In light of the glory of Easter, the Church’s greatest Feast, we journey toward the grand finale, the Octave of Easter known as Divine Mercy Sunday. If that were not enough, this present Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy adds weight to the promise of extravagant grace. Our faithful Lord will do His part to open the floodgates of mercy upon aching humanity. He promised that much.
Our part is to avail ourselves of the liturgical celebrations in our parishes and dioceses wherein a treasury of grace is obtainable. In the shadow of the increasing global grief, trauma, and threat, the convergence of this Feast and Jubilee of Mercy seems providentially designed to heal. Divine Mercy is far beyond an optional devotion; it is the heart of Sacred Scripture. This past Easter Sunday, Pope Francis stated, “Only mercy can save the world”. We must use this great opportunity to save poor sinners, to heal “aching mankind”.
Christ said to St. Faustina, “Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not wish to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart” (Diary 1588) (Emphasis mine). Let us ponder the Lord’s words. Christ refers to us as “aching mankind”. His response to our “ache” is to “press us to His Merciful Heart”. In doing so, healing occurs. Let us consider this.
The Catechism (1432) helps us to understand the “ache” of the human heart: “The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: “Restore us to thyself, O Lord, that you may be restored!” God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced.” Now let us look at what is meant by “heart” in Sacred Scripture.
The Catechism (2563) teaches us, “The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation; it is the place of covenant.”
How beautiful that Jesus said, “I desire to heal aching mankind, pressing it into My Merciful Heart”. He gently draws our aching heart into His merciful heart where we are incorporated into His healing love.
In practical terms how does this “heart exchange” heal? A simple metaphor may help. When a child is brought into the hospital burning up with fever, doctors sometimes order an ice bath to bring down the temperature. The feverish child is plunged into the ice water to save life. Christ plunges our hearts into His Merciful Heart to heal us also. We all suffer from sin-sickness.
The Lord’s message to St. Faustina, “I desire to heal” is consistent with what He did throughout the Gospel. Jesus preached and healed. Pope Francis reminds us of this in his Papal Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee.
Jesus, seeing the crowds of people who followed him, realized that they were tired and exhausted, lost and without a guide, and he felt deep compassion for them (cf. Mt 9:36). On the basis of this compassionate love he healed the sick who were presented to him (cf. Mt 14:14), and with just a few loaves of bread and fish he satisfied the enormous crowd (cf. Mt 15:37). What moved Jesus in all of these situations was nothing other than mercy, with which he read the hearts of those he encountered and responded to their deepest need. When he came upon the widow of Nain taking her son out for burial, he felt great compassion for the immense suffering of this grieving mother, and he gave back her son by raising him from the dead(cf. Lk 7:15). After freeing the demoniac in the country of the Gerasenes, Jesus entrusted him with this mission: “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mk 5:19). The calling of Matthew is also presented within the context of mercy. Passing by the tax collector’s booth, Jesus looked intently at Matthew. It was a look full of mercy that forgave the sins of that man, a sinner and a tax collector, whom Jesus chose – against the hesitation of the disciples – to become one of the Twelve. Saint Bede the Venerable, commenting on this Gospel passage, wrote that Jesus looked upon Matthew with merciful love and chose him: miserando atque eligendo. This expression impressed me so much that I chose it for my episcopal motto.
The same can be said for each of us—God looked with merciful love and chose us! What’s our response?
Confession: The Healing Sacrament
“Tell souls they are to look for solace that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy (The Sacrament of Reconciliation). There the greatest miracles take place and are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage, or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one’s misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were souls like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full (Diary, 1448).
From 1998 to 2005, with a team, I had the privilege of chairing large annual diocesan conferences for the Feast of Divine Mercy. The schedule always included Mass, sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Adoration, veneration of the miraculous Image of Divine Mercy, veneration of the first class relic of St. Faustina and prayers for healing. Gratefully many priests from the local Abbey came to hear confessions throughout the day. Stories of miracles, conversions, and healing abound, some documented and published.
More recently, I asked the Lord to grant me a deeper level of contrition for my sin. In reading the Saints lives I noted how they often wept over their sins. I lamented that I was confessing in the same manner since my first Confession. I desired to grow in this area. God was gracious to answer my prayer.
Throughout St. Faustina’s Diary the Lord emphasizes the need to go to Confession often, and to trust that He is there in the person of the priest. St. Faustina recorded the conditions for a good confession: transparency, humility, and obedience. Pray also for Confessors who are God’s instruments of healing.
Please do not deprive yourself of the healing sacrament —especially as it relates to Divine Mercy Sunday and the plenary indulgence.
The Last Gift of St. John Paul II for Divine Mercy Sunday
In closing, let us recall the life and legacy of St. John Paul II. He died peacefully on the evening of 2 April, 9:37 p.m., Rome time. The last gift of the Holy Father for Divine Mercy Sunday, April 3, was the Regina Caeli message. At the end of the Holy Mass celebrated that day in St. Peter’s Square for the deceased Pope, Archbishop Leonardo Sandra stated, “I have been charged to read you the text that was prepared in accordance with his explicit instructions by the Holy Father John Paul II. I am deeply honored to do so, but also filled with “nostalgia”. The following is the translation of this “last gift” of St. John Paul II.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the glorious Alleluia of Easter resounds. Today’s Gospel from John emphasizes that on the evening of that day he appeared to the Apostles and “showed them his hands and his side” (Jn. 20:20), that is, the signs of the painful passion with which his Body was indelibly stamped, even after the Resurrection. Those glorious wounds which he allowed doubting Thomas to touch eight days later, reveal the mercy of God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn. 3:16).
This mystery of love is at the heart of the liturgy today, the Second Sunday of Easter, dedicated to the Divine Mercy. As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, the Risen Lord offers his love that pardons, reconciles, and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!
Lord, who reveal the Father’s love by your death and resurrection, we believe in you and confidently repeat to you today: Jesus, I trust in you, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. –Last message of Pope John Paul II (Observatore Romano, 30 March 2005)