The following is the homily delivered by Fr. S. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, during the Holy Mass that closed the first North American Congress on Mercy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15, 2009. The text below includes Fr. Seraphim’s subsequent expansions and related insights to the original homily:
It appears to me not to be void of significance that the first North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM), which we have just celebrated — following upon the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM), which was held in Rome in April of 2008 under the auspices of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI — should have taken place here, in the host city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, and that, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, of the Patroness of the host country. For it was from this city, more precisely, from the House of Studies of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, located at that time on the corner of Lawrence Street, North East, opposite the former site of the Newman Bookshop, very near to this awe-inspiring house of worship, that the message of Jesus, The Divine Mercy, was first begun to be propagated on this continent in the western hemisphere, hardly two-and-a-half years after the passing into eternity of our Savior’s confidante, the now Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, while most of the religious sisters of her own community had not yet learned that their humble sister of the second choir of their congregation was in any way involved in the matter.
I find it a striking fact, too, that it is Our Lady’s shrines that have played a significant role in the origin, growth, and making public of the revelations concerning The Divine Mercy message and devotion entrusted to the Church and the world through the humble members of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. For it was at the renowned shrine of Our Lady — the Mother of Mercy of the Gate of the Dawn — in the city of Vilnius, now again the capital of Lithuania, that the first image of Jesus, The Divine Mercy, painted under St. Faustina’s directions from the Lord and funded by her spiritual director, the recently-beatified priest, the Rev. Michael Sopocko, was first presented to the faithful during the closing celebrations of the observance of the Holy Year of Redemption on the Octave Sunday of Easter in 1935 (see Diary, 420-422).
It was also the Novitiate Chapel under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception, of the American Province of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Mass., which housed the first shrine of The Divine Mercy in this country since 1944. Relocated to a larger and beautifully-adorned adjacent edifice at the insistence and generosity of the faithful, grateful for the numerous graces obtained through The Divine Mercy Devotion, the shrine was dedicated in 1960, and on March 20, 1996, it was declared by the Administrative Committee of The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and the National Catholic Conference of Bishops as the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.
And it is here, at the now Basilica of The National Shrine of The Immaculate Conception, that the Feast of His Mercy, designated by our Lord for the first Sunday after Easter, has been annually celebrated since 1990, with ever-growing participation of the faithful, deeply devoted to Jesus, The Divine Mercy.
So, there is a deep connection between the two great mysteries of our faith — The Divine Mercy and The Immaculate Conception — as has been so eminently demonstrated by the presentation of the Marian Father, Donald Calloway, MIC, in the course of the Congress. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, among all of the Virgin Mary’s feasts, was St. Faustina’s favorite. She prepared herself for it several times in an extraordinary way, “… not only by means of the novena said in common by the whole community, but I also made a personal effort to salute [Mary] a thousand times each day, saying a thousand ‘Hail Marys’ for nine days in her praise” (Diary, 1412-1413). On the occasion of that feast in 1935, appearing to Sr. Faustina during Holy Mass, Our Lady said to her: “You give me great joy when you adore The Holy Trinity for the graces and privileges which were accorded me” (Diary, 564).
There had not yet been any pronouncements made on the part of Church authorities regarding the claimed revelations at the time the devotion took root in this country, but devotional prayers and an image representing Jesus, The Divine Mercy, were granted Imprimaturs by several bishops in Poland and by the Archbishop of our country’s Primatial See, the then-Archdiocese of Baltimore-Washington. Within about 10 years from the humble initiative to make the message and devotion known, these had been spread from here to every other continent.
It should not have been surprising that, after nearly 20 years of swift, spontaneous growth throughout the world — significantly through laymen’s grassroots activity — the spreading of the message and devotion should have been halted by order of Church authorities, because this was clearly foretold by the good religious [Sr. Faustina] in the record of her spiritual experiences, kept in obedience to her spiritual mentor’s directive.
