In the Heart of the Church

No Source of Hope Other Than Divine Mercy
Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz

Towards a World-Transforming Hope in Divine Mercy

The Holy Spirit introduces us to the essence of Divine Mercy. He is the Comforting Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who, already for 2,000 years has led the Church through the stormy ocean of time with its problems and challenges, and who indicates to us Divine Mercy and its meaning. In the modern day, when man has lost the sense of sin, the Holy Spirit convinces the world of sin (cf. John 16:8), and at the same time reveals the meaning of salvation in Jesus Christ, salvation accomplished through the mystery of the cross and resurrection. The Holy Spirit through the mystery of the cross of the Lord allows us to know sin in the full measure of the evil which it carries within itself. What more eloquently witnesses to this fact than that man was redeemed at the price of the passion and death of the Son of God. Precisely in the mystery of the cross does the Holy Spirit call us to uncover the merciful and forgiving love of God ("Dominum et Vivificantem," No. 32). This "convincing," worked by the Holy Spirit, with respect to our sinfulness and the evil brought by sin, is at the same time a "persuading" that sin can be forgiven. That is, it turns out to be a conviction about Divine Mercy, thanks to which man can once again attain the dignity of a son of God.

In his first encyclical letter, "Deus Caritas Est," Pope Benedict XVI teaches that the death of Christ on the cross is a work of God directed in a certain sense against himself, insofar as God is offering himself as the Victim which will save man. This is nothing other than love in its most radical form. The pierced side of Christ allows us to contemplate the truth that "God is love" (1 John 4:8). Likewise, it indicates wherein true love lies. In the very pierced side of Jesus, Christians can find the way to live and to love (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 12). Thus, the essence of Divine Mercy is the infinite love of the Heart of Jesus for man, love which extends to the shedding of blood. Christ himself speaks beautifully of this: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Speaking of Divine Mercy and its essence brings us before the mystery of -- on one hand -- the always faithful God and -- on the other -- unfaithful man. In this mystery the characteristics of the ever Merciful God stand out in a striking manner. Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, he receives his son with open arms and rejoices that he, who was lost, has returned, that he, who was spiritually dead, has, thanks to the grace of Divine Mercy, returned to life (cf. Luke 15:11-32). This parable expresses the reality of conversion in the deepest fashion. This is the most concrete expression of the presence of Divine Mercy in the world: love overcoming sin. John Paul II in his encyclical "Dives in Misericordia" emphasizes that mercy does not consist in even the most sympathetic attitude toward moral, physical and material evil. Rather, it consists in the recognition and eliciting of good out of every sort of accumulation of evil, which can exist in man and the world. In this very sense of mercy can the fundamental content of the messianic sending of Jesus Christ and the power of his mission be seen (cf. "Dives in Misericordia," No. 6). In his sermon before the beginning of the conclave on April 18, 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that the mercy of Christ does not imply the banalization of evil. Christ carried in his body and soul all of the weight and power of evil. He destroyed and transformed evil by suffering, through the fire of suffering love. In this way, in the paschal mystery, in Christ's dying and rising from the dead, the Day of Vengeance and the year of the Lord's favor meet (cf. Isaiah 61:2).

Since Divine Mercy, an attribute of God, issues forth from the infinite love of God for man, it must be said to have no limit. The only force capable of limiting it is man himself, by a lack of good will and readiness to convert. Not in vain does Pope Benedict XVI, in the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," cite the words of the Apostle John: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16). The Pope comments that these words express the essence of Christian faith, that is, the Christian conception of God, and, deduced from this, the proper conception of man and his path in life. Thus, the principle of the Christian life is contained in the words of the same Apostle John: "So we know and believe the love God has for us" (1 John 4:16). In other words, knowing the love of God and believing in it, the Christian is able to express the fundamental option of his life. For if God has first loved us (cf. 1 John 4:10), then love is already not so much a commandment as a response to God's gift of love to us (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 1). God waits for this answer from each of us, so as to reveal in all of its fullness his mercy to us.

