It must have been between the 20th and 25th of October 1936. Sister Maria Faustyna [Faustina] Kowalska was in and out of a hospital in Krakow, Poland, suffering the pains of a disease (probably tuberculosis). She received one of the series of messages about Divine Mercy. It was one of the decisive points in discerning the celebration of Divine Mercy as a universal feast of the Church.
Earlier, Sister Faustina received the message about the painting of the image of Divine Mercy. The painting was to bear the signature: “Jesus, I trust in You” (February 22, 1931, Diary 47). The requested the blessing of the image on the First Sunday after Easter (Diary, 49). There was also the Lord’s message requesting the public honoring of the Divine Mercy image on the Sunday after Easter (April 19, 1935, Diary 414).
Divine Mercy Devotion Revealed
During the 1936 private revelation, therefore, the Lord disclosed His holy will that there should be a celebration of Divine Mercy on the Second Sunday of Easter. Sister Faustina’s health was becoming weaker by the day. It was two years before her death and three years before the second world war. The nun, whom God had told to do everything within her power to spread the message of Divine Mercy and “I [God], will make up for your faults,” had frail health to promote the message. Yet, God, our Faithful Lord, would do as He said He would. He used the nun’s little effort to spread His Mercy’s message. Years after, it has become a popular sacred culture in the Catholic world and has influenced many other faith communities. Know this: Your little effort is good enough for God to do miracles. Trust God.
We celebrate that Mercy throughout Catholic churches today. Some protestant churches also love it and do likewise. Thanks be to God who led Pope John Paul II to make the Feast a Universal Church celebration during Saint Faustina’s Canonization (April 30, 2000). By the way, the saintly pope, died on the eve of Divine Mercy on April 2, 2005. Isn’t it providential? In a Decree of May 23, 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments officially stated that the Feast be celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter and will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday. Providentially, too, the second Sunday of Easter has readings that deal with the Mercy of God. The Gospel reading reflects the institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Tribunal of Divine Mercy.
Saint Faustina’s Diary
Sister Faustina, out of obedience to her spiritual director, Fr. Michael Sopoćko, documented God’s private revelations in her Diary. In it, she recorded what I would describe as the three mandates of mercy. Or, as the Lord’s revelation to her goes: “three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor.” God asked that it must begin with her and then spread to the entire world. A messenger of divine mercy must himself or herself lead the way to inspire others to do so—a good lesson for us. Divine Mercy’s message encourages us to be doers of the word, not simply word preachers.
“My daughter, if I demand through you that people revere My mercy, you should be the first to distinguish yourself by this confidence in My mercy. I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.”
Three Ways of Mercy
“I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first—by deed, the second—by word, the third—by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy. Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be acts of mercy, and I demand the worship of My mercy through the solemn celebration of the Feast and through the veneration of the image which is painted. By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works” (Diary, 742).
Thus, the three ways are 1) by deeds, 2) by word, and 3) by prayer. Notice how the Lord placed each of the ways beginning by deeds. In these three, we see the expression of the Catholic understanding of faith working in charity, a biblical truth (Gal 5:6). We promote the message of mercy by first living and acting in our lives by deeds of mercy.
Deeds of mercy are works which demonstrate our understanding that mercy is abundant and goes beyond mere forgiveness. One of the distinguishing features of mercy is that it is expressed not because anyone deserves it; instead, it is because the one who shows mercy has richer and deeper love that does good for others despite the beneficiaries’ unworthiness. Isn’t it the same way God treats us? God does not withhold sunshine and rain from evil people but makes all, irrespective of their unworthiness, receive it. Didn’t God also ask us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us and follow His ways of perfection in this manner? (See Mt 5:44-48).
Words of mercy are, in part, words that Scripture describes as “gracious” (Col 4:6). Our words should lead by mercy, knowing that life and death are in the power of the tongue (Prov 18:21). This rule applies not only during face-to-face conversations but also on social media platforms. One could say that these platforms are becoming more and more spaces for name-calling and vitriol communications.
Using words of mercy could do social media users much good. Leading by word of mercy suggests we speak with the fundamental tone of mercy, not hate or anger. Any communication that springs from anger would not flow in the stream of mercy. One can recite the Divine Mercy prayers and chaplet a million times. Nevertheless, if one’s deeds and words do not match the standards of mercy, one may as well be uttering empty phrases that lack the Spirit for which the prayer was handed on to us.
Finally, it is the mercy mandate to lead by prayer. During the last nine days, we have been saying the novena prayer to Divine Mercy. Hopefully, we say the prayers all year round. Today is the climax as we unite to celebrate this Solemnity of Divine Mercy. The Divine Mercy prayers are rich and are a source of grace to us and the whole world, who need the Mercy of God. By praying the Divine Mercy chaplet and other related prayers, we are fulfilling this demand. We will be doing so too when in our everyday life we utter prayers, pleading God to show compassion to us and the whole world. The prayer demand is our most potent communication channel with God, who sees our deeds of mercy and our words of compassion.
Heaven and Hell are for Real
There is one more thing before I complete today’s reflection. We would notice that before God instructed the global celebration of the Divine Mercy Sunday (Diary 742), He first provided a context for appreciating the need to do so. He gave Sister Faustina a strong vision of hell. “I was led by an Angel to the chasms of hell” (Diary, 741), during which she saw the unimaginable torture of souls who go to hell.
There were “seven kinds of torture” plus another group of torture related explicitly to the senses’ specific sins. She noted that most in hell are those who doubt that hell exists. “I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell” (Diary, 741). None of this is new. They are messages related to the private revelations of other mystics such as Saints Catherine of Sienna, Teresa of Avila, John Bosco, Lucy of Fatima, and Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, etc. There are numerous biblical instances where the Lord spoke of the torture of hell (Mt 25:41-46; Mk 9:43; Lk 13:28, etc.). The Catholic Church has long upheld this teaching.
Reality of Hell
One may doubt that hell is a real situation. One may claim with the British philosopher Bertrand Russell that the idea of hell is “one major cruel flaw” in the moral character of Jesus. Many theologians, including prominent Catholic theologians, say that hell is simply a metaphor and is not a real state. Good luck with those kinds of views, which, by the way, are becoming the mainstream in many theological schools, since those do not agree with the official teachings of the Catholic Church on this matter. Such views aren’t new. Origen (185-253 AD) could be argued to be a pioneering voice in that direction.
We may argue all we want and defend God, who is capable of defending himself. We might assume to know the facts more than the words of Jesus. On the day of judgment, we may be surprised it will be too late to reconsider that our claims were simply wrong. One cannot promote the message of Divine Mercy while denying the reality of Divine Judgment. One must have to reject both—Divine mercy and Divine judgement—to show a consistency of correct reasoning. Divine Mercy is for real because the consequence of sin, including hell, is for real. Though this reflection is not a debate about this matter, I chose to point it out because the Divine Mercy message warns that those in hell are mainly people who doubt that hell exists.
For the sake of His sorrowful passion, Lord, have mercy on us and the whole world. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Watch an African Version of Divine Mercy Chaplet
Here is a beautiful Divine Mercy Chaplet for use for the Divine Mercy Novena. It was produced by Fr. Maurice Emelu and co-directed by Sam Zamarron. A Cameroonian, Fabrice Nkoh composed the tone of the chant, and the choir used was Our Lady of Grace Choir, Sasse, Buea, Cameroon. We filmed it at the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace in Sasse, Buea. God bless these lovely children and the men and women who were used by God to share this pure and simple prayer. It is as seen on EWTN. To support his kind of works, donate at https://gratiavobisministries.org/don…