This Living Catholicism column was written for Today’s Catholic (4-26-19), the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Antonio:
Divine Mercy Sunday is now either before us or just passed. This is the perfect time to dwell on God’s love and mercy so we might all yearn for it, be restored by it, and be more grateful for it.
As I am writing this article I am looking up at an image of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son (inspired by the parable from Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32) that hangs in my office. This painting has long captivated me and took on even greater meaning after I read Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.
My attention is always drawn to the hands’ of the father, holding the son, as if to say, “you are forgiven…everything is going to be okay.” It makes me think of all the hugs or abrazos shared over the years with family and friends, following an exchange of apologies over saying or doing something we regretted. By far, the most powerful and significant were the embraces shared with my parents. In these moments, I felt forgiven, loved, secure, and at peace.
Nouwen’s book enabled me to see that total surrender to God the Father is the key to truly being healed of past hurt and guilt. With that realization has come a greater appreciation for the sacrament of Reconciliation and for the Paschal Mystery. And also, for the Eucharist.
Total surrender is not an easy thing to do, because it involves giving up control and acknowledging our failures. Nouwen wrote, “one of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive God’s forgiveness.”
St. Pope John Paul II wrote his second Encyclical Letter Dives In Misericordia(Rich in Mercy), with St. Faustina Kowalska on his mind. This is a profound document which offers a new perspective on the theme of Divine Mercy:
- God’s merciful love is his “most stupendous attribute.”
- Christ came to make God present as love and mercy
- When mercy is properly given, there is no humiliation, only gratitude
- Love & Mercy in the world make conversion possible
- Mercy is love’s second name
It was nineteen years ago on April 30, 2000 that John Paul II canonized St. Faustina and designated the Easter Octave – Divine Mercy Sunday. Faustina was given the message of Divine Mercy from Christ. In 1938 her journals were published as the Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul.
As a result of the apparitions of Jesus to St. Faustina we were given four devotions:
- The Divine Mercy Image
- The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
- The Novena of Divine Mercy
- Divine Mercy Sunday (receiving Reconciliation and Holy Communion)
During this Easter season, as we continue to celebrate the Resurrection and in anticipation of Jesus sending forth the Holy Spirit, consider dedicating yourself to the devotion of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy throughout the year.
Not only can these prayers help to keep you focused on the Passion & Crucifixion of Christ, but they can also give you a greater appreciation of the Eucharistic offering.
Our staff at Pilgrim Center of Hope prays the Chaplet daily during the Hour of Mercy which begins at 3 pm, the hour of Our Lord’s death on the cross.
The opening prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet says it all:
O Blood & Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you(cf. Diary 84).
And then there is the call and response prayer that we repeat 50 times:
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us & on the whole world (cf. Diary 475-476).
Reading John Paul’s Dives In Misericordia and practicing the devotion of the Divine Mercy Chaplet has allowed me to recognize and give thanks for all the times I have been shown mercy. More importantly, I am more conscious of the need to be more merciful toward others.
Pope Francis put it this way, “May we make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.”
In order to bring more hope into the world and restore people’s dignity and humanity, we need to remember love’s second name and show more mercy and forgiveness in our relationships.
It all begins with our appreciation and understanding of God’s Divine Mercy.
So, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help(cf. Heb. 4:16).
Robert V. Rodriguez is the Public Relations and Outreach Assistant at Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of this Catholic evangelization apostolate that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter Him through pilgrimages, conferences and outreach. PilgrimCenterofHope.org