Dear People of goodwill!
The Bishops have proclaimed 2011 the Year of Divine Mercy. The purpose of my letter is to explain why we have bestowed upon this year such a title and how we invite people to live it.
Throughout the centuries Divine Mercy has been knocking at the human heart wounded by sin, sufferings, feelings of despair and fear. Divine Mercy encourages, consoles and invites us to trust in the Lord’s goodness and love.
Divine Mercy gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus with a new exclamation and encouragement in our country, and this fact in particular encourages to turn people’s attention to this Mercy. St Faustina, who lived in Vilnius, was entrusted by Our Saviour with the task to proclaim His Mercy to all mankind. Jesus said: “Speak to the world about my Mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed forth for them” (D. 848).
It is namely this message which inspires us to invite everybody to know the grace of Divine Mercy, to accept it in our lives through conversion and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and to share it with others.
In order to give a visible sign of Divine Grace, Jesus asked to paint His image which reminds of the desire of His loving Heart to save the whole world. The image was painted in Vilnius and is venerated in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy. Jesus said to St Faustina: “The greatness of this image is not in the colours or the brush strokes, but in My Grace“.
I sincerely ask all people to listen to this message, to reflect and to go deeper into it. Thanks to His Mercy the Lord brings salvation especially where misery, pain, hatred, discord and despair are predominant. The grace of Divine Mercy overcomes sin and evil, calms souls, opens the fountains of peace and joy.
- Let us know the Divine Mercy
The Apostle Paul says: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4).
The Lord desires life for us and this desire comes from His love which is inseparable from His mercy and is abundantly poured out on us through Jesus Christ. In and through Christ we experience that God is love (1 John 4: 16) which is in particular manifested in His mercy. Jesus Christ, in Whom God took on our human nature, bears witness to mercy not only by His words, but also by His deeds about which we read in the Gospel. Jesus’ Death crowned by His Resurrection eloquently speaks about the Divine Mercy. God loved us so much “that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Johannes 3:16). Sin is destructive, therefore Jesus gave his life so that people could live. Christ, who was crucified and resurrected, has given us His Spirit. The Spirit is constantly proclaiming that “love is present in the world and that this love is more powerful than any kind of evil in which individuals, humanity, or the world are involved. Believing in this love means believing in mercy” (Dives in Misericordia 7).
Divine Mercy does not deny Divine Justice, but surpasses it and goes further. Divine Mercy and Love are an overabundance of justice. Forgiveness gushing forth from the pierced Heart of God to those who approach the Source of eternal Love reveals to us that no human sin may surpass God’s merciful love. Its action may be limited only by people’s free will, whereby they can refuse the grace granted through the Cross and Resurrection.
- Let us accept Divine Mercy by conversion
Christ encourages us: “Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1, 15). Today people do not speak about conversion because they do not believe in the existence of sin. That ignorance of sin poses the greatest threat to the world of today. It is like cancer penetrating the life of a person, family, community and destroying it from within. People become imprisoned in the evil which flourishes by aggressive accusation of themselves and others. The unacknowledged guilt often leads to depression, crime and even death.
The grace of conversion proposed by Christ invites us to acknowledge our sins and to renounce them so that we can choose again a free, honest and respectable life of the children of God. The water in which we were baptised is the first sign of Divine Mercy that grants us the identity of God’s children. A child of God is able to accept Divine Mercy but he is still free to choose. Unfortunately, if we understand freedom as a possibility to do whatever we want, we often sink in darkness. People suffer from slavery of sin. There are only two possibilities: despair or conversion. Despair is attractive because you do not need to do anything, only to sink deeper and deeper. The conversion, on the contrary, is an audacious jump into the hands of God. According to St Augustin, “God created us without our help, but will not save us without our consent”.
The sincere and humble exclamation ‘Jesus, have mercy on me’ abolishes barriers separating us from the Heart of the Merciful God. With that exclamation and awaited by the loving Father who is ready to embrace his children, we start our way of penance and conversion. The confession of sins and sincere repentance allow us to experience Divine Mercy very concretely, by filling our souls with the joy of forgiveness.
- Let us be merciful
Revealing Divine Mercy, Christ expects people to be merciful: “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6, 36). This invitation reveals an essential moral teaching of the Gospel: God is merciful to man, and man must be merciful to his neighbour. Christ himself taught the prayer, in which we turn to Our Heavenly Father by saying: “…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt 6, 12).
As we experience Divine Mercy, we are invited to spread it in our family, community, and in our society. We have an obvious duty to help a poorer one, someone dogged by misfortune, a sick or abandoned person. Mercy consists of forgiveness, understanding and hope we spread by witnessing our faith and trust in God. There are plenty of people around us who suffer from roughness, indifference, uncontrolled anger in families and society. A lot of aggression arises from within: it comes out of despair, reluctance to see good things and our neighbours’ efforts, as well as signs of hope. Who can overcome that anger arising from the human heart and destroying everything?
Jesus says: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matheus 5:7). Mercy gives birth to mercy and spreads peace. As the human heart gets to know Divine Mercy, it becomes able to share that goodness with others. The good heart brings hope which flows from the pierced Heart of the Merciful Jesus to our exhausted and cold hearts. The only thing we need to do is to raise our eyes upward to Him and say ‘Jesus, I trust in you’, and then,with God’s help, to bring goodness, love, consolation to everybody whom the Lord sends to us. How much we can do just by one good word, a gesture of encouragement and consolation, or by giving a smile! The door of mercy opens to people the way to hope which enlightens our journey on this earth and gives it an eternal value.
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As we celebrate the Year of Divine Mercy, let us know this Mercy. He is the only one who can overcome the evil and despair in which the world is imprisoned. Let us renounce sin and open our hearts to Divine Love and Goodness. Let us generously share this treasure with the others. Let us meet together and implore graces by praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy which was taught by Jesus in a small corner of Vilnius.
We invite all Lithuanian people to make a pilgrimage to Vilnius to pray before the images of the Mother of Mercy at the Gates of Dawn and of the Merciful Jesus which is venerated in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy. Together with John Paul II, the Servant of God, I implore you:
To help the people of today to experience the merciful love so that it can save the mankind by its splendour and sensibility. […] Mercy is needed so that every injustice in our world may disappear in the splendour of truth.
Audrys Juozas Cardinal BAČKIS
The Archbishop of Vilnius