Jesus Unveils the Great Mercy of His Heart

“More Brilliant than the Sun," a weekly series by Robert Stackpole, STD, Director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy 

The series so far:
PART 1: The Plan of the Heart of Jesus to Drive Back the World's Darkness
PART 2:  What Do We Really Mean By “The Heart of Jesus”?
PART 3:  Devotion to the Heart of Jesus and its Roots in Holy Scripture
PART 4: The Heart of the Savior in the New Testament
PART 5: 
 The Heart of Jesus Manifest in His Tender Affections and Compassionate Love
PART 6: 
 The Heart of Jesus in the Garden and on the Cross
PART 7:  From Easter Onward: The Heart of Jesus Lives in His Church
PART 8:  The Flowering of Love for the Heart of Jesus in the Middle Ages
PART 9:  Saint Gertrude the Great on Bringing Comfort and Joy to the Heavenly Christ
PART 10:  Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and Reparation to the Sacred Heart
PART 11:  On Consoling the Heart of Jesus
PART 12:  Saints and Servants of Consoling Reparation to the Heart of Jesus
PART 13:  The Twelve Promises — and the Great Promise — of the Sacred Heart 
PART 14:  Holiness from the Heart of Jesus: St. Charles De Foucauld
PART 15:  Holiness from the Heart of Jesus: Blessed Dina Bélanger
PART 16:  The Social Reign of the Sacred Heart
PART 17:  The Reign of the Heart of Jesus in Families

PART 18: Jesus Unveils the Great Mercy of His Heart

Over the last few episodes in this series, we have been looking at new developments in the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus, new ways in which the Holy Spirit guided the Church to broaden and deepen the devotion.

Above all the rest, in the 20th century, and from out of the heart of the Polish nation, our Lord poured another fresh stream of graces from His Sacred Heart. It began when a simple Polish nun, Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), with barely three semesters of formal education, at the command of her spiritual director wrote her Diary, which has been recognized as being “among the outstanding works of mystical literature” (The Office of Readings for October 5).

Declared “Saint” Faustina at the dawn of the third millennium, she was called by Pope St. John Paul II “the great apostle of Divine Mercy in our time” (Regina Caeli address, April 10, 1994).

Complete devotion
In St. Faustina, we find a holy soul completely devoted to the Heart of Jesus, but in a new way. As she wrote in her Diary:

O my Jesus, each of your saints reflects one of your virtues; I desire to reflect Your compassionate Heart, full of mercy; I want to glorify it. Let Your Mercy, O Jesus, be impressed upon my heart and soul like a seal, and this will be my badge in this and the future life (Diary, 1242).[1]

On several occasions, Christ Himself emphasized that His Heart is the source of Divine Mercy for the world:

My daughter, know that My Heart is mercy itself. From this sea of mercy graces flow out upon the whole world. No soul that has approached Me has ever gone away unconsoled. All misery gets buried in the depths of My mercy, and every saving and sanctifying grace flows from this fountain (Diary, 1777).

In another passage in her Diary, St. Faustina poured out her soul in adoration of the living Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist:

O living Host, my one and only strength, fountain of love and mercy, embrace the whole world, and fortify faint souls. Oh, blessed be the instant and the moment when Jesus left us His most merciful Heart (Diary, 223).

Clearly, for St. Faustina, the center of her life, her first love, was the Merciful Heart of Jesus. Her devotion was to the Sacred Heart, but focused on the merciful love that flows to us from His Heart, especially from the Blessed Sacrament.

New forms
Much like the traditional devotion to the Sacred Heart, our Lord gave to St. Faustina new forms in which His Merciful Heart was to be honored, and new vessels for a fresh outpouring of His grace: the Image of the Divine Mercy, new prayers such as the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy and the prayers for the 3 o’clock Hour of Mercy, and, of course, a new feast for the universal Church — or, to be more precise, a new title for what was already a great solemnity in the liturgical calendar as the Octave Day of Easter, a solemnity already focused (in the traditional collects and readings for the day) on God’s mercy. This day is now called by Catholics everywhere “Divine Mercy Sunday.”

All of this received the explicit and repeated endorsement of Pope St. John Paul II; for example, in the words he spoke at the beatification of Sr. Faustina in Rome on April 18, 1993:

Her mission continues, and is yielding astonishing fruit. It is truly marvelous how her devotion to the merciful Jesus is spreading in our contemporary world and gaining so many human hearts! This is doubtless a sign of the times — a sign of our 20th century. The balance of this century, which is now ending ... presents a deep restlessness and fear of the future. Where, if not in the Divine Mercy, can the world find refuge and the light of hope? Believers understand that perfectly.

