The theme of Divine Mercy was undoubtedly one of the greatest spiritual legacies of Blessed John Paul’s life and pontificate. Already as Bishop Wojtyla of Krakow, he initiated the cause for the beatification of Sister Faustina, the Polish 20th century nun chosen by Our Lord as apostle and secretary of His merciful love. In 1978, prior to his election as Pope, Cardinal Wojtyla gained ecclesiastical approval for the Divine Mercy devotion which the Lord had entrusted to her.
John Paul II beatified Sister Faustina on the Sunday after Easter in 1993 and canonised her on the same day of the liturgical calendar in the year 2000. In his homily at the canonisation Mass, he established Divine Mercy Sunday as a Feast day for the universal Church, declaring: “This is the happiest day of my life.”
In his encyclical Dives in Misericordia he wrote that “The Message of Divine Mercy has always been near and dear to me… I took (it) with me to the See of Peter and … it in a sense forms the image of this Pontificate.”
In the same document he expressed his desire to bring closer to everyone the mystery of Divine Mercy, so badly needed by humanity and the modern world .
The following extract from Pope Benedict’s homily, given at the third anniversary Mass of his predecessor’s death, sheds further light on the significant connection between the Polish Pontiff’s life and the Divine Mercy apostolate:
“God’s mercy, as he (John Paul II) himself said, is a privileged key to the interpretation of his Pontificate. He wanted the message of God’s merciful love to be made known to all and urged the faithful to witness to it. This is why he desired to raise to the honour of the altars Sr Faustina Kowalska, a humble Sister who, through a mysterious divine plan, became a prophetic messenger of Divine Mercy. The Servant of God John Paul II had known and personally experienced the terrible tragedies of the 20th century and for a long time wondered what could stem the tide of evil. The answer could only be found in God’s love. In fact, only Divine Mercy is able to impose limitations on evil; only the almighty love of God can defeat the tyranny of the wicked and the destructive power of selfishness and hate. For this reason, during his last visit to Poland, he said on his return to the land of his birth: “Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind” (ibid.).”
As John Paul II, the Pope of Divine Mercy, is declared Blessed on the very Feast he has given us, may his invitation to put on the armour of God’s merciful love against the prevailing forces of evil, find a real echo in our lives. His message, though delivered almost a decade ago at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Lagiewniki, Poland, has lost none of its relevance:
“Dear Brothers and Sisters…
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!
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, to this Shrine of Lagiewniki, 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). With the eyes of our soul, we long to look into the eyes of the merciful Jesus in order to find, deep within His gaze, the reflection of His inner life, as well as the light of grace which we have already received so often, and which God holds out to us anew each day and on the last day….
How greatly today’s world needs God’s mercy! In every continent, from the depths of human suffering, a cry for mercy seems to rise up. Where hatred and the thirst for revenge dominate, where war brings suffering and death to the innocent, there the grace of mercy is needed in order to settle human minds and hearts and to bring about peace. Wherever respect for human life and dignity are lacking, there is need of God’s merciful love, in whose light we see the inexpressible value of every human being. Mercy is needed to insure that every injustice in the world will come to an end in the splendor of truth.
Today, therefore, in this Shrine, I wish to solemnly 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” (Diary, 1732).
This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God, the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness! I entrust this task to you, dear Brothers and Sisters…. May you be witnesses to mercy!
God, merciful Father, in Your Son, Jesus Christ, You have revealed Your love and poured it out upon us in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. We entrust to You today the destiny of the world and of every man and woman.
Bend down to us sinners, heal our weakness, conquer all evil, and grant that all the peoples of the earth may experience Your mercy. In You, the Triune God, may they ever find the source of hope. Eternal Father, for the sake of the sorrowful Passion and the Resurrection of Your Son, have mercy on us, and upon the whole world! Amen.”
(Visit http://www.divinemercysunday.com/ for more information on the Divine Mercy devotion)