By JEREMY GOEBEL
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
On April 30, 2000, just five years before he died, St. John Paul II canonized a polish nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938). On that same day, the pope declared that the first Sunday following Easter would be a celebration for the Church known as Divine Mercy Sunday. On the day of this declaration, St. John Paul II said “This is the happiest day of my life.” That’s a bold statement for a pope who traveled to 129 different countries during his near-27-year pontificate.
The Church celebrated this Feast of Mercy this year on April 24. Devotion to Divine Mercy is steadily growing, and it has brought many of us (myself included) closer to God. So what is the message of Divine Mercy, and what makes it so accessible for the times in which we live? To be clear, Divine Mercy has always been a part of our faith since its foundation. Jesus Christ, dying for us on the Cross, is the source of mercy. However, the message of mercy began to blossom in a new way in the 20th century when Jesus appeared to and spoke with St. Faustina, the young polish nun that St. John Paul II canonized. During these visions, Jesus asked her to have an image of him painted with the inscription below that reads, “Jesus, I trust in you.” Many of us have seen this image in churches, or you may have the image displayed somewhere in your home.
The message of Divine Mercy is simple. Jesus died for our sins, and His death and resurrection are powerful enough to forgive and heal all the sins of mankind. His mercy is limitless. He can forgive even the worst of sins, and He can do so an infinite amount of times. This is only possible because He is God; He Himself said to St. Faustina, “I am love and mercy itself.” This quote is echoed in Psalm 136 as we hear, “His mercy endures forever,” and again in 1 John 4 as we hear, “God is love.” One reason that Divine Mercy is so important for us today is that we need reconciliation with God, and the only way for us to be reconciled with Him is through mercy. So how do we receive this gift of mercy? The answer is trust and surrender. He wants you to trust him completely. Jesus said to Faustina, “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. Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort to Me, because I pour all the treasures of My graces into them.” With every situation in your life, He desires that you trust in Him and have faith that, in the end, He will make all things well.
We can demonstrate this trust in a particular way by making frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession. In this Sacrament, Jesus meets each of us individually and speaks to our hearts. Some of us define ourselves by our past. We define ourselves by what he have done; by our weaknesses; by our brokenness. That’s not how God defines us. As St. John Paul II said, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.” God wants us to surrender our sin to His mercy, no matter how ugly (or repetitive) that sin can be. His mercy for us is an ocean compared to the small pebbles that represent the sins we hold onto. Again, Jesus’ words to Faustina are of great comfort and assurance to us: “I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My merciful heart.” The message of Divine Mercy reminds us in a concrete way that God’s mercy is more powerful than sin and death. Together, let’s begin again on the path to trust more deeply in Our Lord and His promise of mercy. Jesus, we trust in you. Amen.
Jeremy Goebel is a theology teacher and wrestling coach at Mater Dei High School. He lives in Evansville with his wife Katie and three children. Jeremy and his family are members of Corpus Christi Parish in Evansville.