If there remained doubt in anyone’s mind about the general approval of this message and devotion by the See of St. Peter, that doubt was removed by the Pope’s visit to the tomb of Sr. Faustina in Lagiewniki, near the city of Krakow, in the summer of 1997, and by the remarkable address he delivered there at the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. In that address, he not only explained the importance of this message and devotion to all souls seeking for God, but also told how important it had been to him personally in his own spiritual journey:

There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy — that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights of the holiness of God. In this place we become particularly aware of this. From here, in fact, went out the message of Divine Mercy that Christ Himself chose to pass on to our generation through Blessed Faustina. And it is a message that is clear and understandable for everyone. Anyone can come here, look at this image of the merciful Jesus, His Heart radiating grace, and hear in the depths of his own soul what Blessed Faustina heard: “Fear nothing. I am with You always.” And if this person responds with a sincere heart: “Jesus, I trust in You,” he will find comfort in all his anxieties and fears. ... On the threshold of the third millennium I come to entrust to Him once more my Petrine ministry — “Jesus, I trust in You!”

The message of Divine Mercy has always been near and dear to me. It is as if history had inscribed it in the tragic experience of the Second World War. In those difficult years it was a particular support and an inexhaustible source of hope, not only for the people of Kraków but for the entire nation. This was also my personal experience, which I took with me to the See of Peter and which in a sense forms the image of this Pontificate. I give thanks to divine Providence that I have been enabled to contribute personally to the fulfillment of Christ’s will, through the institution of the Feast of Divine Mercy [in Poland]. Here, near the relics of Blessed Faustina Kowalska, I give thanks also for the gift of her beatification. I pray unceasingly that God will have “mercy on us and the whole world.”

Moment of revelation
When John Paul II mentioned “the picture of the merciful Jesus,” of course, he was referring to the famous Image of the Merciful Savior that summarizes for us the spiritual teachings of St. Faustina. In her Diary, she describes the moment of the revelation of the Image in 1933, a revelation she received directly from Christ Himself:

In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand [was] raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale. In silence I kept my gaze fixed on the Lord; my soul was struck with awe, but also with a great joy. After a while Jesus said to me, Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the whole world. (Diary, 47)

Of central significance in this Image are streams of blood (red) and water (pale) emanating from Christ’s Heart, symbolizing the graces of God’s mercy poured out in abundance upon anyone willing to receive them with trust. This Image clearly shows that devotion to the Divine Mercy, at least in part, is a further development of Sacred Heart spirituality; indeed, as we have seen, St. Faustina had a passionate devotion to our Lord’s merciful and compassionate Heart. He taught her to repeat a brief prayer that sums up the meaning of the Image for us:

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You. (Diary, 187; see also Jn 19:34).

Complete, trustful surrender
The center of St. Faustina’s message, therefore, is the call to complete, trustful surrender to the Mercy of God, incarnate for us in Jesus Christ and manifested in the Image, and giving Himself to us, above all, in the Sacrament of His love. And her message is not just of relevance to those who happen to find themselves attracted to its contemporary devotional forms; rather, as Pope St. John Paul II said in his homily on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001, it is an expression of the “restorative tide” of God’s merciful love, pouring out upon humanity through the Heart of Jesus:

The Heart of Christ! His “Sacred Heart” has given men everything: redemption, salvation, sanctification. St. Faustina Kowalska saw coming from this Heart that was overflowing with generous love, two rays of light which illuminated the world. “The two rays” according to what Jesus Himself told her, “represent the blood and the water” (Diary, 132). The blood recalls the sacrifice of Golgotha and the mystery of the Eucharist; the water, according to the rich symbolism of the Evangelist St. John, makes us think of Baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3:5; 4:14).

Through the mystery of this wounded Heart, the restorative tide of God’s merciful love continues to spread over the men and women of our time. Here alone can those who long for true happiness find its secret.

This series continues next week with Part 19: "Popes, Saints and Visionaries on the Merciful Heart of Jesus."
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[1] All quotations from the Diary of St. Faustina are taken from Sr. M. Faustina Kowalska, Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul (Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 1987).
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