What the World Needs Now
“What will the years ahead bring us? What will man’s future on earth be like? We are not given to know.” (Address on the Canonization of St. Faustina, April 2000)
These words of Pope Saint John Paul II ring as true today as when they were first spoken in the year 2000.
It is chilling to be reminded of uncertain futures. The world today is one that is uncomfortable with the unknown and the unpredictable. Given the trajectory of humanity’s current situation, it is hard to find hope for a brighter future.
Pope Saint John Paul II spoke these words as part of his address on the day he canonized Saint Faustina Kowalska and instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy, to be celebrated on the second Sunday of Easter every year. His speech was inspired – full of consolation and encouragement to a timid world nervously stepping into a new millennium, but the message of Divine Mercy had found its strong foothold in the very life of John Paul the Great, long before he instituted it officially.
While studying to become a priest as a seminarian, Karol Wojtyla (later known as Pope John Paul II) was introduced by a classmate to this message of Divine Mercy. He learned that it was given by Jesus through numerous visions to a nun named Sister Faustina from Krakow in Poland.
In those early days, Karol Wojtyla carried the message of Divine Mercy in the highest esteem. When the documentation of Sister Faustina’s diary was under intense scrutiny and was refused authentication at the Vatican, it was this young priest who led its defence until it was finally recognized by Rome. When the question of possible canonization of Sister Faustina was raised, it was Karol Wojtyla who answered the call and began the process by collecting testimonies.
Karol Wojtyla brought the Divine Mercy devotion with him right into his pontificate as Pope John Paul II and propelled its cause to the forefront of his mission. His second encyclical, Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), explained and encouraged the world’s need of Jesus’ Divine Mercy. His first public visit after the attempt on his life in May 1981 was to the Shrine of Merciful Love in Italy, where he declared that he “considered this message (his) special task. Providence had assigned it to (him) in the present situation of man, the Church, and the world. It could be said that precisely this situation assigned that message to (him) as (his) task before God.” (John Paul II at the Shrine of Merciful Love; Collevalegna, Italy, 1981)
This was clearly a devotion that was close to John Paul the Great’s heart, but one could wonder why it was professed with such insistence? His words, summoning the world to rededicate itself to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, were always accompanied by an unspoken urgency.
For that, the world will provide the grim answer. Suffering and pain colour the covers of newspapers and magazines; anguish is seen and heard on almost every major headline being broadcast on the nightly news. In the faces of our families and neighbours, we see quiet hurt and in their voices, we hear heartache. What can this world possibly offer a broken humanity? It can offer us no solution but distraction and escape. Neither of which will do anything to heal wounds that grow deeper every day.
In the words of the popular song made famous by Jackie DeShannon in the 1960s: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love!” Love is the salve that is going to piece together the broken world.
Mercy can be defined as love in the face of suffering. This is the kind of love that the world needs now. Every person is called to be moved to mercy towards one another and some days humanity thrives in its endeavour. Other days, it fails miserably.
Divine Mercy, however, is God’s unfailing love for His suffering world and He desperately desires it for all mankind. Jesus says in His revelations to Saint Faustina: “My daughter, the flames of My Mercy burn bright! I desire to pour it out on human souls. Oh what pain they cause Me when they do not accept it.” (Diary of St. Faustina, 1074)
The promises of Jesus to those who are devoted to His Divine Mercy are many, but can be summarized by His words on another occasion: “Tell ailing mankind to draw close to My Merciful Heart and I will fill them with peace. Mankind will not find solace until it turns with confidence to My mercy and love.” (Diary, 699)
World peace. Love. Mercy.
What the world needs now, indeed.
Last week, on April 2nd, Canada celebrated its first Pope John Paul II day, recognizing the charisms of this great man that spurred the world forward in its seeking of universal peace. This new holiday, designated by the Canadian government, seeks to commemorate the impact John Paul the Great had on the world. It is clear that the message of peace that punctuated his pontificate had its foundations solidly rooted in the truth of those prophetic and timeless visions of Jesus, documented by Saint Faustina decades before Karol Wojtyla was elected as Pope.
This coming Sunday, the universal Catholic Church will commemorate and celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy. Throughout the world, people will once again be reminded of its crucial importance in a world so seeking consolation. Divine Mercy is the salvation of the world, if only humanity would be willing to open its tired, battered heart to it.
Ten years ago, on April 2, 2005, a dying Pope John Paul II wrote his final homily, to be delivered at mass the next day: Divine Mercy Sunday. He would not live to personally address the crowds that gathered in St. Peter’s Square that morning, but his words continue to echo loudly throughout the earth:
“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!… Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world.” (Pope John Paul Ii’s Divine Mercy Sunday Homily, April 2005)
Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us!