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Pope Speaks of 'Radical Victory Over Evil'
By David Came (Apr 15, 2012)
In his Regina Caeli message for Divine Mercy Sunday, April 15, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI stressed how the Risen Lord in the day's Gospel account from John gave His disciples the Easter gift of His peace, "the fruit of His radical victory over evil." Pope Benedict said this triumph over evil was the reason why Pope John Paul II — beatified by Benedict on Divine Mercy Sunday last year — desired to call this Sunday after Easter "Divine Mercy Sunday." (Pope John Paul II established this Sunday as Divine Mercy Sunday for the universal Church when he canonized St. Faustina Kowalska in 2000.)
In this light, Pope Benedict also mentioned "an icon" of Christ that then-Pope John Paul II had "in mind" in considering the disciples' encounter with the Risen Lord in the day's Gospel from John.
One thinks here of The Divine Mercy image that Pope John Paul II publicly venerated several times during his pontificate, including on Divine Mercy Sunday in 1995. Based on a vision of the crucified and risen Lord that Jesus gave to St. Faustina Kowalska (see Diary of St. Faustina, 47, 48), this image is venerated by the faithful on Divine Mercy Sunday as a pledge of their personal trust in the Lord Jesus and their call to perform works of mercy out of love for Him.
In his Regina Caeli message, Pope Benedict says the Lord's traditional greeting of peace to His disciples in the day's Gospel is transformed into something new: "It becomes the gift of peace that only Jesus can give, because it is the fruit of His radical victory over evil. The 'peace' that Jesus offers to His friends is the fruit of the love of God that led Him to die on the cross, to pour out all of His blood in payment, as the meek and humble Lamb, 'full of grace and truth.'"
Benedict went on to explain that this supreme sacrifice of the Risen Lord won the victory for us, and it is why Pope John Paul II decided the Second Sunday of Easter should be named Divine Mercy Sunday. Christ in His great mercy conquered sin, death, and the Evil One.
Benedict's description of the icon of the Risen Christ that Pope John Paul II had in mind in the Gospel account seems to match that of The Divine Mercy image. He said it was "that of the pierced side of Christ, from which flow blood and water. But now Christ is risen, and from the Living Christ spring the Easter Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist: Those who approach them with faith receive the gift of eternal life."
Indeed, such personal faith in the Lord Jesus is central to the meaning of The Divine Mercy image that each of the faithful is called to sign with the words, "Jesus, I trust in You." Further, in the image, the pale ray flowing from the Lord's pierced side stands for the water of Baptism, while the red ray stands for the blood signifying the Eucharist. Thus, the image is that of the crucified Christ who is now risen and alive, the source of eternal life for His people, the Church.
Interestingly, Pope John Paul II wrote in his last book, Memory and Identity, "Christ crucified and risen, just as He appeared to Sister Faustina, is the supreme revelation of this truth: 'God is love.'"
As Pope Benedict concluded his Regina Caeli message, he emphasized our need for God's mercy and invoked the intercession of Mary as the Mother of Mercy. He said: "Let us welcome the gift of peace that the risen Jesus offers us. Let us fill our hearts with His mercy! In this way, with the power of the Holy Spirit who raised Christ from the dead, we too can bring these Easter gifts to others. May Mary, Mother of Mercy, obtain these things for us."
According to AsiaNews.it, in Pope Benedict's remarks to various groups of pilgrims after praying the Regina Caeli, he made a forceful appeal to the faithful to be "witnesses of Divine Mercy."
This was especially the case when he addressed the pilgrims gathered at the International Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, Poland, where the faithful are marking this year the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's entrustment of the world to Divine Mercy:
There, 10 years ago [this coming Aug. 17], [Pope] John Paul II said, 'This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world, In the mercy of God, the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness! … May you be witnesses to mercy!"