16 insights from St. John Paul II on divine mercy — By: Catholic News Agency

St. John Paul II (1920-2005). / Credit: Itto Ogami via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

National Catholic Register, Apr 7, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

St. John Paul II has been called the “mercy pope” for good reason.

As pope, he beatified and then canonized St. Faustina Kowalska, who received the message of divine mercy that later spread throughout the world. Long before that, when it seemed the writings about divine mercy would never see the public light, it was John Paul II who stepped in to move the process along. He spoke and wrote about divine mercy and made the Second Sunday of Easter Divine Mercy Sunday for the entire Church. And he died on the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday.

The Polish pope had much to say about divine mercy throughout his pontificate and even wrote an encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, about God’s mercy. Divine Mercy Sunday — which is always the first Sunday after Easter Sunday — is a perfect time to remember some of his many words about this great gift of God.

1. Three years after being elected pope, John Paul II said on the feast of Christ the King:

“Right from the beginning of my ministry in St. Peter’s See in Rome, I considered this message my special task. Providence has assigned it to me in the present situation of man, the Church, and the world. It could be said that precisely this situation assigned that message to me as my task before God.”

2. When he was in Poland on Aug. 17, 2002, for the dedication of the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow-Lagiewniki, John Paul II said in his homily:

“Like St. Faustina, we wish to proclaim that apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind. We desire to repeat with faith: Jesus, I trust in you!”

3. At the dedication, he continued:

“This proclamation, this confession of trust in the all-powerful love of God is especially needed in our own time, when mankind is experiencing bewilderment in the face of many manifestations of evil. The invocation of God’s mercy needs to rise up from the depth of hearts filled with suffering, apprehension, and uncertainty, and at the same time yearning for an infallible source of hope.

“That is why we have come here today … in order to glimpse once more in Christ the face of the Father: ‘the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation’ (2 Cor 1:3).

4. Emphasizing that divine mercy is not just for one place, he said:

“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’ (‘Diary,’ 1732). 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!”

5. On April 18, 1993, on Divine Mercy Sunday, tens of thousands attending the beatification of St. Faustina listened as John Paul II told them during Mass:

“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 doubtlessly a sign of the times — a sign of our 20th century. The balance of this century, which is now ending, in addition to the advances which have often surpassed those of preceding eras, 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.”

6. Seven years later on another Divine Mercy Sunday, April 30, 2000, the first of the new millennium, John Paul II canonized Sister Faustina, “the great apostle of Divine Mercy.” The pope said:

“Divine mercy reaches human beings through the heart of Christ crucified: ‘My daughter, say that I am love and mercy personified,’ Jesus will ask Sister Faustina (‘Diary,’ 1074). Christ pours out this mercy on humanity though the sending of the Spirit who … is love. And is not mercy love’s ‘second name’ (Dives in Misericordia, 7), understood in its deepest and most tender aspect, in its ability to take upon itself the burden of any need and, especially, in its immense capacity for forgiveness?”

7. That day John Paul II also added:

“What will man‘s future on earth be like? We are not given to know … But the light of divine mercy, which the Lord in a way wished to return to the world through Sister Faustina’s charism, will illuminate the way for the men and women of the third millennium.”

8. That same day, John Paul II gave many memorable insights into and words about divine mercy:

“This consoling message is addressed above all to those who, afflicted by a particularly harsh trial or crushed by the weight of the sins they committed, have lost all confidence in life and are tempted to give in to despair. To them the gentle face of Christ is offered; those rays from his heart touch them and shine upon them, warm them, show them the way and fill them with hope. How many souls have been consoled by the prayer ‘Jesus, I trust in you,’ which Providence intimated through Sister Faustina! This simple act of abandonment to Jesus dispels the thickest clouds and lets a ray of light penetrate every life. ‘Jezu, ufam tobie.’”

9. In his Divine Mercy Sunday homily in 2001, it was obvious the Holy Father was describing the meaning of the image of the divine mercy when he said:

“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,’ p. 132). The blood recalls the sacrifice of Golgotha and the mystery of the Eucharist; the water, according to the rich symbolism of the evangelist John, makes us think of baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit (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 and lasting happiness find its secret.”

10. At the same time, John Paul II reminded us of something Christ in his divine mercy messages said we must do:

“Christ has taught us that ‘man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but is also called’ to practice mercy toward others: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’ (Mt 5:7). He also showed us the many paths of mercy, which not only forgives sins but reaches out to all human needs. Jesus bent over every kind of human poverty, material and spiritual.”

11. In Dives in Misericordia, written in 1980, three years after being elected pope, John Paul II focused on God’s mercy especially shown through Jesus Christ, writing:

“Christ confers on the whole of the Old Testament tradition about God’s mercy a definitive meaning. Not only does he speak of it and explain it by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all he himself makes it incarnate and personifies it. He himself, in a certain sense, is mercy. To the person who sees it in him — and finds it in him — God becomes ‘visible’ in a particular way as the Father who is rich in mercy.”

12. The pope also wrote:

“The truth, revealed in Christ, about God the ‘Father of mercies,’ enables us to ‘see’ him as particularly close to man especially when man is suffering, when he is under threat at the very heart of his existence and dignity. And this is why, in the situation of the Church and the world today, many individuals and groups guided by a lively sense of faith are turning, I would say almost spontaneously, to the mercy of God. They are certainly being moved to do this by Christ himself, who through his Spirit works within human hearts.”

13. A very Marian pope, John Paul II wrote this about our Blessed Mother’s role in divine mercy:

“Mary, then, is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy. She knows its price. She knows how great it is. In this sense, we call her the mother of mercy: Our Lady of Mercy or Mother of Divine Mercy. In each one of these titles there is a deep theological meaning, for they express the special preparation of her soul, of her whole personality, so that she was able to perceive, through the complex events, first of Israel, then of every individual and of the whole of humanity, that mercy of which ‘from generation to generation’ people become sharers according to the eternal design of the Most Holy Trinity.”

14. He also said:

“We must note that Christ, in revealing the love and mercy of God, at the same time demanded from people that they also should be guided in their lives by love and mercy. This requirement forms part of the very essence of the messianic message and constitutes the heart of the Gospel ethos … in the Sermon on the Mount he proclaims: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’”

15. Then the pope sounded a note of warning even more suitable now:

“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.’ 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 …”

16. During his first general audience the day after he beatified St. Faustina, John Paul II strongly reminded everyone of what he saw as a “clear indicator of the way” for us to follow:

“‘Jesus, I trust in you.’ There is no such darkness in which man would need to lose himself. If only he will put his trust in Jesus, he will always find himself in the light. Praised be Jesus Christ!”

This article was originally published on April 16, 2023, by the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, and has been updated and adapted by CNA.

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