“For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us..”
(Chaplet of Divine Mercy)
The Passion of Christ features centrally in the Divine Mercy devotion. In the same way as the Rosary is “a successive litany of Hail Mary’s” (Blessed Pope Paul VI), something similar could be said of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, although here the litany consists of this short prayer – “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world”
And this, in essence, is precisely what the devotion is all about – beseeching the mercy of God in virtue of the Passion and Death of Our Lord. In the first Notebook of her Diary, Saint Faustina writes this – “Jesus told me that I please Him best by meditating on His sorrowful Passion, and by such meditation, much light falls upon my soul. He who wants to learn true humility should reflect upon the Passion of Jesus” (Diary, entry #267). The Merciful Lord spoke to the young nun about what such mediation can achieve –
“There is more merit to one hour of meditation on My sorrowful Passion than there is to a whole year of flagellation.. the contemplation of My painful wounds is of great profit to you, and it brings Me great joy.” (Diary, entry #369)
Shortly afterwards, commenting on the mistrust certain souls have toward His mercy, the Lord added this – “My Heart is sorrowful.. Remember My Passion, and if you do not believe My words, at least believe My wounds.” (Diary, entry #379)
In case there was any doubt that the Lord intends such meditation for souls generally, rather than just St Faustina specifically, He told her – “I give great graces to souls who meditate devoutly on My Passion” (Diary, entry #737).
In Notebook II of her Diary, St Faustina concerns herself with the fate of sinners, hoping that they, too, will meditate on the Passion of Christ. She writes – “When I see Jesus tormented, my heart is torn to pieces, and I think – what will become of sinners if they do not take advantage of the Passion of Jesus. In His Passion, I see a whole sea of mercy” (Diary, entry #948). Clearly, then, St Faustina is greatly desirous that all souls – and especially sinners – meditate with devotion on the Passion of the Lord, and she perceives what great graces and mercy issue forth from this meditation.
For those who sometimes feel overwhelmed by the events of life, the Lord reminds us – “It is in My Passion that you must seek light and strength” (Diary, entry #654).
In the present day, one good example of the fruit of meditation on the Passion is our Holy Father, Pope Francis; repeatedly, he shows us in practical ways what mercy means – whether caressing the sick, visiting the imprisoned, or forgiving sins in the Confessional. At a General Audience, Pope Francis had this to say –
“This week it will do good for us all to look to the Crucifix, kissing the wounds of Jesus, kissing the Crucifix. Out of love for us, Jesus freely walked the path of humiliation and self-abandonment for our salvation. He has taken upon Himself the whole of human suffering.”
In the last years of the reign of St John Paul, the entire world saw a man who had become the living reflection of his Master – a man who ascended the Cross in his own life, to come down from it only in death. And I think that for many, this will perhaps be their abiding recollection of him, such was the impact of this reality being lived out before us.
Another saintly soul to perceive clearly the reflection of the Cross on the souls of humanity, was St Teresa of Calcutta. In every Chapel of her religious Order, she had the words ‘I Thirst’ inscribed near the Crucifix in each Chapel. In the Crucifix, she saw Christ at His weakest and most vulnerable, most in need of a tender caress and an offering of love given freely to Him; similarly, this is what she saw in the faces of poor and destitute, the ‘unloved’, the marginalised and forgotten of society. The Crucified Christ was reflected in every single one of them.
For us, the primary time for meditation upon the Passion of Christ is during Lent and especially in Holy Week. This is a fine starting point, but really only a starting point – the ideal would be for us to meditate on the Passion throughout the year. And particularly for those souls devoted to the Merciful Jesus, let us follow the example of Saint Faustina, Saint John Paul, Saint Teresa and Pope Francis – let the Cross of Christ ever be in our minds and in our hearts.
“Christ, teach us never to be ashamed of Your Cross!” – Pope Francis, Lent 2018