Divine Mercy is Personal


This coming Sunday concludes the Octave of Easter. The Church celebrates the great feast of Easter for eight days, a number that speaks of the central importance of Easter. In Genesis, God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. The eighth day becomes a symbol of God’s renewal of creation in Jesus Christ, a “re-creation.” For this same reason, baptismal fonts are usually eight sided as we are born anew in the Sacrament of Baptism.
Saint Pope John Paul II designated this Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. In doing so, the sainted Pope brought the devotion of St. Faustina to the universal Church in a very powerful way, associating the truth at the heart of this devotion with the Paschal Mystery itself.
Of course, the feast does not introduce the notion of God’s mercy, but draws us into the contemplation of a truth well-established in Scripture and in the prayer of the Church. The Old Testament gives frequent and varied witness to the mercy of God. In fact, you might say that mercy is a key quality of the personality of God. And it is a quality which is expressed lovingly and personally.
When the Lord instructs Moses to go to the people and Moses asks about how he should introduce the Lord to them, God responds by giving the Divine Name and the designation “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex 3:15). This designation speaks of God in terms of the personal relationship established and maintained by God with His people. When the text speaks in Hebrew of Mercy, the word employed offers a range of meaning that includes “love.” It is often translated as “merciful love.”
This distinction is very important. The common understanding of mercy would present someone in power “having mercy” upon the lowly. A judge or king, for example, might give mercy to the accused or to a supplicant. The scriptures present divine mercy as flowing from love, not power in the worldly sense. For this reason, it is personal — it is a quality of the person of God offered to persons loved by God. It is less about power and more about relationships. This is revealed above all in the Person of Jesus Who is God’s merciful love in and for the world.
Saint Faustina’s prophetic visions and writings addressed a violent 20th century which would see monstrous ideologies assert total control over the minds, hearts and bodies of human beings. The merciless communist and fascist ideologues had no interest in the welfare of individual persons.
It should not surprise us to see how God inspired Saint Faustina to renew our awareness of the tender love of God for each and every person. She summoned a broken century to look upon the image of Divine Mercy that is Jesus. She called us to entrust ourselves in prayer to that same loving mercy. And she challenged us to become conduits of that love and mercy in our engagement with one another. Here again, mercy is personal, for the Lord’s own love inspires the disciple to care for persons.
This Sunday, we will pray Psalm 118, acclaiming that the Lord’s mercy endures forever. May that enduring and loving mercy touch and renew your heart on this eighth day of creation!