The word Merced means “price paid”, Jesus paid the price for our sins by his blood. This Sunday we give thanks and glorify the Lord for his Divine Mercy.
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. It is based on a private revelation of Jesus to a Polish religious sister before World War II. The private revelation was accepted by the Church and the devotion has rapidly spread throughout the world. Christ appeared to Sr. Faustina over a period of several years and taught her to pray for an out-pouring of Divine Mercy on sinners throughout the world. One of the most popular aspects of the devotion is the Image of Christ with white and red rays bursting forth from his wounded side. The Doctrine of God’s Divine Mercy expressed in St Faustina’s diary is not a new teaching, but only a reminder to the world of God’s greatest attribute, His mercy.
The word Mercy, according to Webster’s Dictionary originates from the 13th Century term Merced. Merced means a price paid. The 13th Century was a difficult time for the Church in Europe. For several centuries, Islam had been creeping up into Spain and other Christian countries by force. They enforced their Suria Law on all living in those concurred lands. Christians were prevented from openly practicing their faith and were treated as second class citizens unless they would apostize or renounce the Catholic faith. Some were even held in bondage and cruel captivity for holding to their Christian Faith. A letter dating from 1311 gives us an idea of the magnitude of the crisis facing Christendom. King James II of Aragon informed Pope Clement V that there were 30,000 “wretched” Christian captives in the Moslem-held kingdom of Granada and that “500,000 renounced their Catholic faith and embraced the Mohammedan sect locally.” Seeing the so many in danger of losing their faith, St Peter Nolasco, under the inspiration of the Blessed Mother, founded the Order of the BVM of Mercy of the redemption of captives. They would raise money to buy back Christians in danger of renouncing the faith and take them to Christian lands. The Order, also known as the Mercedarians, took a 4th Vow to be willing to offer their own lives in order to pay the price of the captive’s freedom.
The Mercedarians did not come up with this idea of redemption. Jesus Christ is the authored redemption when he paid the price on the Cross for all sinners. Just after His death, John’s Gospel tells us that a soldier took a lance and thrust it into Christ’s side. At that moment, blood and water flowed out from his side as a symbol of the Sacramental life of the Church. The Precious Blood is the payment for our sins and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The water is the Sacrament of Baptism, which cleanses us of Original Sin and personal sin.
When Jesus appeared to St. Faustina he was clothed with an ankle length white robe and out of his open side were the rays of God’s Divine Mercy. The rays were red for the Precious Blood and white for the cleansing water. To His wounded side the Savior invites all people to have their sins paid for and be washed clean by Baptism. This is Divine Mercy. We deserve strict justice by our sins, but instead, for no reason but Love, Jesus offers us mercy. He welcomes us to live the life of God. Jesus offers mercy to all people. His death on the cross was offered once for all. But not all accept the Divine Mercy.
There are many reasons people do not accept God’s offer of Mercy. One is because they do not believe that they have a debt to be paid. People today do not recognize that they have sin. Sin is a lack of love and is opposed to God who is Love. The Old Testament tells us that “the just man sins 7 times a day”. For the unjust it must be much more! Another reason people do not accept the Divine Mercy is because they do not believe that the debt has really been paid. Unfortunately we, like St. Thomas, doubt that Jesus is paid the debt of our sins. How could any man take away my sins? My sins are just too great! We often cannot forgive ourselves for what we have done, let alone allow God to forgive us.
Divine Mercy is offered to all, even the worst sinner! Jesus appears to us today, as He appeared to St. Faustina. He appears in the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist. Like in the Gospel today, Christ shows us His wounds. He has risen from the dead and these wounds are no longer a source of shame to him, but trophies. The Glorified Body is beautiful beyond compare to those who look upon it. The most beautiful aspect is the wounds, which show us the entire price paid for our redemption. When we come to Confession, we come to Jesus and “touch his wounded side”. We realize that God is truly merciful! Though we deserve to be condemned by justice, instead he forgives everything.
The Divine Mercy devotion has been given to us in these times to help us realize that Jesus will forgive us always, but we need to accept his offer. Accepting Jesus’ mercy means just coming to His Body the Church and receiving it “from his wounded side”. Then, we must sincerely try to be merciful with others. Other people hurt us deeply with their sins. We see people who live very sinful lives. Yet, we do not have the authority to condemn. Instead, we can offer our mercy to them. We can pray for those who hurt us deeply. We can let them know that the debt of our sins was paid for those who wish to receive Divine Mercy. We, like the Mercedarians, can help to free them from their captivity to sin. We do this by bringing them spiritually and literally to the wounds of Christ. From these wounds flow rays of red and white, which cleanse us all from our sins. Divine Mercy is open to all of us. Let us be ministers of God’s Divine Mercy to each other!