The Basics of Divine Mercy

The following is taken from The Divine Mercy Message and Devotion booklet. It was written by world-renowned Divine Mercy expert Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, with Vinny Flynn and Robert A. Stackpole. The booklet condenses the main elements of the Diary of St. Faustina into an easy-to-read format. It has become known throughout the world simply as the "Devotion Booklet."

Divine Mercy is the heart of the Gospel. If we really look at how God has revealed Himself in Scripture and Church Tradition, we discover afresh how mercy is essential to understanding His message of love and salvation. Mercy even reveals His very identity. With this understanding of God and His revelation to us, we can ask for His mercy, be merciful to others, and strive to completely trust in His Son, who is Divine Mercy Incarnate.

God Is Mercy
The merciful love of God is the central theme of the Bible. In the Old Testament, God solemnly declared to Moses that He is "a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Ex 34:6). In fact, the whole story of God's Chosen People, Israel, shows how the Lord taught them more and more of His faithfulness to His merciful love for them, and His compassion for their plight. As Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Rich in Mercy: "In the course of [Israel's] history, this people continuously entrusted itself, both when stricken with misfortune and when it became aware of its sin, to the God of mercies" (4).

The New Testament further develops this message of the merciful love of God. Saint John tells us that God "so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).

The mercy of God was especially shown when the Son of God gave His life for us on the cross, "while we were yet sinners" (Rom 5:8). Then He rose again in glory to be with us always and to give us the hope of everlasting life. That is why we can declare with great confidence:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus! By His great mercy, we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you" (1 Pt 1:3-4).

Throughout the Church's Tradition, the merciful love of God is a constant refrain, echoing the Scriptures. The great Church Fathers St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas taught that in God's relationship with His creatures, mercy is His greatest attribute. Jesus said the same to St. Faustina (see Diary, 180 and 301). This truth is also developed in teachings of Pope John Paul II (see Rich in Mercy, 14).

The great mystic St. Catherine of Siena found the mercy of God expressed through all of His acts of creation and redemption, so that she finally exclaimed, "O Mercy! My heart is engulfed with the thought of You! For wherever I turn my thoughts, I find nothing but Mercy!" (The Dialogue, 30).

What then is the meaning of Divine "Mercy"? God's very nature is love (see Jn 4:8): infinite, eternal, self-giving love among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But "mercy" is the form that God's love takes when it overflows His divine life and pours out upon His creatures. This Divine Mercy is compassionate love - a love that seeks to meet the needs and relieve the miseries of others.

Recognizing our human weaknesses and sins, God is always ready to pour out His mercy upon us. Father George Kosicki, CSB, expresses this well in his book Now Is the Time for Mercy:

"Mercy, then, is God's love poured out upon us; it is when God, who is love itself, loves us. This flowing quality of mercy is most dramatically represented by Christ on the cross as, through the Blood and Water gushing forth from His pierced Heart, He pours His very life out as a fountain of mercy for us ... . And we also find it in the great chant of the Church, the Kyrie Eleison ('Lord, have mercy'), which for centuries has resounded throughout the world at every celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of Hours. The word eleison, which in Greek means 'have mercy,' has the root meaning of 'oil being poured out,' so whenever we say, 'Lord, have mercy,' we are really saying, 'Lord, pour Your love out upon us, pour Yourself out upon us' " (Marian Press, 1993).

We find the very same message echoing like a refrain throughout the Diary of St. Faustina. Jesus said to her:

I am Love and Mercy itself (1074). My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners ... it is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from my Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy (367). Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet (699). My mercy is greater than your sins, and those of the entire world (1485). I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come then with trust to draw graces from this fountain (1485).

The ABC's of Mercy
We have just seen that God is Love and Mercy itself. The message of mercy is that God loves us - all of us, no matter how great our sins. He wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy. It is a message we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC.

Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.
Be Merciful to Others. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.
Completely Trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.

Ask for His Mercy
Through the passion and death of Jesus, an infinite ocean of mercy was made available for all of us. But God, who created us free, will not force anything on us, not even His mercy. He must wait for us to turn from our sinfulness and ask:

"Ask and it will be given to you ... for everyone who asks receives" (Mt 7:7, 8).

