Ensure that the suffering Jesus underwent in His Passion has its Easter triumph in our hearts
By Bishop Richard F. Stika
Easter is so special that the Church celebrates it over eight days—an octave—culminating on the following Sunday, which we call “Divine Mercy Sunday.”
To understand why this second Sunday of Easter is so important to our octave celebration, we need only reflect upon the image that Jesus commanded a Polish nun, St. Faustina Kowalska, to have painted of Him with the prayer, “Jesus, I trust in you,” inscribed on it.
St. Faustina lived but a short life of 33 years, dying in 1938, but so significant is her life and the message of God’s mercy described in her diary that the Church extols her as the “Apostle of Mercy.”
It was while serving Cardinal Justin Rigali as his priest secretary when he was archbishop of St. Louis that I grew to understand the importance of the Divine Mercy devotion. Having come from Rome where he had closely served St. John Paul II for many years, Cardinal Rigali was very familiar with the saintly pope’s love of this mystic of God’s mercy.
Little did I know then but the seed for later choosing my episcopal motto — “Jesus, I trust in you” — was planted at this time.
I recall in 1998 when Cardinal Rigali wrote a pastoral letter urging all the priests of the archdiocese to “observe the Second Sunday of Easter as a celebration of Divine Mercy.” This was two years before Pope St. John Paul II would canonize St. Faustina and officially formalize the celebration of the feast of God’s Mercy in the Church’s calendar.
In that letter, he emphasized that: “The disposition of trust in God’s mercy is essential for receiving the graces God wants us to have. The time of preparation for the Divine Mercy Sunday is meant to strengthen our people’s trust in God’s mercy.”
And regarding the image of Divine Mercy, Cardinal Rigali wrote: “Like a good icon, it confronts the praying and worshiping person with the merciful love of Christ, and its inscription, “Jesus, I trust in you,” encourages the believer to respond to this invitation with greater confidence.”
So, why is the Divine Mercy so important? One word: peace.
In Pope St. John Paul II’s homily for the canonization of St. Faustina in 2000, he quotes the words from her diary, where Jesus stresses that “Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to Divine Mercy.” These are words for each of us personally, for we will not find the peace we long for—in our hearts, in our marriages, our families, our society and in our world—until we turn trustfully to the Divine Mercy.
Jesus wants to heal us and press us to His merciful Heart. Who of us is without need of healing or of being drawn closer and closer each day to the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Who of us wants greater peace and joy in their life? Do not be afraid, though your sins be great, to approach His mercy. Allow Mary to bring you to the pierced side of Jesus on the cross that you might drink from the font of His mercy—His Sacred Heart.
In St. Faustina’s diary, she writes how Jesus longs for us to entrust our weaknesses and sinfulness to His mercy. Doing so consoles His heart. Why? Because that is why He suffered and died for us. When we do not accept His mercy, it saddens Him because the suffering He underwent in His Passion does not have its Easter triumph in our hearts.
When I think of Divine Mercy, I think of entitlement. I know how strange this sounds, given our reaction to people with an exaggerated sense of entitlement for something they may not be deserving of. Spiritually speaking, though, having a strong sense of entitlement is healthy and is in fact essential to both our personal salvation and our evangelization efforts. But don’t take my word for it; read the words of Jesus recorded by St. Faustina in her diary: “The greater the sinner, the greater the right He has to My mercy (no. 723).”
Elsewhere, Jesus tells St. Faustina, “I am more generous toward sinners than toward the just. It was for their sake that I came down from heaven; it was for their sake that My Blood was spilled. Let them not fear to approach Me; they are most in need of My mercy (no. 1275).
“On the cross, the fountain of mercy was opened wide by the lance for all souls — no one have I excluded (no. 1182).” Such is God’s merciful love, that he wishes for none of us to escape it.
We should want and expect God’s mercy — we should expect everything from God though we did not work for it — for it is Christ’s work of salvation.
He is the one who suffered His Passion and Cross for love of us. And as love is never satisfied until it rests in the bosom of the one that is loved, so Christ is not satisfied until He rests in our hearts and we rest in His. Love is never about minimum limits, but always asks, “What more can I do?”
For this reason, Jesus encourages St. Faustina and all of us to promote the message of Divine Mercy: “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.” (no. 1059)
This is the “Great Invitation” of Divine Mercy. We need only answer, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
To learn more about the Divine Mercy, visit the website of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at www.marian.org.