Divine Mercy 101: Divine Mercy in the New Testament

A weekly series by Robert Stackpole, STD, the Director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy

WEEK 7: Divine Mercy in the New Testament

There is no brand-new teaching – nor a new definition of Divine Mercy – to be found in the New Testament, but there is an incomparable manifestation of the very depths of God's merciful love for us through the Incarnation, life, death and Resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. As Fr. Woroniecki writes in The Mystery of Divine Mercy (Stockbridge: The Marian Fathers, 1959, p. 32): "The centre became not so much the doctrine itself, but rather the person of Christ, his life, his example, and above all his sacrificial death on the cross showing the world how far the Mercy of God extended for humanity's sake."

This, indeed, is the underlying question that the New Testament answers for us with regard to Divine Mercy: Just how far will God go to pour out His merciful love upon mankind? As far as Bethlehem and Calvary, giving Himself without reservation to us, in human flesh-that is how far He will go!

The Gospels
Let us look first at the many gospel passages where the writers emphasize the compassion of Jesus, His tenderness for the lost and the broken, a tenderness which manifests His merciful love.

1. Matthew 15:32 (Christ's compassion for human physical needs): "I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way."

2. Luke 7:13 (Christ's compassion for human emotional and social needs): "And when the Lord saw her [the widow of Nain], He had compassion on her and said to her, 'Do not weep.' And He came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise.'"

3. Matthew 20:34 (Christ's compassion for the outcast, the marginalized): "And as they went out of Jericho a great crowd followed Him. And behold, two blind men sitting by the roadside, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!' And Jesus stopped and called them saying, 'What do you want me to do for you?' They said to him, 'Lord, let our eyes be opened.' And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they received their sight and followed him."

4. Mark 1:40 (Christ's compassion for those needy in every respect): "And a leper came to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling said to Him, 'If you will, you can make me clean.' Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I will; be clean.' And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean."

5. Mark 10:17-22 (Christ's compassion for those sincerely seeking to do God's will): "And as He was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, 'Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' And Jesus said to him.... 'You know the commandments: Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.' And he said to Him, 'Teacher, all these have I observed from my youth.' And Jesus looking upon him loved him and said to him, 'You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.'"

6. Mark 6:34 (Christ's compassion for those hungry for the Word of God): "As Jesus went ashore He saw a great throng, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things."

7. Luke 19:41-42 (Christ's tender compassion for His people and His country): "And when He drew near and saw the city He wept over it, saying, 'Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.'"

8. John 11:32-36 (Christ's tender compassion for human grief and mortality): "Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet, saying to Him, 'Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and troubled: And He said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to Him, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus wept. So the Jews said, 'See how He loved him.'"

What are the gospel writers trying to tell us through passages such as these, where the tender compassion of Jesus is shown for people suffering from all kinds of afflictions? They are trying to tell us that merciful, compassionate love was a consistent and abiding characteristic of the whole life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. And this tells us something very important about the God who sent Him, the God whose very self-manifestation or "Word" made flesh, Jesus truly is.

This series continues next week on the theme, "St. Luke: The Gospel of Mercy"

Robert Stackpole, STD, is the director of The John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy.

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