Divine Mercy: A Personal Encounter with Our Savior Himself

Above all, Pope John Paul II stressed again and again that "Divine Mercy" is not just a doctrine to be believed by the mind, or another "devotion" involving acts of piety. Rather, it is a personal encounter with the merciful Savior Himself. The Image, the Feast, the Chaplet, and even the doctrinal message, are just means to enable us to personally experience the love of Jesus Christ. Only if we have experienced His love for ourselves, the Holy Father insisted, are we adequately prepared to share His love effectively with others.

For example, on April 10, 1994, on the second Sunday of Easter (Mercy Sunday), Pope John Paul II stated in his Regina Caeli address:

What is mercy if not the boundless love of God, who confronted with human sin, restrains the sentiment of severe justice and, allowing Himself to be moved by the wretchedness of His creatures, spurs Himself to the total gift of self, in the Son's cross?

Who can say he is free from sin and does not need God's mercy? As people of this restless time of ours, wavering between the emptiness of self-exaltation and the humiliation of despair, we have a greater need than ever for a regenerating experience of mercy.

In his Regina Caeli address on Mercy Sunday in 1995, the Holy Father spoke of the octave of Easter as like a one day celebration, and the Sunday of the octave (Mercy Sunday) as the day of thanksgiving for God's mercy. He concluded:

Dear brothers and sisters, we must personally experience this [tender-hearted mercy of the Father] if, in turn, we want to be capable of mercy. Let us learn to forgive! The spiral of hatred and violence that stains with blood the path of so many individuals and nations can only be broken by the miracle of forgiveness.

We have already seen how the Pope testified to the impact that this mercy message and devotion had upon him personally. Here again is a portion of his speech at the tomb of St. Faustina in Lagiewniki in June of 1997:

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 Krakow, but for the entire nation.

This was also my personal experience, which I took with me to the See of St. Peter, and which, in a sense, forms the image of this Pontificate.

On another occasion, the Pope expressed his wish that everyone would be able to experience God's merciful love in a personal way, and so be empowered to transmit that love to others. In his evening prayer on Divine Mercy Sunday, 2000, from the papal balcony on St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father made this earnest appeal:

Dear brothers and sisters, on this Second Sunday of Easter, on which I had the joy of enrolling Sister Faustina Kowalska - Apostle of Divine Mercy - among the saints, I urge you always to trust in God's merciful love revealed to us in Christ Jesus, who died and rose again for our salvation. May the personal experience of this love commit everyone to becoming, in turn, a witness of active charity towards his brothers and sisters. Make Sister Faustina's beautiful exclamation your own: "Jesus, I trust in you!"

(This series concludes next week on the Mercy Legacy of Pope John Paul II).

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We have seen so far that the New Testament does not substantially alter the Old Testament definition of Divine Mercy, but it does show us just how deep and all-encompassing God's merciful love for us really is.

Much of the message of Divine Mercy in St. Luke's gospel has its parallels in the other gospel accounts.

If the Son of God Himself is overflowing with merciful love, it is no wonder that the New Testament encourages everyone to place all their trust in Him, and in His heavenly Father.