There she wrote:
Once, as I was talking with my spiritual director, I had an interior vision — quicker than lightning — of his soul in great suffering, in such agony that God touches very few souls with such fire. The suffering arises from this work. There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church, although it has been dormant in it from long ago. That God is infinitely merciful, no one can deny. He desires everyone to know this before He comes again as Judge. He wants souls to come to know Him first as King of Mercy. When this triumph comes, we shall already have entered the new life in which there is no suffering. But before this, your soul [of the spiritual director] will be surfeited with bitterness at the sight of the destruction of your efforts. However, this will only appear to be so, because what God has once decided upon, He does not change. But although this destruction will be such only in outward appearance, the suffering will be real (Diary, 378).
The spiritual guide to whom this prophecy was addressed was the Rev. Fr. Michael Sopocko. He was raised to the honors of the altar as “Blessed” a year ago on Sept. 28, 2008. This occurred hardly 33 years after his death, and it stands in contrast to the 300 years it took for Fr. Claude Colombière, S.J. — the spiritual guide of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, through whom our Lord revealed the devotion to His Most Sacred Heart — to be declared a saint. Both priests died on Feb. 15, the day to which their memorial is assigned. In Blessed Michael’s case, it is the day on which St. Faustina celebrated her namesday [the day of her patron saint, St. Faustus].
We must all be aware with what caution Holy Mother Church looks upon private revelations, particularly when through them some action is requested of Church authorities that would affect the Church’s liturgical life or devotional practices. This was certainly the case with the revelations granted to the now “Saint” Faustina.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, mindful in this matter of the Apostle Paul’s warning in his First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:19-21): “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good,” do not treat private revelations lightly. He places them in the category of the prophetic ministry in the Church as he considers verse 18 from the 29th chapter of the Book of Proverbs. That passage is usually translated: “Where [there is] no vision, the people perish.” But St. Thomas prefers the translation that reads: “Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint” (Summa Theologiae, 2a2ae, Q.174, art.6, Reply).
So (after St. Augustine), St. Thomas states: “That is why at every period men were instructed by God about what they were to do, according as was expedient for the salvation of the elect” (Summa, Ibid.), not to proclaim new doctrines (for that would be incompatible with the concept of prophecy), but to offer a deeper understanding of particular revealed truths, or to give guidance to leaders in the Church as to actions they should take in given times and circumstances for the good government of the faithful. For “… divine grace which inspires prophets is, for man, a still more effective means of help. Light from prophecy extends also to the directing of human acts. In this sense prophecy is needed for the ruling of a people, and especially as regards the worship of God. For in this nature is insufficient, and grace indispensable” (Summa Theologiae, 2a2ae, Q.172-the cause of prophecy, article 1 ad 3 and 4).
Saint Peter is quite emphatic about the source of prophecy, saying “… for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the Holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God” (2 Pt 1:21).
The Jesuit Father Karl Rahner was asked by the Father General of his religious order to explain the rationale of private revelations, such as those regarding the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, of which the Society of Jesus was the principal proponent. The well-known German theologian pointed out that, “A private revelation as a mission to the Church signifies not so much an Indicative [a declaration] communicating something new … but an Imperative [a command] which, within the concept of a particular situation of the Church, points out a particular course of action from the many possible, according to the universal and public revelation, as the most urgently needing to be realized. … An imperative of this kind is possible because, while in the knowledge [the entire body] of the faith many things at the same time can be true and good, in the action [exercise] of the faith not everything that is true and good can be actuated at the same time, to the same degree and with the same intensity. Hence, the private revelation as a mission to the Church … answers the question as to what is most urgently to be done here and now in accordance with the general principles of the faith” (Theological Investigations, Vol. III, pp.338, 339), and, St. Thomas would add, “according as [is] expedient for the salvation of the elect” (cf. above).
