“My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.”
— Divine Mercy Sunday promise of Jesus Christ to Saint Faustina
For Catholics going to communion today, our Lord Jesus Christ has the most special gift. On the Solemnity of Divine Mercy, celebrated this first Sunday after Easter, receiving the Holy Eucharist in a state of grace, after confession anytime since Ash Wednesday, removes all sin and punishment.
It’s like restoring the soul’s immaculate state right after baptism. No sins, no punishment; only the fullness of sanctifying grace. That is the promise of Jesus Himself, the Son of God and the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, to Saint Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun, back in 1931, as quoted above from her diary.
In 2000, another saint, Pope St. John Paul II, promulgated today’s Feast of Mercy, weeks after canonizing St. Faustina. Thus, he fulfilled our Lord’s express instruction to the 25-year-old nun in a vision on February 22, 1931, recounted in her diary:
“In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord; my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After a while Jesus said to me, ‘paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.’ ”
The following year, an artist in Vilnius, capital of present-day Lithuania, was commissioned to paint the image, with close guidance from Sr. Faustina. The painting and the feast day fulfill our Lord’s instruction:
“I demand the worship of My mercy through the solemn celebration of the Feast and through the veneration of the image which is painted. By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works.”
Christ reaches out to poor sinners
Those works include constant prayer. Every day devotees of the Divine Mercy pray The 3 o’clock Prayer, marking the hour of our Lord’s redeeming death:
“You expired, O Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls and an ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us. O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You.”
There is also the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, with five decades of repeated prayers, like the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After the opening prayer, the devotee says the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Apostle’s Creed. Each of the five decades starts with an offering to the Father of Jesus’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Then there are ten repeated verses: “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Many faithful may wonder why the Divine Mercy Prayer and the Chaplet to our Lord are much shorter and less frequent than the Rosary and the Angelus, said every six o’clock and at noon, which are associated with Mary. Shouldn’t Jesus receive greater honor through longer and more frequent prayers?
Two points: First, all prayers adore and honor God, even those praying to Mary, since her holiness comes from the Father through the Holy Spirit, and by virtue of being Mother of God the Son. Moreover, the Rosary and the Angelus commemorate God’s plan of salvation.
There’s a second and seemingly less crucial point — except for the “poor sinners” cited by our Lord. Jesus may be giving less difficult prayers to reach out to those lacking in diligence for Marian devotions. Thus, the Divine Mercy Prayer and Chaplet offer the less religious a less demanding way to redemption.
The Mercy Sunday communion and confession are also less difficult, yet more powerful than plenary indulgences. The latter remove all punishment, but not sin; and they require total detachment from all sin, which only the very saintly can achieve (most people receive partial indulgences, removing part of the punishment).
‘The last hope of salvation’
If Christ offers souls steeped in sin, yet lacking in religiosity a last chance for redemption, His words to St. Faustina seem to convey exactly that: “I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy.”
The extra mile, so to speak, is because immense punishment awaits unforgiven sinners. In several diary passages, Jesus gives dire warnings not unlike the vision of hell shown by Our Lady of Fatima to the three Portuguese shepherd children in 1917.
“He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice.”
“Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity.”
And our Lord warns the world as well, just like Fatima’s apocalyptic message: “Let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice.”
Divine Justice or Divine Mercy? The choice is ours.