In scripture, the theme of God’s mercy is strong. In fact, Psalm 136 tells us that “God’s mercy endures forever” no less than 26 times. His mercy is mentioned in at least 16 other Psalms and numerous times throughout the bible, in Lamentations, Hosea and in 1 Peter; Paul’s letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, as well as in Luke and many other books. Quite often this word is paired with the term ‘tender.’ God’s tender mercy.
From 1931 to 1938, Jesus appeared to a humble nun in Poland, speaking in detail to her about His mercy. During the visits from Our Lord, Jesus asked Faustina to have an image created of Him as the Merciful Savior. This image, with rays of red and white light emanating from His heart, illustrates the incredible mercy bestowed upon mankind when Jesus took our sins upon Himself. The red and white rays represent the blood and water which flowed from His pierced heart on the day He died for us and opened the gates of Heaven. This image, called the Divine Mercy image, is to serve as a reminder to us to fly to Him when we are troubled or have sinned and to depend on His mercy to change our hearts and souls.
Faustina, under the authority of her spiritual director, kept a detailed diary of her encounters with the Lord. One entry in particular is quite telling about His expectations for us regarding mercy.
“You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it..I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor:
the first — by deed, the second — by word, the third — by prayer…Many souls … are often worried because they do not have the material means with which to carry out an act of mercy. Yet spiritual mercy, which requires neither permissions nor storehouses, is much more meritorious and is within the grasp of every soul.
If a soul does not exercise mercy somehow or other, it will not obtain My mercy on the day of judgment. Oh, if only souls knew how to gather eternal treasure for themselves, they would not be judged, for they would forestall My judgment with their mercy” (Diary,1317).
This same concept of being judged by God as we judge others is clearly outlined by Jesus himself in the Lord’s Prayer as well as in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. So, we can either be judgmental or we can be merciful. How we live our lives on earth will determine our eternal life. Why? Because our actions demonstrate the depth of our love for God. He has asked us to treat our fellow man with mercy and kindness out of love for Him. If we truly love our Lord, we will imitate Him.
As directed by the Holy Spirit, the Church has established a feast day to commemorate the mercy of God. Divine Mercy Sunday always falls on the Sunday after Easter. According to the Association of Marian Helpers, which run the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., here is how to prepare for the feast day:
- Sincerely repent of all our sins;
- Place our complete trust in Jesus;
- Go to confession, preferably before that Sunday;
- Receive Holy Communion on the day of the Feast;
- Venerate* the Image of The Divine Mercy;
- Be merciful to others, through our actions, words, and prayers on their behalf.
*To venerate a sacred image or statue simply means to perform some act or make some gesture of deep religious respect toward it because of the person whom it represents — in this case, our Most Merciful Savior.
It is fitting that the Feast of Divine Mercy is the week after Easter. Instead of asking His creations to make up for our sins, God took them upon Himself. Jesus came to right all the wrongs of our first parents and their children after them. Jesus is the New Adam. Instead of shirking his duty in tending the garden and protecting his bride, as Adam did; Jesus suffered in the garden for our sins and sacrificed every drop of His blood for His bride, the Church. Adam’s sins resulted in banishment from Paradise and cut us off from God’s grace. Jesus’ Passion unlocked the gates of heaven and opened a floodgate of grace for all mankind. Yet, during His time on earth, Jesus stressed that we should both ask for God’s mercy and freely give mercy to our neighbors.
The Church directs us in how to give and receive the mercy of God. We can pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3:00 p.m., the traditional hour of Jesus’ death. The chaplet is a prayer prayed on rosary beads which asks God to have mercy on us and on the whole world. http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/praythechaplet.php In prayer, we can meditate on His Passion and death, thanking and praising Him for His mercy. Throughout the day we can say this brief prayer: “Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” A very important way to focus on God’s mercy is to perform acts of mercy both spiritually and corporally. Below are the works of mercy:
Corporal Works of Mercy:
- To feed the hungry;
- To give drink to the thirsty;
- To clothe the naked;
- To harbour the harbourless;
- To visit the sick;
- To ransom the captive;
- To bury the dead.
Spiritual Works of Mercy:
- To instruct the ignoran;
- To counsel the doutful;
- To admonish sinners;
- To bear wrongs patiently;
- To forgive offences willingly;
- To comfort the afflicted;
- To pray for the living and the dead.
Jesus tells us to ‘be merciful just as your Father is merciful.’ (Luke 7:36) What better day to start than today?