With Easter our focus shifts from the Cross to the empty tomb, and to the risen Lord appearing to his disciples. Our Scripture readings record the encounters – Jesus teaching disciples on the way to Emmaus, recognized in the breaking of bread, Jesus filling their nets with fish, and eating fish with them on the shore. Yet, the Feast of Divine Mercy reminds us to look back to the Cross.
Jesus’ last word on the Cross was “it is finished,” tetelestai, a Greek word that means a debt has been paid in full. That last act upon Jesus’ human body was the soldier piercing his side, from which blood and water poured forth. This points to the sacraments of Baptism (Holy Water) and Eucharist (Sacred Blood). The water and blood also provide connecting images between God in Creation and Redemption. These images are both simple and profound.
St. Maria Faustina
St. Maria Faustina is the saint who received the message and image of Divine Mercy from Our Lord. He chose the most simple to reveal a most profound mystery. Maria grew up on a poor farm, and received merely three years of education. In the 1930s she became a nun at the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, in Krakow, Poland. Because she was uneducated, she performed the most humble tasks in the kitchen and garden.
Message and Image of Divine Mercy
The Lord chose this humble nun to reveal critical messages to His people, which became compiled in the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. And he revealed to her the image of Divine Mercy, which he told her to paint as she saw it in His revelation. He told her to tell the priests that this image was to be honored publicly. Learn the history of the Divine Mercy image.
Role of Blessed John Paul II
While this happened in the early 1930s, it took until the new millennium, 2000, for Maria Faustina to be proclaimed a saint. From 1959 to 1978 devotion to the image of Divine Mercy was banned in the Church. A young priest took his devotions from his Polish homeland to the papacy in Rome, and advanced her cause.
Each of the recorded cases of healing that advanced the cause, involved a pilgrimage to a shrine devoted to Divine Mercy. Read about these miracles. The National Shrine of Divine Mercy is located in Stockbridge, MA. Take a virtual tour. After learning about the central role of pilgrimage to a Divine Mercy shrine in each of the healing miracles, you can bet that making a pilgrimage to Stockbridge MA is on my to-do list!
Meaning of Mercy – An Activity
The etymology of words, and clarifying cross-cultural meanings, fascinates me. Here’s an activity you can do with children who read. Create note cards with the foreign word on one side, and write the definition on the other side.
Tetelestai – “It is finished” – the debt is paid in full (Greek)
Hesed – steadfast love (Hebrew)
Hesed-emet – steadfast, dependable love (Hebrew)
Hesed-sadekah – righteous, holy love (Hebrew)
Hesed-Yesua – rescuing, saving love (Hebrew)
Rachamim— tender, compassionate love, a love that springs from pity (Hebrew)
Rechem – root word which means a mother’s womb (Hebrew)
Eleos – loving kindness, compassion (Greek) Root word means oil poured out.
Misercordia – miserable heart (Latin)
Spread all these words among the children, or go over them together. Ask them to put in their words what this means, and to give an example of the type of action or the symbolism involved in the words. Read this article to understand these terms.
After this, explain that all these words mean Divine Mercy. Now circle back and ask them to explain how Jesus showed us all these aspects of Mercy.
John Paul II saw in these complex images a pattern, as a Divine Mercy scholar explained:
There is a special intimacy and responsiveness about this kind of love, and a special concern for the sufferings of others. The Holy Father sees hesed as, in a sense, a masculine form of love (steadfast, dependable, righteous, being true to oneself and true to one’s promises), while rachamim is more feminine (tender, responsive, compassionate, like a mother responding in love to the sufferings of her child).
John Paul II further explained two essential teachings about Mercy: (1) “Mercy is love’s second name,” and (2) “Mercy is the greatest attribute of God.” Read John Paul II’s encyclical Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy) 1981
What you can do at home
Overlap a red and white table cloth on your dinner table tonight. Give the Divine Mercy image a central place on your table. Consider adding white and red flowers to your centerpiece.
Pray together the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Attend special services in your local church, often offered at 3 pm – the Hour of Mercy when Jesus died on the Cross.
Plan a pilgrimage together.
Remember to display the Divine Mercy image in your home, and to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy daily, especially during the Hour of Mercy (3-4 pm). In addition, remember to ask for the intercession of St. Maria Faustina. Here is a simple and thoughtful prayer for her intercession.
Say throughout your day, “Jesus, I trust in you!”