A vivid memory growing up in the Recollections in Christianity was the recitation of the Divine Mercy chaplet and the diary entries of Sister Faustina. During my years in high school, I did ministry at Saint Basil the Great Catholic Parish in Vallejo. Cleaning out the attic one day, I stumbled across the image displayed above. It was on its way to the dumpster, so I asked if I could keep it. Today it hangs in my room at the seminary. It is the image of Divine Mercy. This upcoming Sunday is the peak of the Octave of Easter and the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday.
A good friend gave me a gift this Easter of a great work by Christoph Cardinal Shönborn: We Have Found Mercy: the Mystery of God’s Merciful Love. Shönborn presents Friedrich Nietzsche’s perspective on mercy stating that mercy is weakness and in his work, Antichrist, Nietzsche states his opinion that Christianity is the powerless “religion of the weak” that is hostile for life.
People may consider mercy as having power over another. This is not the case with Christ and Christianity. All we have to do is meditate on the Parable of the Prodigal Son to be aware that mercy is more than just power. As the father embraces his lost son who has returned home, he expresses utter mercy and uplifts him to his dignity as son as he places a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. The father prepares a feast by killing the fatted calf to celebrate his son’s return. Schönborn states it perfectly, “Mercy means not devaluing the other but rather seeing him in his dignity and thereby helping him to stand upright.” Whom do we look to for mercy in our own lives which can often be saturated with evil and unhealthy competition and a zeal for earthly success?
In John 14, Jesus assures us that when we see him we see the Father. Jesus is the incarnational mercy of the Father. We must celebrate his life in the Eucharist and be attentive to his instruction by meditating on his word. By doing so, we too become the mercy of the Father – we build our brothers and sisters up and restore them to their dignity. This is the vocation to build each other up in holiness and be the image of God in the world.
Divine Mercy Sunday is not teaching us anything new! Rather, it assures us that in Christ, we find victory over sin and death. In Christ, we find mercy. As recipients of such unfathomable mercy, we are called to imitate and radiate this mercy to others in order to raise them to their dignity.