Byline: Francis N. Tolentino
ON April 30, 2000, on the day Saint Maria Faustina Kowalski was canonized by Pope John Paul II, the Holy Father also declared the Second Sunday of Easter as the Feast of Divine Mercy in the Universal Church. It was indeed a great coincidence that Pope John Paul II passed away on the Feast of Divine Mercy (Philippine time). The Feast of Divine Mercy arose out of several apparitions, which a Polish nun (then Sr. Faustina) received. While canonizing her, the Pope said:
"Today my joy is truly great in presenting the life and witness of Sr. Faustina to the whole Church as a gift of God for our time. By Divine Providence, the life of this humble daughter of Poland was completely linked with the history of the 20th Century, the century we have just left behind. In fact, it was between the First and Second World Wars that Christ entrusted His message to her. Those who remember, who were witnesses and participants in the events of those years and the horrible sufferings they caused for millions of people know well how necessary was His message of mercy."
Much will still be written about Pope John Paul II and how he was loved by the world. His influence will linger on, having written 14 encyclicals, together with 13 apostolic exhortations, apostolic constitutions and 42 apostolic letters, among others. His life will always be associated with mercy and sufferings (having chosen to die in the confines of Vatican rather than in a hospital bed).
His lifelong message will always be: "Be not afraid," a tenet which he called out in his first mass at St. Peters Basilica on October 22, 1978. The same command, part prayer, was his message to his Polish countrymen during his first visit as a Pope (which led to the fall of communism in Easter Europe). The "Be not afraid" message of the Pope can be traced to one of the messages of Jesus to Saint Faustina, thus, "Let no soul fear to come to me, even if its sins be as scarlet."
That the Holy Father was merciful can be shown by the way he forgave his assassin (Mehmet Ali Agca, May 13, 1981) and even visited him in jail.
Pope John Paul II left us his last written book entitled "Memory and Identity" (2005 edition, Libreria Elitrice Vaticana) wherein he wrote:
"It is significant that Sister Faustina saw the Son as the merciful God, yet she contemplated Him not so much on the Cross but rather in His subsequent state of risen glory. She thus linked her mystical sense of mercy with the mystery of Easter, in which Christ appears triumphant over sin and death. …