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Divine mercy for the whole world

The Second Sunday of Easter is “Divine Mercy Sunday.”  Christ appeared to Sister Faustina, a Sister of Mercy in Poland and told her to pray…

The Second Sunday of Easter is “Divine Mercy Sunday.”  Christ appeared to Sister Faustina, a Sister of Mercy in Poland and told her to pray for mercy for the whole world. Jesus gave her a chaplet to be recited at three o’clock every afternoon. Three o’clock has become the hour of Great Mercy. After Stations of the cross on Good Friday, the liturgy of Good Friday commences at three o’clock as the hour Jesus died on the cross to redeem the world. The feast of Divine Mercy, as recorded in the diary of Saint Faustina, receives from Jesus himself the biggest promises of grace related to the Devotion of Divine Mercy. In specific, Jesus said that a person who goes to sacramental confession and receives holy communion on that day, shall obtain the total forgiveness of all sins and punishment (CNS News May 2, 2011 Archived May 4, 2011, at the Way back). On Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church reminds the entire world of the reality of God’s Mercy and Compassion. We do not need empirical proof like Thomas before we believe that God is present to offer us the gift of mercy. Jesus said to Thomas, “You have come to believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed” (John 20:29).

The implication of the mercy of God on humanity is that human beings should be merciful to fellow human beings. Peter was made to understand the reciprocity of the human person to God’s divine actions when he did not want Jesus to wash his feet. “When Jesus had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:12-17). To wash the feet of the other was the work of a slave in Israel hence Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet.

Jesus wants us like Thomas to experience the holes in his body as the sacrifice of mercy and compassion he has offered to redeem the world. Jesus told Faustina, “From all my wounds, like from streams, mercy flows for souls, but the wound in my Heart is the fountain of unfathomable mercy. From this fountain spring all graces for souls. The flames of compassion burn me. I desire greatly to pour them out upon souls. Speak to the whole world about my mercy” (From Diary of Sr. M. Faustina Kowalska). The demand for mercy and compassion did not start from the time of Sr. M. Faustina Kowalska. This message is so old as revealed in the scriptures of many religions. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the faithful God keeps the covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love him and keep his commandments (Deuteronomy 7:9). God shows mercy to those who are  merciful (2 Samuel 22:26). All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to those who keep his covenant (Psalm 25:10). God is full of compassion, gracious and abundant in mercy  (Psalm 86:15). “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; mercy and truth go before Your face” (Psalm 89:14). “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:8-9). The Old Testament of the Holy Bible thus shows in words and actions the Almighty God of mercy and compassion.

In the New Testament, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ  (Ephesians 2:4-5). When Jesus saw a great multitude, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began to teach them (Mark 6:34). Jesus is a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. He suffered and was tempted hence he is able to aid those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18). Jesus is a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens. He is a High Priest with full capacity to sympathize with our weaknesses because he was tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

The mercy of God for humanity calls for celebration and response. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). It is an obligation for us as human beings to show mercy to the neighbours around us. “To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14). “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favour and high esteem in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4). “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)? “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother’” (Zechariah 7:8-10). “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Christians are called to promote justice, mercy and compassion in their homes, places of work and in every aspect of life.

Compassion is more central to Islam than jihad. The words greatly stressed in the Quran and prayer are Rahmah (compassion) and Rahim (merciful). In Islam Allah is Rahman and Rahim (compassionate and Merciful) hence a Muslim begins everything by reciting Bi smillah- Allah al-Rahman al-Rahim (In the name of Allah, most Compassionate and Merciful). For Muslims, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is sent by God as Mercy of the World (Quran 21:107). Whoever is not sensitive to the sufferings of others is not a true follower of the Prophet of Islam. The Sufis take compassion and mercy as core doctrines such that peace resides only with those who reject violence and aggression. There is no concept of war of aggression and permissiveness of violence in the Holy Quran. War is only for defence and protection of the rights of the oppressed and exploited. War is never for achieving power or to conquer territories. The way of God is the way of justice (Quran 4:75). The Quran teaches great compassion to orphans, the widows, the poor and the slaves. The essence of zakah is to liberate the poor and oppressed (Quran 9:60). Chapters 104 and 107 of the Holy Quran forbids accumulation of wealth at the expense of the poor.

The implications of these scriptural analysis of mercy and compassion for our nation is that Christians and Muslims who deliberately cause poverty, suffering, hunger, unemployment, structural injustice and human misery are not acting in the name of religion. They may be bearing the title, “Christian” or “Muslim”. These people are simply wicked human beings who in divine justice await the judgement of God at the dusk of their lives. In many schools of Indian religions, particularly Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, as well as Taoism, evil people await Karma where a person reaps whatever he sows. If he sows good, he reaps good karma, if he does evil, he reaps bad karma (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karma). Those who make life miserable for others do not truly understand the meaning of mercy and the law of natural retribution.  Let us take our religions seriously by showing mercy to others.

 

Rev. Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua is the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) ([email protected]).

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