The wrath of God is a real thing, too terrible to imagine. Yet, the Christian view of God was never that of a fearsome and distant deity, waiting to punish; rather, Jesus bridged the gap between man and God, teaching us to call God “Our Father”. A dad who loves us despite our imperfections and wants to be the focal point of our lives. Indeed, being such an unfathomably loving father, God came to earth in human form as Jesus to save us – not because we deserved it, but because that is how much He loves us.
‘Divine Mercy’ derives from this love. The term originated in the 1930s and you can discover its amazing history here. As the name suggests, it simply refers to God’s mercy. That God is so merciful, He doesn’t punish at the first instance of sin, but instead awaits the repentant return of each of His children, giving them plenty of chances through their lives, to choose Him. And further, that there is no sin so terrible, that He won’t forgive if faced with genuine repentance.
I first heard of Divine Mercy as a teenager in the ’90s, when an ashram dedicated to this devotion was established near my home in Mumbai. In those days, the ashram was instrumental in spreading awareness of the powerful set of prayers called the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Then beginning in 2001, the Catholic Church designated the Sunday after Easter as the Feast of Divine Mercy. Over the years, this particular devotion has become an integral part of our lives, a steady source of comfort and courage through life’s ups and downs.
Last Sunday was the Divine Mercy Feast. I attended a special Feast service at my parish with the intention of praying for some respite for my ailing grandmother Mercy. While I knew the general history of Divine Mercy, this was the first time I learned of certain specifics that were a mandatory part of this devotion. You can read the beautiful description here on the EWTN site. A critical excerpt:
It’s not enough for us to hang The Divine Mercy image in our homes, pray the Chaplet every day at three o’clock, and receive Holy Communion on the first Sunday after Easter. We also have to show mercy to our neighbors. Putting mercy into action is not an option of the Divine Mercy Devotion; it’s a requirement!
This isn’t anything new, but simply a reminder that we must practice what we preach. That to be a genuine believer, our very lives must reflect mercy to all we meet, through three degrees: our actions, our words and our prayers. In Jesus’s own words to Saint Faustina:
Faced with this message that couldn’t be any clearer, I was struck anew by the sheer hypocrisy of some of my family members. I have often heard my grandmother Mercy say how frequently Son 2, DIL 2 and their children would visit the big Divine Mercy shrine in their state. They had taken her along as well, when she lived with them. Yet in their daily lives, far from displaying this mercy or even basic human courtesy, DIL 2 treated my grandmother like an unwanted burden.
The greatest outrage is that DIL 2’s mother volunteered for years at the Divine Mercy ashram near my house – as a counsellor, of all things! Surely, a counsellor should have a greater understanding of the Divine Mercy message, and should set the example for others to follow. Yet, despite being repeatedly approached to help resolve differences and maintain civil, if not loving, family ties, her continued silence underscores the vested interest her clan has in shortening my grandmother’s time on earth. To enable Son 2 and DIL 2 to get hold of Mercy’s property.
So, on one hand we have the compassionate, life-affirming message of Divine Mercy; on the other is a family that professes faith in it, but continues to heap malicious abuse on a defenceless widow Mercy. I ask you, the reader, how do you reconcile the two? How do you bring positive change to this family that is so horribly offtrack?