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Rich in mercy

Divine Mercy Sunday

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

St. John Paul II designated the Sunday immediately after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.

Last Tuesday, April 2, we commemorated the 19th anniversary of his death in 2005. Divine Providence had it that he would die on the eve of the day he had designated as Divine Mercy Sunday.

The designation of the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday was not devoid of controversy. There were some who criticized the Pope because, in their view, he was raising a devotion to the level of the celebration of Sunday, not just any Sunday, but the one immediately after Easter Sunday.

However, the Pope was not just thinking of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, rather he was concerned with the proclamation of the love of God, so necessary in our times. We ought to remember, as it is so often done by Pope Francis who has made the proclamation of the mercy of God one of the tenets of his pontificate, that the canonized Pope had published an encyclical in the first few years of his pontificate, in 1980 to be more precise, entitled Dives in Misericordia. It is part of a trilogy dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity that begins with his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, a programmatic document that outlined what would be the guidelines of a fecund and luminous pontificate extending more than 25 years.

In Dives in Misericordia the Pope explained the reason why he thought it was necessary to emphasize the Mercy of God in our times in the following way:

“Openness to Christ, who as the Redeemer of the world fully reveals man himself,” can only be achieved through an ever more mature reference to the Father and His love.

Although God “dwells in unapproachable light,” He speaks to man he means of the whole of the universe: “ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” This indirect and imperfect knowledge, achieved by the intellect seeking God by means of creatures through the visible world, falls short of “vision of the Father.” “No one has ever seen God,” writes St. John, in order to stress the truth that “the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” This “making known” reveals God in the most profound mystery of His being, one and three, surrounded by “unapproachable light.” Nevertheless, through this “making known” by Christ we know God above all in His relationship of love for man: in His “philanthropy.” It is precisely here that “His invisible nature” becomes in a special way “visible,” incomparably more visible than through all the other “things that have been made”: it becomes visible in Christ and through Christ, through His actions and His words, and finally through His death on the cross and His resurrection.

In this way, in Christ and through Christ, God also becomes especially visible in His mercy; that is to say, there is emphasized that attribute of the divinity which the Old Testament, using various concepts and terms, already defined as “mercy.” 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.”

The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy. The word and the concept of “mercy” seem to cause uneasiness in man, who, thanks to the enormous development of science and technology, never before known in history, has become the master of the earth and has subdued and dominated it.14 This dominion over the earth, sometimes understood in a one – sided and superficial way, seems to have no room for mercy…

The truth, revealed in Christ, about God the “Father of mercies,”16 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. For the mystery of God, the “Father of mercies” revealed by Christ becomes, in the context of today’s threats to man, as it were a unique appeal addressed to the Church.”

His successors have confirmed that appeal from God to the Church in our times. As Pope Benedict taught us in God is love, “we have come to believe in God’s love: in these words, the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life… In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid