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A Monk Reflects on Divine Mercy and the Sacred Heart of Jesus

By Fr. Gregory Gresko, OSB
May 8th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In the message of Divine Mercy, Jesus expresses His intimate desire to enter into the temple of our heart, but for Him to be able to enter we first must open the door of our heart to His Divine Love.  May we plunge into the love and mercy that emanate from His Sacred Heart. 

RICHMOND, VA. (Catholic Online) - Our Resurrected Lord Jesus entreated us during the Octave of Easter that we open our hearts fully to His Fount of Divine Mercy, His Most Sacred Heart, from which pour His every grace and favor in perfect Love. On Divine Mercy Sunday the Church celebrated the unfathomable depths of God's mercy that emanate from His Love, a love that has suffered passionately for us and conquered death to bring new life eternally at Easter to those who believe.

In the message of Divine Mercy, Jesus expresses His intimate desire to enter into the temple of our heart, but for Him to be able to enter we first must open the door of our heart to His Divine Love.  Jesus gently knocks at our door and awaits our response, reassuring us not to be afraid but rather to trust always in Him.  Only in opening our hearts to Him may we plunge into the depths of the flows of love and mercy that emanate from Jesus' Sacred Heart. 

Since the fourth century, Saint Augustine has taught the Christian Faithful that the Living Water pouring eternally forth from the Heart of Jesus is none other than the birth waters of the Church in the Sacrament of Baptism.  The Church is born precisely at the moment that the Roman soldier's lance pierces open the Sacred Heart of our Lord.  The cleansing waters of Baptism, alongside the passionately loving water of the Most Holy Eucharist, flow sacramentally from the Heart of Christ to water the souls of the People of God, bringing us to realize the steadfast and saving hope found only in a personal encounter and relationship with our All-Merciful Lord.
 
The newly beatified John Paul II the Great considered his preaching on the love and mercy of our Lord to be central to the mission of his pontificate, as we see in his great encyclical letter on Divine Mercy, Dives in misericordia (DM).  The words of the Blessed Apostle of Divine Mercy echo now for all future generations concerning our celebration of the profound mercy of our Lord:

"The Church must consider it one of her principal duties -- at every stage of history and especially in our modern age -- to proclaim and to introduce into life the mystery of mercy, supremely revealed in Jesus Christ.  Not only for the Church herself as the community of believers but also in a certain sense for all humanity, this mystery is the source of a life different from the life which can be built by man ."

Pope Benedict XVI, at his Regina Caeli message of April 6, 2008, told the participants at the conclusion of the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy that the Church holds in her grasp a Divine Mercy mandate to be fulfilled:  "I address my cordial greeting which now becomes a mandate: Go forth and be witnesses of God's mercy, a source of hope for every person and for the whole world. May the Risen Lord be with you always!" 

In Pope John Paul II's last Divine Mercy message, which he had prepared for his Regina Caeli message for April 3, 2005 and was delivered posthumously, the beloved Blessed intimated to the world: "As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles and reopens hearts to love.  It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace.  How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!"

For us to understand better Blessed John Paul's heart concerning the mercy of God, it is important to reflect on key events in the pope's life as related to Divine Mercy.  His mother died when he was 9, his brother Edmund passed away when he was 12, and his father departed this life when he was 21. So for the rest of his earthly life Pope Wojtyła was able to enter with deep attention toward the People of God as being his family.  In this profound personal rapport with couples and families throughout his pontificate, the Blessed dramatically ministered to the importance of authentic marriage and family as witness to God's love and mercy in our world. 

Immersing himself in prayer and the Sacraments, his spirituality was one of sharing friendship with the Holy Spirit and a deep love of our Lady, abandoning himself to the embrace of the Blessed Mother of God, according to the Holy Father's Vicar of Rome Agostino Cardinal Vallini in his presentation of John Paul II to Pope Benedict XVI for beatification on Sunday morning.  Cardinal Vallini highlighted the importance of Blessed John Paul II's focus on Totus Tuus as containing the beloved Pontiff's secret to seeing the world through the eyes of the Mother of God, using a theme taken from the meditations of Saint Louis de Montfort.

The Cardinal Vicar elaborated that through petitioning the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Blessed John Paul gave witness to Christ wherever he went, especially to the new generations, to shape their future and to encourage them in building a better world through the establishment of a civilization of God's love.  In his relationship with these young people and countless others, the Blessed served during his life as a strong and genuine sign in his very person of God's love for humanity.

In Pope John Paul II's opening words of his pontificate to the world on October 22, 1978, the date that now marks the newly Beatified's feast day, the Blessed exhorted the Christian Faithful to break down any walls that would keep them from encountering the Lord of Divine Love and Mercy:  Non abbiate paura . Aprite, anche spalancate le porte a Cristo!  Be not afraid . Open wide the doors to Christ! 

