On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, «Peace be with you.» When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. Jn 20:19-31
“The mystery of God’s merciful love was the centre of the Pontificate of my venerable Predecessor.” – said the Holy Father Benedict XVI (Regina Caeli, 2nd Sunday of Easter, April 23, 2006). It was manifested by Pope John Paul II not only in his teaching, but also in his lifestyle and apostolic ministry. At the very beginning of his pontificate, 30 November 1980, he issued the encyclical Dives in Misericordia, the first papal document of such magnitude in the history of the Church, and one wholly devoted to the mercy of God and of man. John Paul II confessed that he couldn’t do otherwise than write this encyclical, the reason being that he had discovered that the truth of the merciful love of God for man is the only light, hope and salvation for humanity and the world; a world which, while it boasts of the unprecedented achievements of civilization, nevertheless feels its existence to be threatened not only on a biological, but also on a spiritual level.
In this encyclical the Holy Father recalled the revelation of the merciful love of God in the Old and New Testaments. He firstly appealed to the rich experience of mercy in the history of the Chosen People, especially in events such as the departure from Egypt; the covenant made on Sinai and the giving of the law of life, that is the Decalogue; the sojourn in the desert and journey to the Promised Land; and then the leading of the people, despite their infidelity and dissensions. Mercy was part of Israel’s communion with their God, especially in those moments when they suffered misery as a consequence of having broken the Covenant. The recognition of infidelity and sin, and the appeal to the mercy of God, obtained forgiveness for them and return to a life in covenant with God.
Jesus Christ referred to the Chosen People’s experience of mercy when He revealed the fullness of the mystery of the merciful love of God to man. In Christ, Son of the living God, in His life, miracles and teaching, and above all in his Passion, Death and Resurrection, the truth of the merciful love of God was most fully revealed. In revealing the mystery of Divine Mercy, John Paul II focused especially on human dignity, which he believed is the very essence of mercy. John Paul II gave us a profound analysis of the parable of the Prodigal Son: “the relationship of mercy is based on the common experience of that good which is man, on the common experience of the dignity that is proper to him. This common experience makes the prodigal son begin to see himself and his actions in their full truth” (DM 6).
The paschal mystery of Christ can be seen as the supreme revelation and realization of the mystery of the mercy of God. His Cross, “speaks and never ceases to speak of God the Father, who is absolutely faithful to His eternal love for man, since He ‘so loved the world’ – and therefore man in the world - that ‘he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ Believing in the crucified Son means ‘seeing the Father,’ means believing that love is present in the world and that this love is more powerful than any kind of evil in which individuals, humanity, or the world are involved. Believing in this love means believing in mercy.” (DM 7). The Holy Father devotes separate chapters in the encyclical to outlining “an image of our generation” and the mercy of God in the Church’s mission. John Paul II emphatically points out that the fundamental right, and at the same time, the duty of the Church – at every stage of its history and especially today, when the world is full of an unusual accumulation of evil – is to profess the mercy of God and proclaim it “in all its truth” (DM 13), to practice Mercy towards others (DM 14), and to appeal in prayer to the mercy of God, “according to the needs of man in the modern world” (DM 15).
There is an astonishing similarity between the papal encyclical Dives in Misericordia and the content of Sister Faustina’s Diary. One could say that the essential message of Mercy written by her in the Diary became the wording of the papal teaching on the merciful love of God for humanity and in human relationships. The same tasks that Jesus entrusted to Sister Faustina in her prophetic mission, the Holy Father John Paul II set for the whole Church. He noted that the profession and proclamation of the mystery of the mercy of God, practising mercy in human relationships, and imploring mercy for the world – are not only fundamental rights, but also duties of the Church.
By Sr. M. Elżbieta Siepak OLM, Cracow, Poland