This Year, Be 'Image' Conscious
By Br. Leonard Konopka, MIC (Jan 2, 2007)
Many of us keep pictures in our homes of our loved ones. Marriage, birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations are very significant. Even at work, we have pictures of our beloved spouses, children, parents, and other important persons in our lives.
What are the purposes for displaying these pictures? They serve as reminders of happy days and of the people who are important to us. These pictures also give us an "identity." We know who we are in relation to those images that we keep on our desks and walls.
For example, for a number of years I kept a picture of an aunt on my desk. I knew deep within me that my aunt cared for me. But it was more than that, and I only discovered late in life, that she was a midwife for my mother. Hers was probably the first voice I heard. She was probably the first to touch me, bathe and dressed me, probably even the first to kiss me. No wonder I had this emotional bond with her.
Jesus wants the same faith and emotional bond with each of us so that we will always remember that we are uniquely dependant upon Him. For this reason, the Church places images before us — to signify how important certain events and persons truly are. We see the cross, stained glass, statues of the saints and members of the Holy Family, etc. And more and more these days, with the spread of the message of Divine Mercy, we see an image that the Lord has specifically given to us — the profound Image of Himself as The Divine Mercy.
Note what Our Lord said to St. Faustina in the 1930s when he asked her to have an Image of Him painted: "These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the cross" (Diary of St. Faustina, 299). "My gaze from this image is like My gaze from the cross" (Diary, 326).
A simple meditation helped me to realize that it's as if Our Lord, after 1,930 years, had to come back to remind us, through St. Faustina, of what He accomplished on the cross. He waited centuries to finally reveal to someone what it meant for Him. It's as if it still bothered Him — as if we haven't totally understood the degree of His willingness to sacrifice Himself for us. Otherwise, why would He bother to repeat this event through an image?
Saint Faustina asked the Lord about the meaning of the rays in the Image. She heard these words in reply:
"The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him" (Diary, 299).
Jesus asked that the Image be venerated so as to constantly help us to recall what He accomplished. Consequently, this Image can also remind us of how much He values us.
The events in the life of Jesus were not simply symbolic gestures. His death obviously meant a great deal to Him. He is saying to us through His image what it was like for Him. Jesus doesn't do things arbitrarily. The cross was no accident. He is pressing His case for our good and our benefit.
In this New Year, we would be wise to deepen our understanding of The Divine Mercy image and what challenges we face in acknowledging it as an object of veneration and wonder. This will also be one of the goals in my weekly meditations on this website.
Let us begin the New Year with one of the many prayers composed by St. Faustina:
"O Jesus, eternal God, thank You for Your countless graces and blessings. Let every beat of my heart be a new hymn of thanksgiving to You, O God. Let every drop of my blood circulate for You, O Lord. My soul is one hymn in adoration of Your mercy. I love You, God, for Yourself alone (Diary, 1794).