A few years ago, one of our parishioners asked if he might donate an image of the Divine Mercy to The Basilica. Not entirely sure what he had in mind I was a bit hesitant. In the end, his persistence and my reluctance paid off and we now have a beautiful Icon of The Divine Mercy by Deb Korluka, our Basilica Iconographer.
This Icon usually hangs in the St. Joseph Chapel but during the Easter Season it hangs from the Pulpit in the Basilica.
The Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis caused me to ponder the mystery of mercy a little further. I was delighted to have the opportunity to be in Rome for the opening of the Holy Year on December 8, 2015. When, at the end of Mass he opened the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica all of us gathered in St. Peter’s Square burst out in applause. And what a joy to see so many people pass through our Holy Doors when we opened them.
Recently I preached a mission on mercy in a California parish. I reluctantly accepted never having preached a mission. In the end, the experience turned out to be a gift from God. Not only did this commitment force me to think even more deeply about mercy I had to speak about it in a compelling way.
What I discovered is that our common use of the word mercy does not do the complexity and depth of God’s mercy justice. Hebrew, Greek and Latin do a better job of it. The Hebrew Bible uses two words for mercy: hesed and rachamim. Hesed is the kind of mercy that is strong, committed and steadfast. Rachamim which has the same root as rechem or womb conveys gentleness, love and compassion. The Greek word for mercy, eleos is related to elaion meaning oil thus suggesting that mercy is poured out like oil and has the healing qualities of oil. The Latin word for mercy, misericordia means broken heart. It suggests that God is broken hearted about our failings and wants nothing more than to help.
Every day of the year, especially on Sundays we celebrate the richness of God’s mercy most especially as it was revealed to us in Jesus Christ. He embodies God’s enduring love and limitless mercy for us. It is this image of the merciful Jesus that is depicted in the Divine Mercy Icon.
As we contemplate this Icon during the Year of Mercy let us give thanks for the mercy God has shown us. And in turn let us show mercy to one another. Mercy given and mercy received, that ought to be the motto of all Christians.