Evidently, we find the message regarding The Divine Mercy extremely necessary for the particular time and circumstances in which the Church and the world find themselves now. We will do well to recall what the now Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, declared in his famous second encyclical, Rich in Mercy:
…[A]t no time and in no historical period — especially at a moment as critical as our own — can the Church forget the prayer that is a cry for the mercy of God amid the many forms of evil which weigh upon humanity and threaten it. Precisely this is the fundamental right and duty of the Church in Christ Jesus, her right and duty towards God and towards humanity. The more the human conscience succumbs to secularization, loses its sense of the very meaning of the word “mercy,” moves away from God and distances itself from the mystery of mercy, the more the Church has the right and the duty to appeal to the God of mercy “with loud cries” [as Jesus did in the Garden of Olives] (Heb 5:7). These “loud cries” should be the mark of the Church of our times, cries uttered to God to implore His mercy, the certain manifestation of which she professes and proclaims as having already come in Jesus crucified and risen, that is, in the Paschal Mystery. It is this mystery which bears within itself the most complete revelation of mercy, that is, of that love which is more powerful than death, more powerful than sin and every evil, the love which lifts man up when he falls into the abyss and frees him from the greatest threats.
Modern man feels these threats. What has been said above in this regard is only a rough outline. Modern man often anxiously wonders about the solution to the terrible tensions which have built up in the world and which entangle humanity. And if at times he lacks the courage to utter the word “mercy,” or if in his conscience empty of religious content he does not find the equivalent, so much greater is the need for the Church to utter this word, not only in her own name but also in the name of all the men and women of our time (n.15) [emphases, the Pope’s.]
It was non-Catholics who immediately hailed the encyclical as the best document to have come out of the Vatican, while Catholic sources kept a strange silence about it for almost a year, until a religious community under the title of “Merciful Love” sponsored an international congress to examine the subject at its general headquarters in Collevalenza, near the city of Todi, Italy.
The Archbishop, later Cardinal, Paul Poupard, rector of The Catholic Institute in Paris, who was requested to elaborate on the theology of divine mercy at the congress, had a hard time finding adequate material on the subject, even in the latest Catholic Encyclopedia that was just published at that time in Italy and in France, which offered only a few lamentable paragraphs on the word “mercy.” He recalled how, when word spread that the Holy Father John Paul II was about to publish the second encyclical letter of his pontificate in November of 1980 on the theme of the mercy of God, some Catholic theologians in Rome publicly ridiculed the idea saying, “With all the problems going on in the world, doesn’t the pope have anything better to write about than about mercy?” The Archbishop expressed his great astonishment about how this “fundamental axis of our Faith” — that God is Love and Love is Mercy — could have become so obscured for such a long time (Acts of the International Congress: A First Reading of the Dives in Misericordia, The Shrine of Merciful Love, Collevalenza, 26-29 Nov. 1981, pp. 203, 204).
Yet about 22 years earlier, there was an effort on the part of individuals in the Vatican to suppress the writings of Sr. Faustina Kowalska together with the devotions based on them. While I was working with an Italian priest, Don Carlo Vivaldelli, on a translation into Italian of Sr. Faustina’s Diary, he informed me that a friend of his from seminary days became a secretary to Pope John XXIII, and from him he learned that a decree was prepared to prohibit forever the spreading of Sr. Faustina’s Diary and the devotion to Jesus, The Divine Mercy, based on the “supposed” revelations recorded in it. Knowing that Pope Pius XII gave signs of being in favor of the writings of Sr. Josepha Menendez of Spain on a similar topic of God’s mercy, the individuals not in favor of the subject awaited the seriously ailing Pontiff’s demise.
The friend described to Don Carlo what followed. On the first day after his enthronement, when the successor to Pope Pius XII entered his office, he sat down at the desk on which an orderly heap of documents was awaiting the new Pope’s review and signature. The Pope made the sign of the Cross and, well aware from experience of Curial practices, turned the pile of documents upside down, and proceeded to examine the documents. The first one he picked up was the proposed “decree” regarding Sr. Faustina’s writings. It was evidently placed at the bottom of the pile so that, perhaps tiring from going over all the preceding ones, the Pope would trust the work of his collaborators, and just sign it. Instead, John XXIII read the document carefully, and shook his head saying, “No, no, no!” And he indicated that this “decree” will not do — the Polish bishops should be consulted for their opinions. The document had to be revised. It became a “Notification,” setting the matter aside until clarifications could be obtained. (Communication between Poland, dominated by Soviet communism, and the Vatican was stopped by the government. Even external telephone communications were intercepted.)
