Divine Mercy

Tony Pueyo
Reflections for Sunday
Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday
April 3, 2005
Reproduced with Permission

A familiar image in many churches and homes is the picture of the resurrected Lord with His wounds, as He appeared to His disciples. This picture depicts today's gospel reading. It is more popularly known as the image of The Divine Mercy. This second Sunday of Easter is designated as Divine Mercy Sunday.

The devotion to the Divine Mercy, spread by the Diary of St. Faustina, is a rather recent devotion compared to the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Both devotions however emphasize the infinite mercy of God who for our sake offered His only Son on the Cross. This extreme sacrifice is manifested in the wounds of Jesus. By his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). Mercy flowed out as blood and water from His side (Jn. 19:34).

When Jesus invited doubting Thomas to touch His wounds, it was to heal Thomas. The apostle was in a state of darkness. He was depressed. One symptom of depression is isolating one's self. Thomas separated himself from his friends. He was absent the first time Jesus appeared, Another symptom is cynicism. He could not appreciate anything good that is happening., "Unless I place my finger in the mark of the nails, I will not believe." When Jesus appeared, it was not so much to reprimand Thomas for his unbelief but to bring light to his darkened mind. And Thomas was enlightened as he affirmed, "My Lord and my God."

In His resurrected state, Jesus continued exercising His ministry of showing the mercy of God. He wanted this ministry to continue, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven" (Jn 20:21). In his encyclical letter, Rich in Mercy (Dives in Misericordia, 1981), Pope John Paul II writes that Christ's program of mercy must become the program of his people and the program of the Church (no. 8).

Mercy is the greatest attribute of God, as regards his relationship with his creatures. In the Scriptures, God is described as a God of justice and a God of mercy. However, His mercy even overpowers his justice. If God were to judge us strictly as we deserve, we would all be lost. It is God's mercy that prevails. In Hebrew mercy is "hesed" - God's lovingkindness. It is because of God's "hesed" that all was not completely -- lost after the fall of Adam and Eve. It was by God's "hesed" that He saved Noah's family even as he administered justice. By the same mercy, he brought His people out of slavery in Egypt. Even if David committed the terrible sins of murder and adultery, and had to bear the consequences of his own sins, by God's mercy he was restored to God's friendship. The summit of God's "hesed", is when He sent His son Jesus among us to become one of us. His mercy brought Him to solidarity with sinful and suffering humanity. Through this solidarity we are restored to our birthright as children of God.

In what ways then could we manifest the mercy of God? First, we have to experience in our own life His mercy. We ask for God's mercy, knowing we are weak creatures. The apostle of mercy is one who knows first-hand the mercy of God. He experienced God's forgiveness. In Kerala, India, Christianity has a long history. They trace their Christian roots to Thomas the apostle. I learned of this from my Indian classmate. When we were studying in the United States, we had to prepare cultural booths to showcase our countries. An American student asked my Indian classmate, "How long have you been a Christian?" My classmate replied, "Longer than you". Of course, Thomas went to India, centuries before Columbus landed in America. Doubting Thomas reached the farthest among the apostles. He became a dedicated apostle. He experienced the mercy of Jesus.

Second, we become merciful, " Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Mt. 5:7). Mercy is not just a sentiment called pity. Mercy is active love. Being merciful is recognizing the needs of the other as a person and acting accordingly. I could be the person in a similar situation. I could be the one in need of comfort, healing, forgiveness, support, or a listening heart. We have to cultivate a certain sensitivity to situations where we can manifest God's mercy. The temptation is to isolate ourselves psychologically so that we would not be bothered by others.

Third, we completely trust in Jesus. Below the image of the Divine Mercy are the words, "Jesus, I trust in you." The temptation is to go on our own and wallow in our own pains, the way Thomas did. To trust is to recognize that God runs our life and he can do miracles in us. He can do more than we think we are able by ourselves. God can transform our life if we allow Him. Not our will but his will be done.

These are the ABC's of Mercy: Ask for mercy, Be merciful, Completely trust in Jesus.

As action starters, let us be reminded by the Catholic catechism on the 7 Corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit those in prison, visit the sick, and bury the dead. The 7 Spiritual works of mercy are: instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries, and pray for the living and the dead.