Tender Mercies, from Beginning to End

If you’re comfortable thinking that devotion to Divine Mercy is simply another pious exercise, think again.

Divine Mercy, a belief and understanding of God’s enormous love and compassion for His creatures, is the summary of our entire history with God. It is the ongoing story of God’s pursuance of mankind; of our imperfect relationship with Him; of His unending overtures to reach our hearts and minds; of His dying and rising in order to restore us to life in Him.

Our story — the story of the human race — begins, ends, and finds its purpose through God’s Divine Mercy. It is the thread that holds us in existence, and gives our existence meaning.

The late Pope John Paul II, who formally established Divine Mercy Sunday and who canonized Maria Faustina Kowalska, the obscure Polish nun who brought Christ’s message of mercy to the world, called Divine Mercy our “personal encounter with the merciful Savior Himself.”

If you want to know the heart of the Blessed Trinity, contemplate Divine Mercy. It is the reason for God’s persistence in calling us to Him, the reason He sent His Son to redeem us, and the reason for Christ’s willing incarceration in the tabernacles of the world.

Divine Mercy has roots that run deep into the ancient relationship between God and man, back to the moment when God first called humans into being. Our very creation, in the image of God, is caused by His merciful love. Even in the wake of Adam and Eve’s sin, and their loss of Paradise and the friendship of God, His great mercy is apparent. He promises a Savior to re-establish our relationship and to conquer the result of our sin, death.

Evidence of God’s steadfast love, known to the Hebrews as “hesed,” continues throughout the Old Testament, as God consistently tempers His justice with compassion. Cain, after killing his brother, wears the mark of God on his forehead as a warning to others who would do him violence. Noah and his family are rescued from the floodwaters; Jonah is forgiven and set on the right path. Even Sodom and Gomorrah may be spared, despite deeply heinous crimes, if enough righteous men can be found. (Alas, they are not). The first of the commandments, given to the Hebrews through Moses, promises God’s steadfast love to thousands of generations who faithfully keep His covenant.

The Israelites were the first to recognize and begin to understand Divine Mercy. Through the revelation of God, they learned that His compassionate love, “rachamim,” always tempers His judgment. The Psalms further extol God’s mercy as ruling His justice, and teach us that Divine Mercy is given without merit on our part. The Psalms also urge us to place all our trust and hope in God’s unfailing mercy, no matter what our offenses have been. God’s mercy is unchangeable, inexhaustible, and unfathomable.

The prophets tell us of the breadth of Divine Mercy, that it encompasses not just the Jewish people but all people. We learn that God’s mercy “softens” His righteous justice, and that His justice itself an act of mercy because it turns our hearts back to Him. His justice serves His mercy.

Isaiah promises that God’s mercy will crescendo in the coming of the long-awaited Savior, and His message will be for all people. It is also revealed that the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, will endure unspeakable agonies, torture and death in the name of Divine Mercy.

With the birth of Christ, God’s incomprehensible Divine Mercy takes a human shape. The Blessed Mother’s Fiat, “…He has mercy on those who fear Him…for He has remembered His promise of mercy…” is a response to the fulfillment of Divine Mercy in the coming of Her Infant Son. Mercy is now tangible, and in His earthly life the Master teaches us how to receive and respond to this great gift.

Throughout the beauty of the Gospels, Jesus instructs that Divine Mercy is the foundation of our relationship with God and the reason for our prayers, which without His mercy would be useless. It is revealed to us that Jesus IS mercy, the mercy which will make possible our salvation. The blood and water, which flow from the side of Jesus when He is pierced on the cross, baptizes the Church He has founded with righteousness and eternal life. With the death and resurrection of Christ, the zenith of Divine Mercy is realized.

Christ’s message of Divine Mercy, given to us through the writings of St. Faustina, makes it clear that every soul, no matter its state, will receive oceans of grace and mercy if we will turn to Him for forgiveness of our sins. The smallest act of heartfelt repentance on our part releases a flood of life-giving mercy that washes us clean and allows us to share in His kingdom.

Further, our renewed relationship with God necessitates that we practice mercy towards one another. Like all of God’s gifts, our gratitude and love moves us to action. Christ calls us to be examples of His Divine Mercy among our families, friends and communities. Practice of the works of mercy, both spiritual and corporal, is the goal and fruit of this devotion. We obey the Gospel command, “Be merciful even as your Father is merciful.”

There’s a saying that often shows up plastered to car bumpers: “If you want peace, work for justice.” But the truth is that justice can only exist where mercy is practiced. Only through Divine Mercy can we find the path to both peace and justice in our human experience. It is mercy that would have allowed Teri Shiavo to live. Mercy would enfold every unborn baby with love and put an end to the horror of abortion. Mercy would inspire and motivate us to provide truly charitable social programs, not government-run bureaucracies. Mercy would enable us to love our enemies as Christ did. Mercy would restore our Catholic identity and allow Christ to work through us in order to restore mankind to his Father.

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