Today is the great feast of Divine Mercy. In order to take a serious and in-depth look at God’s Mercy, specifically revealed through the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalksa, we have to first survey the scriptures. There are two words for mercy which we find in scripture, each having a different understanding of God’s Mercy.
The first word we find in scripture is hesed which is a profound attitude of goodness. It is established between two individuals who are faithful to each other by virtue of an interior commitment. This virtue also calls forth a faithfulness to themselves. Hesed could also mean grace or love which is the fruit of fidelity. Hesed also posses a moral and juridical character.
God established hesed with Israel, it was Israel’s gift found in Exodus 6:7. Though there was a juridical component to hesed, it was when Israel broke covenant with God that hesed truly came into play. It reveals itself in its origin: love that gives, love more powerful than betrayal, grace stronger than sin. God remained faithful because God knows no other than Love which is also communion. God remains faithful to himself: “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name” (Ez. 36:22). God remains responsible for his love.
There is another word for mercy which we find in scripture: rahamin. This denotes a mother’s love. It denotes a mother’s womb which is the place of protection from harm. Rahamin comprises a whole range of feelings, including goodness and tenderness, patience and understanding, which all leads to forgiveness. This is portrayed particularly in:
Isaiah 49:15 “Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even those may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
Hosea 14:5 “I will heal their faithlessness, I will love them freely.”
This is the psychology of God. It is the image of God’s steadfast, anxious love. When this love is in contact with evil particularly with the sin of individuals or people, this love is manifested as mercy.