This initial message of Blessed John Paul II's pontificate was punctuated for the Christian faithful to see on last Sunday morning along the Colonnade of Saint Peter's Square.  In the Gospel of Divine Mercy Sunday, we also heard Jesus encourage and strengthen His disciples:  Peace be with you! . Receive the Holy Spirit!  At the moment of His death on the Cross, Jesus -- full of the Holy Spirit -- pours forth His Love and Mercy upon the world in a certain sense passively (having just died on the Cross as Son of Man), at the moment of the Roman centurion's piercing Jesus' Sacred Heart. 

At the same time, Jesus as Eternal Son of God actively permits this piercing so that He may pour forth His Love and Mercy from the Cross transcending all ages, gushing forth the flows of the Holy Spirit as the never ending Source and Fountain of Eternal Life . the Son of God Who eternally pours forth His Holy Spirit as Living Water for our thirsty souls to drink.

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI reflected during last Sunday's Divine Mercy Mass on the importance of May 1st as Blessed John Paul II's date of beatification.  In celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday, the Blessed had passed into eternal life on the vigil of this liturgical feast six short years ago.  May 1st also is the first day of the month dedicated in our Church's life to Mary, who is Mother of the Church (Mater Ecclesiae), our Mother who loves and protects her Son's disciples. 

In Mary, specifically through the icon of Totus Tuus, we certainly see Blessed John Paul's devotion to the Mother of our Lord.  Joining in spirit with Saint Louis de Montfort, the soul of the Blessed Pontiff articulated:  All that I have is yours, O Virgin Mary.  Mary, give me your heart!,  which we know is an Immaculate Heart always perfectly in communion with her Son's Sacred Heart . the heart of Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of Man and the title of the newly Beatified's first papal encyclical (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Homily of the Mass of Beatification of Blessed Pope John Paul II, 1 May 2011). 

Our Holy Father, in continued reference to Redemptor hominis, shared in his homily that even in suffering, Blessed John Paul remained a rock in the footsteps of Peter.  Benedict XVI emphasized that John Paul II indeed is blessed because he believed and has strengthened us to believe, helping us not to fear the Truth, for Truth is the guarantor of our freedom, our genuine liberty. He highlighted a particularly salient linguistic point from last Sunday's Gospel, finding the reality of the Christian Faith is that we do rejoice, we do believe as witnesses.  This reality is expressed not as a command in the imperative tense but rather in the indicative, as a point of true and existing fact:  Christians rejoice as part and parcel to our faithful belief in Jesus the Risen Lord!  

May we join Pope Benedict in calling out to Blessed John Paul just as we did together with him during our Holy Father's funeral homily (April 8, 2005) for the newly Beatified: Santo Padre, ci benedica . Holy Father, bless us!, remaining confident that John Paul II is at the window of the Father's house.  As Pope Benedict XVI so beautifully articulated, we encounter in Blessed John Paul II a man of God who wrote his last encyclical without words as he suffered and died, teaching us how to do so in true belief, where he (and we with him) would discover genuine freedom in total abandonment to the loving mercy of Jesus Christ.

In last Sunday's Gospel, Thomas discovered his freedom in Christ through his belief, holding to the Truth that ultimately sets him free.  Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life -- the Source of our hope, where we are called to immerse ourselves in the Love and Mercy of His Sacred Heart -- pours forth sacramentally upon us the Holy Spirit to nourish us in sacrament and in prayer. 

In celebrating the unfathomable depths of God's Divine Mercy, may we ask through the newly Blessed's intercession in heaven for our Lord to pour forth God's Divine Mercy upon us and the entire world, reinvigorating souls in loving and hope-filled faith in Jesus Christ and renewing the face of the earth in an authentic civilization of God's love and mercy! 

May we open wide the doors  of our hearts to Jesus' Divine Love and Mercy, so that the Sacred Heart of Jesus may pour forth the Holy Spirit into our hearts of stone and convert them to hearts of flesh united in Him (cf. Ezechiel 36.26-27).  May we always hold in pectore with loving devotion the Church's new liturgical prayer for the feast of Blessed Pope John Paul II:

O God, who are rich in mercy,
And who willed that the Blessed John Paul II
Should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
Grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
We may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
The sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.
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Fr. Gregory Gresko is the Prior of Mary Mother of the Church Abbey in Richmond, Virginia. He earned his S.T.B. from the Pontificial Athenaeum of Sant'Anselmo in Rome and his S.T.L. magna cum laude in Moral Theology (Marriage and Family Studies) in 2008 from the Pontifical Lateran University, John Paul II Institute (Vatican City).  His S.T.L. dissertation was entitled, "Educating to Love: Foundational Pedagogy in Light of Karol Wojtyla's Love and Responsibility". Fr. Gregory is working on his doctoral dissertation for the same Vatican institute, on "The Consecration of the Family to the Heart of Jesus in Light of the Pastoral Ministry of Père Mateo Crawley-Boevey"

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