Divine Mercy 101: Elements of the Devotion

An Image of God's Merciful Love

Early in the 20th century, several of the popes called the world back to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pope Leo XIII consecrated the whole world to the Sacred Heart in 1899, and Pope Pius XI asked the universal church for loving acts of reparation to His Heart for all the outrages of human sin. Through the revelations given to St. Margaret Mary in the 17th century, the Church had already received the basic pattern for the image of the Sacred Heart that was central to this devotion and spirituality: Jesus was depicted as pointing to His Heart aflame with love for us, yet pierced and wounded by our sins, and He beckoned the world to come back to His Heart, asking all mankind to "return love for love." By and large, however, the world would not listen; His pleas fell upon deaf ears.

Now our Savior has reached out to us again. He has given us a new image of Himself - not as beckoning us to return to Him, but as coming to rescue us. In the Image of Mercy, He is shown walking toward the viewer, with His hand raised in blessing even before we are ready to repent and ask for blessing. Here is the Good Shepherd, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, seeking out His lost sheep in the darkness of the night. And the rays of His Mercy, shinning out from His Heart, spread out to embrace the whole world. In short, everything about this image speaks of the risen Christ graciously taking the initiative to seek out lost souls in the darkness. As He once said to St. Faustina (Diary entry 1485):

Be not afraid of your Savior, O sinful soul. I make the first move to come to you, for I know that by yourself you are unable to lift yourself to me.

(5) A Call to Trust

At the bottom of any authentic Image of Divine Mercy the words inscribed should be: "Jesus, I trust in You." This is not an "optional-extra" for this form of sacred art; Jesus Himself commanded that the Image bear this signature (Diary entry 47). These words are important because they sum up for us the principal response that Jesus asks of us to His merciful love.

In fact, for the devotee of the Merciful Heart of Jesus, the words of the inscription can become a simple prayer to repeat over and over again each day, in every life situation. In the midst of trouble and strife, crippling financial burdens or the grievous loss of close family members and good friends, in times of terrible illness, or social turmoil - whatever sufferings and uncertainties we may face, there is no moment in our lives when this little prayer ("Jesus, I trust in You") does not apply. Trusting in Jesus is what all people everywhere need to do, at every moment.

Over and over again, Christ Jesus reassured St. Faustina of His infinite trustworthiness. At various times, He spoke to her words such as these:

I am Love and Mercy itself.... Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.... My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world.... I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come then with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart.... Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy not embrace a trusting soul....

I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: "Jesus, I trust in You".... The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is - trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive.

In other words, what Jesus was telling St. Faustina is that His pierced Heart is like a fountain; the water and the blood (represented by the red and pale rays in the image) symbolize the graces of His Mercy, pouring out from His Heart for us. Moreover, the vessel with which we can collect for ourselves these graces is one vessel only: the vessel of "trust." The bigger the container we bring to this fountain of Mercy, the more graces of Mercy we can receive. If we bring a vessel of trust that is barely the size of a thimble, then we can receive only a thimbleful of grace. But if we bring a ten-gallon jug, we can receive enough graces to satiate our thirst, and more bedsides. As Jesus said to St. Faustina (Diary entry 1146):

Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask.

It is also important to notice the way the signature at the bottom of the Image is phrased. It does not say, "Jesus, we trust in You," but "Jesus, I trust in You." It is meant to be personal. That is probably why Jesus referred to it as a "signature" rather than merely as an "inscription" (Diary entry 47). By saying these words, "Jesus, I Trust in You," each person is, so to speak, signing the image himself, with his own name. As Jesus said in the Gospel according to St. John: He "calls His own sheep by name ... and they know His voice" (Jn. 10:1-21). Through this image and inscription, He calls each person by name, as individual souls precious in His sight, and He asks from each one a personal response of trust, each and every day.

(This series continues next week on the topic: The Image of The Divine Mercy).

1 Diary entries 1074, 699, 1485, 1777, 327, and 1578.

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