Monday, April 24, 2006
John Paul the Great and Divine Mercy  

During yesterday's recitation of the Regina Caeli by Benedict XVI, he recalled the influence that the message of Divine Mercy had upon John Paul the Great:
In consideration of this, the Servant of God John Paul II, valuing the spiritual experience of a humble religious, St. Faustina Kowalska, wanted the Sunday after Easter to be dedicated in a special way to divine mercy, and providence disposed that he should die precisely on the vigil of that day (in the hands of Divine Mercy).

The mystery of the merciful love of God was at the center of the pontificate of my venerated predecessor. Let us recall, in particular, the encyclical "Dives in Misericordia" of 1980, and the dedication of the new shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, in 2002.

The words he pronounced on that last occasion were as a synthesis of his magisterium, evidencing that devotion to Divine Mercy is not a secondary, but an integral dimension of a Christian's faith and prayer. Source
Indeed, last year, at the funeral mass, Cardinal Ratzinger recalled John Paul's teaching of the connection between Divine Mercy, suffering, and evil.
He interpreted for us the paschal mystery as a mystery of divine mercy. In his last book, he wrote: The limit imposed upon evil "is ultimately Divine Mercy" (Memory and Identity, pp. 60-61). And reflecting on the assassination attempt, he said: "In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love ... It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good" (pp. 189-190). Impelled by this vision, the Pope suffered and loved in communion with Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful. Source
The, then cardinal, touches upon the importance of divine mercy as something that is lived. While St. Faustina was asked to promote the message of Divine Mercy, her most important mission was to live it out in her daily life. Similarly, John Paul the Great did not simply teach about God's great Divine Mercy, he lived it out through the three-fold parts of the message.

The first part is to ask for God's mercy. I recall the Holy Father's example during the Jubilee Year of 2000 when he asked pardon for the sins committed by Christian men and women over the past several centuries. In particular, I remember the very moving picture of the Holy Father slowly making his way to the Wailing Wall, leaving a prayer for pardon, and pausing to pray.

The second part is to be merciful. John Paul the Great did not forget that although he was the pope, he was first a priest and a bishop. As the Gospel reading from Divine Mercy Sunday indicates, the apostles and their successors were given by Christ His authority to forgive sins.
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." John 20:21-23
During His pontificate, He would make a point of hearing confessions on Good Friday. This example demonstrated the mercy of God as he allowed himself to be a minister of God's mercy in the sacrament of confession.

The third part of the message of Divine Mercy is the need to trust in Jesus. The image of Divine Mercy which St. Faustina had painted includes the words at the bottom, "Jesus, I trust in You." Certainly, John Paul the Great trusted in Jesus. His last years were lived out with visible suffering that demonstrated his complete abandonment to the will of God. Undoubtedly, his trust in his savior who had called him to the Petrine office enabled him to continue serving despite all that he suffered.

As Cardinal Ratzinger indicated in the homily for the funeral of John Paul the Great, it his example of abandonment to God's Divine Mercy that is so eloquent. I think it is also the secret behind the beauty and attractiveness of his life.

Posted by David at 8:12 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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