercy as a conscious choice; it’s that we are opened to mercy by circumstances beyond our own power to control or grasp.” Being able to give and receive mercy is a life-long learning process and a gift of grace, one made easier, I believe, if we truly take Christ’s words to heart. Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus showed us the ultimate act of Love and Mercy. Why? Because we desperately needed it. As we approach Divine Mercy Sunday, let us strive to love Him and one another by seeking out each other’s needs and meeting them in unique, unexpected ways, trusting Jesus to help us answer, “How can I best love you today?
MORE ON DIVINE MERCY