In light of tomorrow’s Feast of Divine Mercy, I want to share a third reflexion to prepare us for joy and awe; here writing on the image of Divine Mercy (see above image) and the Feast’s indulgence. Jesus told St. Fasutina: ‘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. I am making you the administrator of My mercy. Tell the confessor that the Image is to be on view in the church and not within the enclosure in that convent. By means of this Image I shall grant many graces to souls; so, let every soul have access to it.’1 ‘I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory.’2
‘And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced.’Zechariah 12:10
‘My gaze from this image is like My gaze from the cross.’3 Upon the Cross, Jesus was thinking of each one of us. Everyone in history, both those who would come to know Him and those who would refuse Him, each was on His mind as He gave Himself up in love for the world. He bore the curse of sin, so that united with His Heart we might bear the blessing of the Father. And the Father’s blessing is His adoption as His own sons and daughters by the reception of His Spirit: ‘Through his Word, he pours into our hearts the Gift that contains all gifts, the Holy Spirit.’4 At His Death, Jesus gave up His Spirit, and afterward His side was pierced by a Roman soldier to ensure He truly died: ‘and forthwith came there out blood and water.’5 Jesus is the Divine Mercy of God Incarnate, and His gift of mercy is Himself, sacrificed on Calvary.
‘The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the blood which is the life of souls… These two rays issued forth from the very depth of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. These rays shield souls from the wrath of My Father. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him. I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy.’6
‘And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.‘Revelation 22:17
‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’7 In looking unto Jesus our Saviour, we come to know the love of God for us, and we become transfigured by this love, into this love. St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote that the Word, Jesus, speaks of voluntary humility as ‘poverty in spirit;’ the Apostle, St. Paul, gives an example of God’s poverty when he says: ‘For your sakes he became poor.’8 Jesus lowered Himself in humility (which comes from the Latin for ‘lowly’ and ‘ground’) in His condescension to us poor sinners. We must acknowledge our utter need for God’s mercy in order to receive it, to receive the Blood and Water of Christ, and we will find rest in our souls. So Jesus told St. Faustina, ‘I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: “Jesus, I trust in You.”’9 The vessel of trust is our means for receiving God’s mercy, for we are all designed to be filled with the Spirit of God who is Love. Jesus comes as Redeemer and Saviour, and we are the poor and needy—for what is man but a breath, born yesterday, and buried tomorrow? what can we do on our own in the vastness of time and space and eternity and power? what is man next to God? Yet here is the answer: poor, and beloved. To trust with humility is to acknowledge our sinfulness, weaknesses, and all our limitations; and to acknowledge God as the giver of all good things. Then, like Abraham, by faith we can embrace the Father’s blessing.10
‘A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.‘John 13:34
Jesus told St. Faustina: ‘My daughter, if I demand through you that people revere My mercy, you should be the first to distinguish yourself by this confidence in My mercy. I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. 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. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy. Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be acts of mercy, and I demand the worship of My mercy through the solemn celebration of the Feast and through the veneration of the image which is painted. By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works.’11
‘You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’12 We have a warped understanding of perfection. We think to be perfect means to be self-sufficient. Yet God the Father is perfect, and He places everything in His Son’s hands, and He is totally filled with His Son’s love. And the Son receives everything from His Father, and is likewise filled with His love, His Spirit. God is perfect, almighty, and He is One. My spiritual director prefers to say, then: Be filled, as your heavenly Father is filled. Only God will make us happy, because all goodness comes from Him as light from the sun. Would you ask for daylight but reject the sun? And we are made in His image, to be perfectly and infinitely happy. But this is only possible if we possess the One who can perfectly satisfy us forever. And when we receive Him, we are made into His likeness, as a son imitates his father. So we must be merciful, as our heavenly Father is merciful. If we do not show mercy as Christ did—by spreading the Gospel through friendship and good conversation, and by giving up ourselves in love for others, lowering ourselves to lowest level and counting our lives as nothing for the sake of the good of others—if we do not resemble Christ in this way, then it is a sure sign that we have not truly accepted God’s transforming mercy. We are not called to do all things with ease, without corrections and pain, or on our own strength. We are called to be apostles: those sent forth in the image of Christ. And we will struggle, suffer, fall, and die, as He did for us. Yet if in all things we seek our Father’s glory and rely on the Holy Spirit, then in all these things we will become more like Jesus, and like Him we will rise one day and be with God in Heaven, where there is joy, friendship, peace, and beauty with neither limit nor end.