The Scriptures are filled with examples of how to trust in God and ask for His mercy: the psalms; the faith of Abraham and Moses who pleaded and "bargained" with God; the man who persuaded his friend to get up in the middle of the night to lend him some bread; the persistent widow who secured justice from the unjust judge; the Canaanite woman who "argued" with Jesus about her right to His mercy; and the witness of Mary, whose appeal for mercy at Cana led Jesus to perform His first public miracle, thus acknowledging that His time had indeed come.

Pope John Paul II echoes this scriptural message with a new urgency for our own times:

"At no time ... especially at a moment as critical as our own - can the Church forget the prayer that is a cry for the mercy of God. ... The Church has the right and the duty to appeal to the God of mercy 'with loud cries' " (Rich in Mercy, 15).

To St. Faustina, Jesus revealed this same message once again. He gave her three new ways to ask for mercy on the strength of His passion: the Chaplet, the Novena, and prayer at three o'clock; and He taught her to transform her daily life into a continuous prayer for mercy. Through her, He calls us all to ask for His mercy:

Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion (1146).

Beg for mercy for the whole world (570).

No soul that has called upon My mercy has ever been disappointed (1541).

Be Merciful to Others
Mercy is love that seeks to relieve the misery of others. It is an active love, poured out upon others to heal, to comfort, to console, to forgive, to remove pain. It is the love that God offers us, and it is the love He demands from us for each other:

"I give you a new commandment. ... As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (Jn 13:34).

"Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36).

Repeatedly the Scriptures remind us that the measure we use for others is the measure God will use for us (Lk 6:38), for He will indeed "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" (Mt 6:12-14). Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Mt 5:7), but "judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy" (Jas 2:13). The parables of the Good Samaritan, the Rich Man and Lazarus, and the Unforgiving Servant all demonstrate this essential truth that only if we give mercy can we hope to receive it; for we will be judged on the basis of our merciful actions toward others: "I was hungry and you gave me food ..." (Mt 25:35-46).

Our Lord spoke to St. Faustina about the importance of deeds of mercy on several occasions.

I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse yourself from it. ... Even the strongest faith is of no avail without works (Diary, 742).

If a soul does not exercise mercy in some way, it will not obtain My mercy on the day of judgment (1317).

How do we exercise mercy? Through our actions, our words, and our prayers, by performing the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy [see the inside cover of this booklet], and by developing an attitude of mercy in our daily lives. Every day we can choose to respond to the people and events we encounter by immersing them in the ocean of God's mercy. Instead of "cursing the darkness" and despairing over the condition of the world, we bless the world with God's mercy, thus allowing Him to heal it.

Trust in Jesus is the essence of the message of mercy. When we go to a public fountain, we can draw water from it as long as we have a vessel or container of some kind to put the water in. If our vessel is small, we can only bring back a little water; if it's large, we can bring back a lot. And anyone with a vessel can draw water from the fountain. The water is there for us, and no one is excluded. All we need is a vessel.

So it is with God's mercy. In repeated revelations to St. Faustina, Our Divine Savior makes it clear that the fountain is His Heart, the water is His mercy, and the vessel is trust.

I have opened My Heart as a living fountain of mercy. Let all souls draw life from it. Let them approach this sea of mercy with great trust (Diary, 1520).

On the cross, the fountain of My mercy was opened wide by the lance for all souls - no one have I excluded! (1182).

I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: "Jesus, I trust in You" (327).

The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is - trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive (1578).

In the Diary of St. Faustina, we hear Our Lord reminding us that we can depend upon His love ... that He alone is worthy of our trust:

I never reject a contrite heart (1485).

Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy not embrace a trusting soul (1777).

But there is more to trust than just believing that God is trustworthy. We have to act upon that belief. Trust involves a turning back to God, a real conversion of our whole lives to God, repenting of our sins and forgiving others. Trust is a living faith.

Trust means that we agree to let God be God, instead of trying to be God ourselves. (Trust is the antidote to the first sin of Adam!) It means that we agree that God can write the script of our lives, instead of insisting on our own script. It means that we agree with the great pledge we make in the Our Father: "Your will [not mine] be done on earth as it is in heaven." It means that even in our moments of agony we agree with the cry of Jesus in the Garden, "Not my will, but Yours be done" (Lk 22:42).

God is Mercy itself, and we are called to practice the ABC's of mercy. As we do, our trust in Jesus is the vital ingredient. We don't simply ask for mercy, nor do we simply try to be good to other people. We ask with complete trust, and Our Lord fills us with grace so that we can be merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful.

I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls (1074).


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