His gift of Divine Mercy

Have you ever seen the six inch high plastic figure of a rotund man with his arms outstretched, and the plaque attached to the bottom pedestal reads, "I love you this much." Notice the hands. They form a right angle to the arms. The message is: "I love you as much as much as I possibly can love you. I love you with my whole heart and strength." Now, notice Jesus on the cross. His arms are outstretched. His hands, however, are completely opened. The message of Jesus on the cross is "there is no limit to my love for you. I give everything to you. I even give my life for you, in total and complete self-sacrifice." Now, notice the picture of Our Lord of Divine Mercy. His hands are completely open. He is offering us His boundless love. He wants to share with us, to be in communion with us. What he is, and what he has, He offers to us. Jesus of Divine Mercy welcomes us into relationship with Him.

Mercy. Mercy in the Scriptural sense means something richer than what we mean by mercy in the English language. Mercy for the English-speaking means forgiveness. But mercy is only the English translation for the Scriptures' Old Testament Hebrew word hesed, and the New Testament Greek word eleos. If I might quote from a text book: "Scholars are not agreed on the proper translation of hesed. They are agreed, however, that there is no single English word which is an adequate translation. (John McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, p. 565)

What does hesed/eleos mean? Hesed describes attributes, affections, and actions. The attributes of a person with hesed include dependability, loyalty, fidelity. Hesed describes someone with good judgment, who first of all is just, i.e., justified before God, viewed as righteous by God, someone whom God judges as acting rightly. Affections. God's relationship with Israel is described as an expression of hesed. Yahweh continuously feels for Israel; Yahweh has pity, forgiveness, mercy on Israel. Yahweh desires to heal and to help Israel. Actions. The person with hesed acts not out of obligation, but out of generosity, out of largess. Hesed describes God's will to save. Yahweh remains faithful to his covenant, to his promise to save Israel. God's saving action towards his people is the central identity and action of God; salvation is the integrating factor around which all the other actions of God are focused, and have intention, and success. God wants to save us. Hesed motivates and permeates God's actions.

We who are the beneficiaries of God's hesed are called to live and give hesed. The article on hesed concludes by stating, "hesed is chiefly manifested in the readiness to do good and to forgive. Mercy appears to be too narrow a rendition." (McKenzie, p. 567)

I hope this word-study broadens our concepts of mercy. Try to think of mercy, not in our usual terms, but in the Scriptural sense, in God's way of communicating. Try to think of it in terms of Divine Mercy.

Perhaps the best way to understand anything is to experience it. May I suggest that each of us read from the Scriptures a demonstration of God's hesed. Specifically I suggest Psalm 85 and/or Luke 1. Both of these readings demonstrate God's will to save us. I'm keeping this homily short by way of hoping that with your extra time you might read reflectively and prayerfully Psalm 85 and/or Luke 1. Now, if you don't read, this is not like confession and your having to say the prescribed penance. I'm making a suggestion, and if you wish to follow it, I think you will better understand in your mind and feel in your heart and soul, God's will to save us, i.e., his gift of Divine Mercy.

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