We think of ‘indulgent’ in a negative sense, but it comes from the early 17th century, where it meant to ‘treat with excess kindness.’ As mentioned in my first reflexion on Divine Mercy, mercy is to give others more than they deserve. Hence all of mercy is God’s indulgence. And it is in this love that God grants indulgences through His Church. ‘An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.’13 A gross misunderstanding on the part of many of us is that we have gotten the notion that law reflects the arbitrary decision of a ruler and is subject to change based on shifting needs. But the older understanding is that there is a higher law, a natural law which is a rule of reality, to which all men are subject. In the same way that gravity is a law of physical nature, and we are free to disregard it to our injury or death, so morality is a law of spiritual nature, and we are free to disregard it also, to our sorrow and, if we remain unrepentant, unto eternal spiritual death. And even as defying a physical law may result in temporal suffering and not death, so defying a moral law may result in temporal punishment, not as an arbitrary action our of God’s anger, but as a natural consequence of the unnatural way we have lived. Thus when we sin, though we may be forgiven by Christ, we are yet wounded spiritually: repeated sins form vices—bad habits—and make it difficult to love God and others and to allow God’s grace to conform us to Himself—to be perfect as He is perfect. This purification takes place in purgatory, which rids us of any remaining addictions to sin that we have. Purgatory, then, is an act of God’s mercy. But it is necessary only if we have not wholly received His mercy and loved Him with our whole beings, if we still prefer our attachments and vices to God, the greatest Gift, Who alone can satisfy. Why would we settle for loving God a little, when He has loved us completely? Why would we put off happiness, and avoid greater union with God now?
It is to this end that the Church grants us indulgences: That we may more readily surrender our lives in renewed acts of trust and love, and so hasten our conversion into Christ; and so that we may also help the souls suffering in purgatory. For an indulgence can be offered on behalf of oneself or for the souls in purgatory. Jesus told St. Faustina: ‘Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice.’14 And the ‘soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.’15 This refers to the indulgence, granted through the Church, that we have access to on Divine Mercy Sunday tomorrow. It is a plenary indulgence, which (as opposed to partial) removes all of the temporal punishment due to sin. The requirements for all plenary indulgences are, along with the specific indulgenced work: an interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin; sacramental Confession of sins (within 8 days before or after the indulgenced act); reception of the Holy Eucharist; and prayer for the intentions of the Pope.16
In the Wilderness without Sacraments
Many of us cannot come to Confession or receive the Eucharist within eight days before or after the Feast. But the Catechism says that if we cannot go to Confession, we can make an act of perfect contrition, which is sorrow of soul and detestation for sin which arises out of a love for God alone, accompanied by a sincere resolution to not sin again. ‘For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.’17 An act of perfect contrition ‘obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.’18 In the same way, all the graces of the Eucharist are available to us if, when we cannot receive the Eucharist sacramentally, we unite ourselves to the Sacrifice of the Mass and make a spiritual communion, as St. Alphonsus de Liguori offered: ‘Since I am unable now to receive you Jesus sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.’ Then, as after sacramental Communion, we should spend time in thanksgiving by contemplating the presence of God in our heart.
So to receive this plenary indulgence tomorrow: Place the Image of Divine Mercy where you can venerate it, go to Confession or make an act of perfect contrition within 8 days before or after the Feast, make an act of spiritual communion with the intention to go to Confession and receive the Eucharist as soon as possible, and pray for the Pope’s intentions while praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.19
We are Destined for Love
The devil wants to tempt us to sloth, the aversion to the greatness to which God has called us. Satan wants us to forgo the greatness of grace offered to us on this feast of mercy, either by a spirit of timidity, inspired by fear instead of love, or by presumption at our self-sufficiency. But true perfection is to be filled with Divine Mercy. Come, then, let us rejoice! And may we humble ourselves to Him who became a Sacrifice for our sakes, that in Him we might know the beauty of love and the goodness of God as Father.
‘Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.’Micah 7:18-20
O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever: And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever. Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever. ~ Psalm 136: 1, 23-26
- Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, paragraph 570.
- Diary, 48.
- Diary, 326.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 1082.
- John 19:34.
- Diary, 299.
- Matthew 11:29.
- CCC, 2546.
- Diary, 327.
- CCC, 1080.
- Diary, 742.
- Matthew 5:48.
- CCC, 1471.
- Diary, 1226.
- Diary, 699.
- 2 Corinthians 7:10.
- CCC, 1452.