Lent is a time for us to reflect on Christ’s redemptive sacrifice and on how we can cleanse ourselves of earthly desires. Part of that involves recognizing that we are all sinners and would be hopeless if not for God’s grace. As humans, we will always fall into sin. If left to our own devices, we would all be doomed—not one of us would make it into heaven.
It’s only thanks to God’s infinite love for us that we have the chance of being saved at the end. We are taught that God will always forgive us if we ask Him with a contrite heart, but we don’t always realize how deep his Divine Mercy reaches.
More than 80 years ago, Christ appeared in a vision to a young Polish nun—Faustina Kowalska—to demonstrate the depths of His Divine Mercy so that she could spread the message. Today, St. Faustina Kowalska is honored as the one who delivered the Divine Mercy image, Chaplet and Novena to the world from Christ. Thanks to the good news she brought us from Jesus, we now have access to special graces, particularly on Divine Mercy Sunday, which is the Sunday after Easter.
To earn these Divine Mercy graces, we need to understand what they are, and how to prepare our hearts for them. Lent is a perfect time to do this. We are already in a spirit of preparation for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter, which goes hand-in-hand with Divine Mercy. Christ died on the cross as the ultimate act of mercy for us sinners. Through Divine Mercy, He continues to shower us with graces so that we may one day join Him in heaven.
Understanding Divine Mercy
Saint Faustina reported that Christ appeared to her in the 1930s with white and red rays radiating from His heart. He proclaimed:
“The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. These rays shield souls from the wrath of My Father. Happy is the one who dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him” (Diary of Sister Faustina).
St. Faustina commissioned an artist to paint what she saw, as Christ had commanded her to do. The result was the Divine Mercy image today recognized around the world. The image was signed “Jesus I trust in you.” St. Faustina wrote that Jesus intended this image to be a “vessel with which they [people] are to keep coming for graces” (Diary).
He told her to ensure that the Divine Mercy image would be publicly venerated and that the second Sunday of Easter become a feast day called Divine Mercy Sunday.
“On that day [Divine Mercy Sunday], the very depths of My tender mercy are opened. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy” (Diary).
Jesus specifically promised to St. Faustina that whoever goes to Confession and receives Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday “shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment” (Diary).
That means if someone died immediately after receiving this grace, he or she would go straight to heaven. No purgatory! This truly is an extraordinary gift from Jesus, but why did He wait until the twentieth century to offer it?
Father Michael E. Gaitley, MIC echoes Saint John Paul II when he writes, “Our time, sadly is marked by unprecedented evil. … In [this] time of great evil, God wants to give even greater graces, and in our time, the graces are huge, precisely because there’s so much sin.”
Think about it. Christ appeared to St. Faustina in the 1930s. World War I had occurred just over a decade prior. World War II would start in a few years. Today, some advancements in technology and a liberal culture have allowed sin to spread at an unprecedented rate. For example, in 2014, more than 650,000 abortions were committed in the United States alone (CDC).
It makes sense that we need Christ’s Divine Mercy now more than ever.
How to Receive Divine Mercy
So how do we go about receiving these unprecedented graces Christ has made available to us?
Most obviously, we should go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday like Jesus asked. But we shouldn’t wait until that day to prepare our hearts for Divine Mercy. We have all of Lent to begin, and what better time?
Here are some things you can do:
Honor the Divine Mercy Image
Jesus wants you to keep coming to the Divine Mercy image and, through it, grow closer to Him. It could be as simple as gazing at the image and repeating the words “Jesus, I trust in You.”
Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy
Jesus taught St. Faustina a special prayer of Divine Mercy that she later shared with the world. He promised her “Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death” (Diary).
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is prayed using the beads of the rosary. On the “Our Father” beads we pray:
“Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”
On the “Hail Mary” beads we pray:
“For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
There are a few other components as well, so check out this neat Divine Mercy website to learn the whole prayer. Lent is a great time to memorize it.
Honor the Hour of Great Mercy
Jesus died on the Cross at 3 pm, which is known as the Hour of Great Mercy. He wants us to acknowledge it in a spirit of prayer and to remember His sacrifice. So, this Lent, wherever you are at 3 pm every day, take a moment for silent prayer, and reflect on how great Christ’s mercy is.
Pray the Novena to Divine Mercy
A novena is nine days of prayer in a row. Jesus taught St. Faustina the Novena to Divine Mercy. On each of the nine days, you pray for a different intention, i.e. for the souls in Purgatory. You can pray it along with the Divine Mercy Chaplet any time of the year, but it’s best to pray it on the nine days preceding Divine Mercy Sunday. You would start it on Good Friday and end on the day before Divine Mercy Sunday.
This Lent, let Christ’s Divine Mercy shower upon you. Learn about it, memorize the prayers, look upon the image. Then, on Good Friday, begin the Novena to Divine Mercy to cap off your journey. Once Divine Mercy becomes a part of your everyday life, your love for Christ will reach new heights.
For even more information, pick up a copy of Divine Mercy Explained by Father Michael E. Gaitley, MIC , typically available in the Saint Mary Mokena church narthex for a small donation.