As this Sunday is “Divine Mercy Sunday,” let me offer some very random thoughts and quotes that reflect the meaning of this day.
I begin with the source(s) of the title for this essay: Luke 18:13. This is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector. It was adapted into what is known as the Jesus Prayer—“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” (or, in the version I was taught, “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”). If you wish, you can read more about this prayer (intended to be recited multiple times daily within, like a mantra) in The Way of a Pilgrim, translated by R. M. French. The pilgrim was taught this mantra as a way of obeying St Paul’s statement “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17).
Everyone knows the great emphasis on God’s mercy that is held up for us by Pope Francis. After reading Mercy by Cardinal Walter Kasper, he wrote his own book, The Name of God Is Mercy. But everyone has antecedents, and there is no greater modern antecedent than St Faustina Kowalska, whose visions were the origin of what is now (thanks to her devotee, Pope St John Paul II) both the theme of this Sunday and the image of forgiveness flowing like light from the Sacred Heart. “Jesus, I trust in you,” she wrote. Why? John Paul gave the answer in the title of one of his encyclicals—because God is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4; the encyclical is officially known as Dives in Misericordia).
The point of mercy is forgiveness, healing, reconciliation. It comes at a price, but it is a price our Lord gladly paid for us, out of love for us. “Are you well satisfied with my suffering for you?” He asked Julian of Norwich. “Oh, yes, Lord,” she replied. “I am glad; if I could have suffered more for you, I would.” From this we can see why she ended her Revelations of Divine Love by saying, “Through all this I learned that love is our Lord’s meaning.” And so it is. Jesus Himself taught us this in the Gospels so many times! “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful”; “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had on you?”; “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 6:36; Matthew 18:33; Luke 23:34). Nothing is clearer as to what we receive from Christ, and what we are therefore commissioned to share with others.