The temporary ban lasted 20 years until further investigations were able to be carried out and a very detailed analysis of Sr. Faustina’s writings was made by a top theologian upon the request of Karol Wojtyla, the Archbishop of Kraków. The verdict was that the writings contained nothing against the Catholic faith or morals; on the contrary, whoever would carefully read them and follow them would reach a high degree of sanctity. As a result, Pope Paul VI rescinded the ban. Exactly six months later, the Cardinal Archbishop of Kraków succeeded him and his short-lived successor, Pope John Paul I, as Pope John Paul II. Thanks to the successful process in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope John Paul II was able to beatify Sr. Faustina in 1993 and to declare her a saint in the year 2000. After more than 1,000 years of Christianity in Poland, Sr. Faustina was the first woman born on Polish soil ever to be canonized!
Although all that our Lord assigned to Sr. Faustina to accomplish was finally fulfilled, her work is not finished. In May of 1935, she recorded in her Diary:
A Certain Moment
When I became aware of God’s great plans for me, I was frightened at their greatness and felt myself quite incapable of fulfilling them, and I began to avoid interior conversations with Him, filling up the time with vocal prayer. I did this out of humility, but I soon recognized it was not true humility, but rather a great temptation from the devil. When, on one occasion, instead of interior prayer, I took up a book of spiritual reading, I heard these words spoken distinctly and forcefully within my soul, You will prepare the world for My final coming. These words moved me deeply, and although I pretended not to hear them, I understood them very well and had no doubt about them. Once, being tired out from this battle of love with God, and making constant excuses on the grounds that I was unable to carry out this task, I wanted to leave the chapel, but some force held me back and I found myself powerless. Then I heard these words, You intend to leave the chapel, but you shall not get away from Me, for I am everywhere. You cannot do anything of yourself, but with Me you can do all things (Diary, 429).
The following year, on the Feast of the Annunciation, God’s presence enveloped Sr. Faustina in a special way in the morning during meditation, as she saw the immeasurable greatness of God and, at the same time, the lowering of Himself to His creatures. She recorded:
Then I saw the Mother of God, who said to me, Oh, how pleasing to God is the soul that follows faithfully the inspirations of His grace! [Our Lady could have been referring to her response to the Archangel Gabriel and its consequences.] I gave the Savior to the world; as for you, you have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior, but as a just Judge. Oh, how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it. Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for mercy. If you keep silent now, you will be answering for a great number of souls on that terrible day. Fear nothing. Be faithful to the end. I sympathize with you. (635)
What struck me during yesterday’s Vigil Mass were the words of Bishop [William] Lori [the Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., and the Episcopal advisor to NACOM] when he related that someone asked him why these days were picked for this Mercy Congress, and whether the planners checked the readings from Sacred Scripture for this Sunday beforehand. The Gospel passage deals with “The Son of Man, at the end, returning with great power and glory” (Mk 13:24-32). This is what moved me to change the direction of this homily and to bring our attention to the eschatological dimension — the matters dealing with the last things — in St. Faustina’s revelations. There we read entries such as these:
Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation [literally — “sheet anchor,” one that can be shot out rapidly — a person or thing to be relied upon in danger or emergency (Webster’s Dictionary)], that is, recourse to My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity. Secretary of My mercy, write, tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near (Diary, 965, 998).
One day, while Sr. Faustina was saying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, she heard a voice that said:
Oh, what great graces I will grant to souls who say this chaplet; the very depths of My tender mercy are stirred for the sake of those who say the chaplet. Write down these words, My daughter. Speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed forth for them.
In the last year of her life, St. Faustina wrote: “Today I heard the words”:
In the Old Covenant I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force Me to do so; My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice. Before the Day of Justice I am sending the Day of Mercy. I replied, “O my Jesus, speak to souls Yourself, because my words are insignificant.” (Diary, 1588).
