Mercy can be best described as a disposition to show kindness or compassion. Mercy implies compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands it. Mercy is seen and experienced from those who have the authority and power to administer justice for a crime committed. The crime committed is punishable in proportion to the harm done as a result of the crime. Justice demands punishment, mercy relaxes the punishment and offers the person a chance to reform, to begin anew.
Mercy is one of the greatest attributes of God. Our God is a merciful God. The term and concept of divine mercy is from the Hebrew word חסד, which in the Bible can be translated as ‘great mercy’, ‘goodness’, ‘loving kindness’, ‘steadfast love’, ‘covenant faithfulness’, ‘favour’, ‘grace’ or ‘love and mercy’, and which refers to God’s love for the children of Israel and for all humankind.
Throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, God is portrayed as the God of mercy. Time and time again as the Old Testament people entered into relationship with God and sealed that relationship in covenant, they would be unfaithful to their commitment, and God would exhibit mercy, forgiving them their transgressions and taking them back. The pages of the Scriptures are full of the stories of betrayal and the breaking of the covenant by the people. And no matter how their actions angered God and their sins of betrayal and unfaithfulness demanded punishment, God’s mercy always brought them back into an embrace of love and tenderness. In the New Testament, we see this relationship between a merciful God and an unfaithful people in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. God’s mercy and tenderness were available in tangible ways to everyone who turned to him with a sincere heart in repentance. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said of the merciful that they will receive mercy from God and gave examples in the parable of the Good Samaritan and the parable of the unforgiving servant.
In the Catholic Church, the Divine Mercy devotion to Jesus Christ is associated with the apparitions of Jesus to Saint Faustina Kowalska. She reported a number of apparitions during religious ecstasy, which she recorded in her diary during the years 1934-1938 and which would later be published as the book Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul. The two main themes of the devotion are to trust in Christ’s endless goodness and to show mercy to others acting as a conduit for God’s love towards them. Pope St John Paul II had a great affinity towards this devotion and authorised it in the Liturgical Calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. The Liturgical Feast of the Divine Mercy is celebrated on the first Sunday of Easter. The 3:00 p.m. hour is very important to this devotion as according to St Faustina, it was the time of the death of Jesus. Another very popular form of the devotion is the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy.
The primary focus of the Divine Mercy devotion is the merciful love of God and the desire to let that love and mercy flow through one’s own heart towards those in need of it. At the dedication of the Shrine of the Divine Mercy, Pope St John Paul II said: “Apart from the mercy of God, there is no other source of hope for mankind.” The Divine Mercy devotion views mercy as the key element in the plan of God for salvation and emphasises the belief that it was through mercy that God gave His only son for the redemption of the human race after the fall of Adam.
Divine Mercy Sunday was celebrated on Sunday, April 11, 2021.
– Most Rev John Persaud, Bishop of Mandeville