For those who were close to Pope John Paul II, no explanation is necessary for this statement. For the rest of humanity, it is necessary to study the special legacy left by this virtuous man, who many are already calling Saint John Paul the Great!
You might want to be seated for this: Pope John Paul died on a feast that the Lord Jesus said would be the “last hope of salvation”. The Pope died on the vigil of a feast that he himself established in the Jubilee Year 2000 to fulfill what he called “the will of Christ”. Pope John Paul named the new feast “Divine Mercy Sunday." (celebrated this Sunday, April 23, see Spirit Happenings)
The Pope knew as soon as he was named as the Vicar of Christ in 1978 that God had entrusted him with the special mission of preparing the world for the Second Coming of Christ. His first words “Be not afraid” must have been sent from above to ease the fears of the people of the world who would face an ever increasing and overwhelming power of evil that is foretold many times in the Book of Revelation.
Jesus Himself selected His two messengers that would help Him to prepare the world for His Final Coming. The first was a Polish nun named Maria Faustina, whom the Lord called His secretary and apostle of Divine Mercy. The second was a special man named Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Pope John Paul II.
Many believe the Polish Pope to be the “spark from Poland” that Jesus told Saint Faustina would “prepare the world for My final coming”. Faustina was instructed by Jesus to record all of His words to her in a diary that has since been published all over the world. The name of that diary is called “Divine Mercy in My Soul."
Pope John Paul was exposed, at an early age, to the words of Jesus given to Saint Faustina when he was studying for the priesthood in an underground seminary during the German occupation of Poland in World War II. By God’s Divine Providence, the chapel, now made famous since Faustina was declared a saint, lay directly between the seminary and the labor camp where he worked to survive.
He would stop and pray there and he became knowledgeable of the contents of her diary. Decades later as the Pope recuperated in his hospital room after being shot, on May 13th 1981, he had the entire diary reread to him. Later that year while at the Shrine of Merciful Love he stated “Right from the beginning of my ministry in St. Peter’s See in Rome, I considered this message [of Divine Mercy] my special task. Providence has assigned it to me in the present situation of man, the Church and the world. It could be said that precisely this situation assigned that message to me as my task before God.”
John Paul knew that it was surely Jesus that had instructed Faustina so well. She had less than 3 years of education, yet there is talk of declaring her a “Doctor of the Church”, an honor not held by many saints. By God’s Providence, she was canonized as the first saint of the new millennium right on Divine Mercy Sunday when John Paul II announced the institution of this new feast. Later that day he exclaimed “This is the happiest day of my life”, he had fulfilled the will of Christ!
Five years later, he would die on that feast. Everyone present with the Pope in his final moments celebrated the Feast of Divine Mercy, which Jesus promised would bring the total forgiveness of sins and punishment. Jesus made this promise with certain conditions; one must go to Confession and then receive Holy Communion on that Feast of Mercy. The Pope received those sacraments just before he died.
It was said that John Paul confessed daily, many times to brand new priests. And why not? Jesus told Faustina that He Himself is there in the confessional and the Pope believed that. The Lord said “When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.”
Those who understand what Divine Mercy Sunday is all about can testify to the many dramatic conversions of hardened sinners who have confessed their sins and then received Holy Communion on that feast. Jesus didn’t only promise that souls would receive the total forgiveness of sins and punishment, He also promised to “pour out a whole ocean of graces”, which for some souls will be very tangible.
Those in the know realize what a wonderful gift this feast is to entice Fallen-away Catholics to come back to the practice of their faith. On Easter the churches are always full to overflowing, but many of them will be only half-full the following Sunday. With the promises attached to this new feast, many have come back with a new fervor and a commitment to make up for lost time with good stewardship.
Pope John Paul believed in his heart what Jesus told Saint Faustina “Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity… Tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice is near.” Then Jesus said “My heart rejoices in this feast.”
Editor’s note: For more information go to www.DivineMercySunday.com
|Pope John Paul II considered the message of Divine Mercy his special task. “Providence has assigned it to me in the present situation of man, the Church and the world,” he said. He is pictured above instituting the new feast.|