Nevertheless, our Lord persisted with Sr. Faustina:
Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice. (Diary, 1146)
Our preparation for the Day of our Lord’s Coming should concentrate on putting away all sin. The second reading for this Sunday’s Liturgy, from the Letter to the Hebrews, assures us that by one sacrifice Jesus obtained forgiveness for our sins, and, “when He had accomplished purification from sins, He took His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high …” (Heb 1:3; 10:12). In the “Tent of Meeting” set up by Moses, and in the Temple in Jerusalem, there was only one seat — the “throne of mercy” upon the Ark of the Covenant, the place where God manifested His presence in the “Shekinah Glory,” Uncreated Light.
The normal position for a priest is standing. He was never allowed to rest sitting down as he went about his ongoing tasks of performing the rites regarding the various offerings for the sins of the people of God. But Jesus, having been “made perfect,” that is consecrated [as per Cardinal Vanhoye’s translation], was declared by God High-Priest of the New Covenant in His own Blood according to the order of Melchizedek. There is significant power in our enthroned High-Priest, for He has accomplished and fulfilled the perfect, once-for-all offering of Himself, as through His death He entered the inner sanctuary in heaven, not made by human hands, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, obtaining eternal redemption (Heb 10:19; 9:12). This is the hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the divine Presence behind the veil — heaven (see Heb 6:19).
By this same once-for-all act, Jesus has “made perfect” forever those who are being consecrated — all who obey Him, who place their faith and absolute trust in Him. With the author of The Book of Revelation (1:5,6) we, too, can call out: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.” For this is why, as sharers in His priesthood, we have the confidence — more exactly, the boldness, the “accorded right” [again, Cardinal Vanhoye’s translation] — to approach the throne of grace at any time to obtain mercy and to find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:16), unlike the high-priest in the Old Testament who alone could enter the “holy of holies,” and that, only once a year. But Jesus, “because He remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away, therefore He is always able to save those who approach God through Him, since He lives forever to make intercession for them (see Heb 7:24, 25; Rom 8:34).
Finally, there is an entry in St. Faustina’s Diary (1732) in which the Servant of God John Paul II quoted in part toward the end of his homily during the dedication of the Basilica of the Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Lagiewniki, Poland, near the final resting place of the mortal remains of our Lord’s beloved confidante. St. Faustina recorded:
As I was praying for Poland, I heard the words: I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming.
The Holy Father declared: “Today, therefore, in this Shrine, I wish solemnly to entrust the world to Divine Mercy. I do so with the burning desire that the message of God’s merciful love, proclaimed here through St. Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope. May this message radiate from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world. May the binding promise of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled: from here there must go forth ‘the spark which will prepare the world for his final coming.'”
It was the second part of the Diary entry that the Holy Father quoted, and then he said, “Let this binding promise be fulfilled.” Most of the hearers hardly noticed the word, even though it was pronounced with emphasis. Did the Holy Father, by saying this, intend boldly to hold the Lord to His word?
Pope John Paul II then continued, “This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness!”
This was the challenge that sparked the inspiration for a World Apostolic Congress on Divine Mercy. When Pope Benedict XVI agreed with the idea and insisted it be held in Rome, it became the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy. From it came the call for regional, national, and diocesan Congresses. It is now up to us, who participated in this first North American Congress on Mercy, to enkindle and spread that fire of mercy to our homes, parishes and communities, in order to prepare everyone around us so that That Day will not catch us unaware nor fill us with fear, but truly be for us the moment when our Lord “will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring the [fullness] of salvation to those who eagerly [on tiptoe] await him” (Heb 9:28).