Necessity of God's Mercy

The Servant of God, John Paul II, reminds us that God reveals himself to us as Love and Mercy, and the culmination of his revelation is Jesus Christ (cf. "Dives in Misericordia," Nos. 1-2). "In Christ and through Christ, God also becomes especially visible in his 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" ("Dives in Misericordia," No. 2). Modern man, striving with the help of unprecedented technological progress to become master of the world, often rejects the idea of Divine Mercy (cf. "Dives in Misericordia," No. 2). At the same time, it is a secret to no one that our world is full of contradictions, being at one and the same time strong and weak, capable of good and evil (cf. "Gaudium et Spes," Nos. 1-10). In truth, the modern world is characterized by a clash of civilizations and is imbued with fear of the future. The main reasons for this include: the gap between those who have and those who have not, ecological problems, the ever-increasing incidence of AIDS, drug addiction, alcoholism, the persistent problem of illiteracy in various countries, social injustice, violence, violation of human rights, euthanasia, problems of genetic engineering, unceasing armed conflict, extremism, terrorism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and so on. This troubling situation is exacerbated by the fact that the modern world is ever more secularized; it is a world in which more and more frequently moral relativism manifests itself, a world in which, in many places, people live as if God did not exist, and so forth. The Servant of God, John Paul II, tirelessly repeated warnings in this regard, and the present Pontiff, Benedict XVI, also continually reminds us to take heed. Thus, modern man can only confess, together with St. Faustina, that there is no source of hope other than Divine Mercy. The title written on the icon of Divine Mercy -- "Jesus, I hope in you" -- is an expression of hope in the all-powerful love of God, which is especially relevant in our day.

Precisely in our times, hope is often, as it were, lost in the face of so many various examples of evil and challenges of modernity. Therefore, it is always necessary to discover again and again in Jesus, the face of God, Who is "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). On the face of the Merciful Jesus and in his glance, we must find reflected the truth of our life and the light of grace, which we first received in the sacrament of baptism and continue to receive in the other sacraments and in service to the Church. Everywhere, where hatred, injustice and pain reign; where a lack of respect is seen toward the priceless gift of life and the dignity of man; where the wave of terrorism grows and the culture of death holds sway -- there is needed the grace of Divine Mercy, which quiets the heart of man, creates peace, returns the sense of human dignity, and leads to justice. Y Our response The Servant of God, John Paul II, emphasizes that mercy must reveal itself as the power of that love which evil cannot overcome, but which "overcomes evil with good" (Romans 12:21) (cf. "Dives in Misericordia," No. 6). In this way mercy is an absolutely necessary dimension of love, its second name, one could say. We are required to live this love of God and neighbor, for, as the Apostle Paul teaches, "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). This is the command of Christ and the teaching of the Church. It is also the life program for every Christian. In this connection, Pope Benedict XVI fittingly noted in his encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," that man can be a source from which pour forth living waters (cf. John 7:37-38). However, for this it is necessary that man first drink from the original source, which is Jesus Christ. From the pierced Heart of Christ flows forth the love of God himself -- Blood and Water (cf. John 19:34) (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 7).

We are bound to respond to the infinite love of God to man and to his mercy in a corresponding manner. In this endeavor, a special place is held by the holy Eucharist, works of mercy, penance and prayer. John Paul II teaches that "the Eucharist brings us ever nearer to that love which is more powerful than death" ("Dives in Misericordia," No. 13). Benedict XVI develops this idea, saying that through the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus added to his sacrificial act of love toward man the element of perpetual presence. The Eucharist, thus, includes us in the sacrificial act of Christ, thanks to which we not only receive the Incarnate Word by some sort of static symbol, but we are introduced into the dynamic of his sacrifice (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 13). As a result we are called to the deepest possible living of the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life (cf. "Lumen Gentium," No. 11). Union with Christ in the Eucharist is at the same time union with others. It is not possible to keep Christ only for oneself. One can only belong to him in union with others. Thanks to the Eucharist, the love of God and the love of neighbor become one thing only; the Incarnate God unites us all. In the Eucharist, God comes to us, so as to act in us and through us. The love of God and neighbor unite us in one, which should be expressed in works of mercy (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," Nos. 14-15). Pope Benedict XVI underlines in this regard that works of mercy ("diaconia"), along with the proclamation of the Word of God ("kerigma-martyria") and the administering of sacraments ("leiturgia") belong to the very nature of the Church (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 25). "Faith apart from works is dead" (James 2:26) teaches the Apostle James. Faith ought to be realized in daily life in concrete acts of mercy. "[The Church] seeks to practice mercy toward people through people, and she sees in this an indispensable condition for solicitude for a better and 'more human' world, today and tomorrow" ("Dives in Misericordia," No. 15).

The call of Christ: "Repent and believe the Good News" (Mark 1:15) is always timely. For this reason, the sacrament of penance -- as the paschal gift of Christ to his Church and as the brightest demonstration of Divine Mercy -- should be practiced as often as possible. It leads to our spiritual transfiguration and resurrection. The world, which is following the path of secularism and ever forgetting the meaning of mercy, must be filled with the great "cry" (cf. "Dives in Misericordia," No. 15) of the Church, her ardent and persistent prayer to the God of mercy. In this regard, the liturgies of mercy and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy are of immense use.

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