The Easter Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday is nearly upon us; and so that we might not be caught unawares, either by distraction or neglect with regard to God’s grace, I want to draw attention to what we are about to witness, what God wants us to experience—to what the liturgical year of the Church has been leading up to, and what is fulfilled on Easter and proclaimed again with ever greater joy on the Sunday after Easter: Divine Mercy.
What is mercy?
What is mercy in its true sense? How are we to understand mercy? What is the Divine Mercy of God? Our Lord said to St. Faustina (1905-1938): ‘Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy.’1 God is love, God Himself is three persons, His nature is the very being of love, Father for Son and Son for Father in the perfect communion of the Holy Spirit. And love is in its nature self-sacrificing and free, totally bent on the ultimate happiness of the other, giving more than the other deserves—and this is mercy: to give more than is deserved. To give what ones owes is justice; to give more than one owes is mercy. This is why all of creation is the result of God’s mercy, because He does not need anything for His own happiness. Therefore all existence is purely the result of His love. How much more then is Jesus’ suffering and Death for us miserable sinners, who deserve nothing, the greatest work of mercy? And our joy in this mercy as God’s children shall not cease, for ‘[f]orgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.’2 All are in need of His mercy, both the sinner for forgiveness, and the righteous that they may not fall and may remain in love.
Often I become befuddled in pondering the meanings and depths of the attributes of God and His works, trying to understand what is His love, His grace, His mercy. But I heard once in a homily on St. Thomas Aquinas’ teaching of God’s nature that we misunderstand God when we try to divide Him according to His attributes in a human way, as if one part of God is just and another kind, or at one time He is patient and at another time He is angry. Rather, God is utterly, perfectly simple. That is, He cannot be divided. He is not parts. God has no part or parts. God is. God is also unchanging and outside of time, within which or through which we perceive His works. He is Spirit, and He is personal and interpersonal; but He cannot be defined by breaking Him down into parts. We more or less understand, then, that we cannot fully understand love, as God is love and He is incomprehensible. Neither can we fully understand any of His attributes, including His mercy, if we cannot fully understand Him who is One undivided. His love is a mystery. It is true, but it is a mystery, to be known but not understood except as He reveals it to little children. I do not understand a mother’s love for her child. But I know it well.
And so Jesus said to St. Faustina: ‘My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.’3
The Feast of Mercy
The first Sunday after Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday, which in my opinion is one of the most important days of the year. It marks the fulfillment of Easter as the eighth day of the Easter octave (Easter is actually eight days, not one), and is therefore the fulfillment of Easter, which is the fulfillment of the Christian life, lived through the liturgical calendar of the Church. For the Son of God entered the world, including time, redeeming it in Himself; and we take part in the work of the Thrice-Holy God when we enter into His ‘work for the people’, His liturgy. This work, this liturgy, is our sanctification to the purpose of perfect happiness in Heaven, which is to be fully alive in friendship with God. All the mysteries of salvation—Jesus’ Conception, Birth, Passion, Death, Burial, Resurrection, and Ascension, and the coming of His Spirit, and all of His sacraments—these are all for the purpose of our happiness and holiness (which are inseparable). They are the flower of His love. They are Divine Mercy.
Divine Mercy Sunday is reveals what it means to be fully filled, fulfilled, in Christ’s redemptive work. Jesus told St. Faustina:
‘My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.’4
St. Faustina’s Diary contains at least 14 passages in which our Lord requests this feast, now celebrated around the world since Pope St. John Paul II promulgated it at St. Faustina’s canonization on April 30, 2000. Our Lord awaits this day in great anticipation for us His children to come to Him to beg for His mercy, for He said to St. Faustina: ‘Whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment,’5 and ‘No soul will be justified until it turns with confidence to My mercy, and this is why the first Sunday after Easter is to be the Feast of mercy. On that day, priests are to tell everyone about My great and unfathomable mercy.’6
Divine Mercy in My Soul
The requirement to receive God’s mercy is humble trust. Humility is the ‘virtue by which the Christian acknowledges God as the author of all goodness.’7 As Jesus told St. Faustina, humility is nothing but the truth. God is God, we are not. He desires for us one thing: our ultimate and unending happiness. But we must receive this gift with the vessel of trust. We have a special opportunity for this during this difficult time. For many of us life as slowed down, and we do not have access to the Fount of Life through the Mass. Many are sick, are struggling economically, and are tempted to anxiety. But many of us still have access to the Sacrament of Confession, and we all have access to God through prayer. Ee can and should increase prayer with this time given us, especially during Holy Week and Bright Week (the week following Easter). Jesus told St. Faustina:
‘Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of my grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity. The torrents of grace inundate humble souls. The proud remain always in poverty and misery, because My grace turns away from them to humble souls.’8
And prayer is our means of accessing God in friendship. St. Teresa of Avila wrote: ‘Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.’9 And Jesus told St. Faustina, ‘I am love and Mercy Itself. There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted—it increases. The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.’10 We can always meet Jesus in the silence of our hearts, and in meditative prayer, especially the Rosary. And this Friday we have a special opportunity to immerse ourselves in God’s mercy, for our own salvation and sanctification and to save others. Jesus commanded St. Faustina to pray a novena to the Divine Mercy for the nine days prior to Divine Mercy Sunday, beginning on Good Friday. ‘By this novena,’ He told her, ‘I will grant every possible grace to souls.’11 And another time when He commanded her to do so again, He said, ‘I desire trust from My creatures. Encourage souls to place great trust in My fathomless mercy. Let the weak, sinful soul have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins than there are grains of sand in the world, all would be drowned in the immeasurable depths of My mercy.’12
We may not be able to receive Holy Communion this Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, yet though we are limited, God is never limited. We can make a spiritual communion, begging Jesus to visit us, especially where we are weak and sick. For Jesus told St. Faustina: ‘[Let] the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice…’.13 I pray you would join me in praying this novena, starting this Friday. And I encourage you to pick up the Chaplet of Divine Mercy often, for Jesus thirsted on the Cross, and thirsts still—He thirsts for souls. Will we make Him wait? Or will we quench His desire to pour out His mercy into the miserable and sinful soul?
‘Praise the Lord, my soul, for everything, and glorify His mercy, for His goodness is without end. Everything will pass, but His mercy is without limit or end. And although evil will attain its measure, in mercy there is no measure.’14
St. Faustina, pray for us!
“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”Psalm 51:17
Here is a link for the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, how to pray it and Jesus’ promises regarding it: http://www.divinemercysunday.com/chaplet.htm
And here is a link to the Divine Mercy novena: http://www.divinemercysunday.com/novena.htm
- St. Faustina’s Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, paragraph 301.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraph 2844.
- Diary, 699.
- Diary, 300.
- Diary, 570.
- CCC, Glossary.
- Diary, 1602.
- CCC, 2709.
- Diary, 1273.
- Diary, 796.
- Diary, 1059.
- Diary, 1146.
- Diary, 423.