For Jesus will appear at the parousia (“presence” or “arrival,” as stated in New Testament passages that deal with the Second Coming) as the high-priest reappeared on the Day of Atonement, emerging from the Holy of Holies that He entered to take away sin, “while all the people of the land would shout for joy, praying the Merciful One, as the high-priest … coming down … would raise his hands over all the congregation of God’s People, the blessing of the Lord would be upon his lips, the name of the Lord would be his glory.” This dramatic scene, described in the Book of Sirach, (50:5-11), is what the image of Jesus — The Divine Mercy — commanded by our Lord to be painted by Sr. Faustina, to be blessed on the First Sunday after the Lord’s Resurrection, and solemnly venerated first in the Sisters’ Chapel and then throughout the world — is truly meant to represent.
This image fulfills in a supreme manner all that our Holy Father Benedict XVI describes in his work: The Spirit Of The Liturgy, with regard to “art ordered to divine worship.” He declares:
The images of the history of God in relation to man do not merely illustrate the succession of past events but display the inner unity of God’s action. In this way they have a reference to the sacraments, above all to Baptism and the Eucharist, and in pointing to the sacraments, they are contained within them. Images thus point to a presence; they are essentially connected with what happens in the liturgy. Now history becomes sacrament in Christ, who is the source of the Sacraments. Therefore, the icon [image] of Christ is the center of sacred iconography [the art of “writing” sacred images, for they are illustrations of sacred Scriptures]. The center of the icon of Christ is the Paschal Mystery: Christ is presented as the Crucified, the risen Lord, the One who will come again and who here and now hiddenly reigns over all. Every image of Christ [note: ordered to divine worship!] must contain these three essential aspects of the mystery of Christ and, in this sense, must be an image of Easter. … But whatever happens, one aspect can never be completely isolated from another, and in the different emphases [whether of the Passion, the Resurrection or of the Return] the Paschal Mystery as a whole must be plainly evident. An image of the Crucifixion no longer transparent to Easter would be just as deficient as an Easter image forgetful of the wounds and the suffering of the present moment [emphasis mine]. And, centered as it is on the Paschal Mystery, the image of Christ is always an icon of the Eucharist, that is, it points to the sacramental presence of the Easter mystery.
I know of no other image of Christ that clearly exhibits every element described by the Holy Father than that of Jesus, The Divine Mercy, revealed in an apparition to St. Faustina with the command: “Paint an image according to the pattern you are seeing” (Diary, 47) — a command like that given by God to Moses: “You shall erect the Dwelling [sanctuary] according to the pattern shown you on the mountain” (Ex 26:30). When the Jews demanded of Jesus, “What sign do you show to us, since You do these things,” that is, cleansing the temple, Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Saint John comments, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body” (Jn 2:18-21).
The very first entry in St. Faustina’s Diary is a poem that begins with the statement: “O Eternal Love, You command Your Sacred Image to be painted …” (1). The next stanza declares: “O sweet Jesus, it is here [that is, in this image] You established the throne of Your mercy,” a reference to the most important item in the sanctuary that Moses was commanded to construct and furnish according to the pattern in heaven seen by him on the mountain — the Ark of the Covenant with its golden lid, the Mercy Seat.
It was upon this lid — “beaten” out of one mass of gold (the gold representing divinity and utter sinlessness/holiness; the beating calling to mind verse 3 of Psalm 129: “The plowers plowed on my back; They made their furrows long”)— that the blood of propitiation was sprinkled as the atoning sacrifice which, “taking away our sins, turns aside God’s wrath.” Saint John emphatically states: “[Christ] Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 Jn 2:2; Jn 1:29) [Our Lord inserted a part of this passage in the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy.] The Body of Jesus, then, is the perfect temple of God as well as the real propitiatory, sprinkled with His own precious Blood for our redemption (Rom 3:25). The red and pale “Rays of Mercy,” emanating from the Lord’s pierced side in The Divine Mercy image, are the illustration of Christ’s consecration as High Priest through what He suffered in loving obedience to His Father and out of compassionate love for us sinners — to whom He eternally united Himself through the Incarnation. It is also the illustration of the priestly ministry He shares with those who obey Him to bring forth much fruit in the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father.
