Lindsey Weishar: John Paul II’s invitation to Divine Mercy is needed in this moment
April is a month imbued with the spirit of St. John Paul II for me. This Divine Mercy Sunday (April 11) we celebrate Christ’s revelation to St. Faustina of his desire for all of us to enter into his “ocean of mercy.”
Divine Mercy Sunday was established by Pope John Paul II in 2000 on the second Sunday of Easter, the day Sister Faustina was canonized. As he said of Christ in his Divine Mercy homily the following year, “You are burning with the desire to be loved and those in tune with the sentiments of your heart learn how to build the new civilization of love. A simple act of abandonment is enough to overcome the barriers of darkness and sorrow, of doubt and desperation.”
We live in a world so much in need of a merciful gaze.
Perhaps never more than in this moment are we called to take up our rosaries and pray the words of the Divine Mercy Chaplet: “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Us and the world — all of us are asked to dwell in this ocean of mercy. Beautifully, through prayer, we are able to offer the world to God. This is our mission — the ways in which we’re called to carry it out are as various as humanity itself.
ST. JOHN PAUL II AS POET
April is not only the month in which Divine Mercy is especially celebrated, but it’s also National Poetry Month. I am reminded of Pope John Paul II as poet. Though this mode of expression was less common for him after he became pope, Jerzy Peterkiewicz’s translation of many of his poems can be found in “The Place Within: The Poetry of Pope John Paul II.”
In the newness of this Easter season, my eyes have been especially drawn to his poem cycle, “Song of the Brightness of Water,” which reflects on the encounter of the woman at the well in John 4.
Though the well is certainly not an ocean — not a living kind of water — this poem cycle illustrates the mercy with which Christ touches every aspect of the world, specifically, the individual human life. In the poem “Looking into the Well at Sichar,” the speaker meditates on the submersion in Christ to which each of us is called: “Multitudes tremble in you, transfixed / by the light of your words / as eyes by the brightness of water. / You know them in weariness. You know them in light.”
Through the course of these poems the well becomes a mirror reflecting the true living water: Christ himself. In the final poem, which takes the name of the poem cycle, the Samaritan woman reflects: “I can never take all of you / into me, Stay then as a mirror in the well.”
Let us drink of him more — through prayer, the Easter Scriptures, through the singing and saying of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, through our interactions with friends and strangers.
“JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU”
As I reflect on Divine Mercy, I return to poetry. Not only to the Samaritan woman’s release from sin in the Scripture, but to how John Paul II expresses her relief poetically in “The Samaritan Woman Meditates”: “the inner burden you took away / is not hung in the void. Scales will never tell its weight . . . / A flame rescued from dry wood / has no weight in its luminous flight / yet lifts the heavy lid of night.”
I return to a shrine of Divine Mercy, housed at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Kansas City, to this parish’s annual celebratory Mass and reception on the second Sunday of Easter, to this celebration five years ago, when, still rather alone in that city, I met a person who would become a dear friend. A photograph shows us holding red and white balloons that read “Jesus, I trust in You.” Though we must, as “Looking into the Well at Sichar” says, “Consider how arid, how arid our souls,” I pray we also believe how much he desires to quench our thirst, and through us, the thirst of the whole world.
May the poetry that is our faith, the month of April in all its flourishing, nourish you, dear reader. For all that is troubling in ourselves and in the world, there is also light. And there is Christ, walking toward each one of us, asking for a drink.
LINDSEY WEISHAR is a poet, freelance writer, and member of St. Matthew Parish in Champaign. She has a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Write to her at email@example.com.