The Letter to the Hebrews (8:3) indicates what the priestly ministry is as it declares: “For every high-priest is constituted to offer gifts and sacrifices.” It, therefore, encourages believers who have been given a share in Christ’s priesthood: “Through Him therefore let us continually[emphasis mine] offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, fruit of lips professing His name” (13:15). We do precisely that when at our Lord’s invitation — and even command — we pray in particular the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, which is strictly connected to the Eucharistic Sacrifice: “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly-beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. For the sake of [out of regard for] His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
From all the forgoing, it becomes evident that our one need is to know Jesus better, to come to the knowledge of the higher truth concerning Him in His heavenly priesthood, who “had in all things to become like His brothers so that He might become a merciful and worthy of faith High Priest for the things of God in order to expiate the sins of the people; for in what He suffered Himself, having been tested, He is able to those being tested to offer help” (Heb 2:17-18). The author of Hebrews continues: “For we do not have a High Priest unable to suffer with our weaknesses, but [One] tested in all things in like manner without sin. Let us approach therefore with accorded right to the throne of grace so that we might receive mercy and find grace for timely help” (4:15-16); “let us approach with a true heart in fullness of faith with hearts sprinkled pure from a wicked conscience; and with a body washed by pure water let us maintain unmoved the profession of the hope — for faithful [is] the one who promised — and let us consider each other for the stimulation of charity and noble works, not deserting our gathering, as [is] a custom for some, but encouraging, and the more so in proportion as you look at the approaching Day” (10:22-25; translation endorsed by Cardinal Vanhoye).
We can readily understand then why our Lord insisted that a particular prayer “must be clearly in evidence” (Diary, 327) on the image He commanded to depict Him and to be signed: “Jesus, I trust in You!” It is the short form of the prayer He taught St. Faustina: “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!” (Diary, 47, 327). The Blood and Water gushing forth from the area of His Heart is also the symbol and expression of His personal, priestly, atoning self-offering out of love for us, making Him worthy of our unbounded trust to save us to the uttermost by His being faithful to His divine promises. That is why in the Polish language, in which Jesus stated that prayer, the final “You” is in the singular number, and why the name of Jesus — “Yahweh is salvation” — is a legitimate and significant stand-in for the “Blood and Water” in the signature on The Divine Mercy Image.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, during his “Queen of Heaven, rejoice,” address at noon on Divine Mercy Sunday of 2006, His Holiness Benedict XVI, commented on the Gospel reading of the day, saying:
The Evangelist further recalls that on the occasion of both his appearances — the day of the Resurrection and eight days later — the Lord Jesus showed the disciples the signs of the crucifixion, clearly visible and tangible even in his glorified Body (cf. Jn20:20,27). Those sacred wounds in his hands, in his feet and in his side, are an inexhaustible source of faith, hope and love from which each one can draw, especially the souls who thirst the most for Divine Mercy.
In consideration of this, the Servant of God John Paul II, highlighting the spiritual experience of a humble Sister, St Faustina Kowalska, desired that the Sunday after Easter be dedicated in a special way to Divine Mercy; and Providence disposed that he would die precisely on the eve of this day in the hands of Divine Mercy. The mystery of God’s merciful love was the center of the Pontificate of my venerable Predecessor. Let us remember in particular his 1980 Encyclical Dives in Misericordia, and his dedication of the new Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow in 2002.
The words he spoke on the latter occasion summed up, as it were, his Magisterium, pointing out that the cult [worship]of Divine Mercy is not a secondary devotion but an integral dimension of Christian faith and prayer.
The German translation of this latter paragraph renders it rather thus: “… the worship of Divine Mercy is not a second-rate devotion but an integral dimension of a Christian’s faith and prayer.”
May our Lord’s declaration: “Mankind will not experience [or enjoy] security so long as it does not turn with trust to the Fount of My Mercy” (Diary, 300, 699 — a more literal translation) spur us on to make His Divine Mercy message and devotion an integral factor of our Christian lives.
Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, served as vice-postulator in North America for St. Faustina’s canonization cause. He lives on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Mass., where he holds the title of “Fr. Joseph, MIC,” director of the Association of Marian Helpers.