QUESTION: Archbishop, How can I trust in the mercy of God when I have done such bad things?
Divine Mercy calls us to a radical trust in God’s divine mercy. This sounds simple, but it is profound. The feast of Divine Mercy invites us to contemplate the divine attributes of God and see past human projections to the revelation of Jesus about His Abba.
Somehow, we came to perceive God as harsh and vengeful, a God who expected His children to be perfect and would exact vengeance on them if they were not. We learnt to fear God rather than to love Him. We believed heaven was for a few who were exceptionally holy, not for people like you and me. Lenten preaching focused on the four last things—Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell—meant to inspire fear and spur us on to act rightly before God and towards others.
We believed if we committed a mortal sin and got hit by a truck and died we were going straight to hell. So, either do not sin or go straight to Confession. God, in many ways, resembled the fathers of that generation. Present but emotionally absent: disciplinarians who punished but did not relate deeply with their children. We feared God as we feared our fathers. This kept things in check and kept us from going off the rails. Religion became morality and not an encounter with the Risen Lord.
In the early 1980s, I first heard about Divine Mercy through Lloyd H who had become a missionary of Divine Mercy. He brought the booklets, the image and the diary of Sister Faustina into Trinidad and Tobago and spread the devotion. Every evening at 3 p.m. he would give a call to prayer. He had had an encounter with Divine Mercy and wanted others to share the same experience.
The whole thing seemed strange to me at first. Devotion to Divine Mercy! But upon reflection, it became clear it is the very core of the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Without Divine Mercy the world would be hopelessly lost. It is just that we did not see it that way. St Faustina brought the revelation into our time and helped us get to the heart of the Divine Mystery—God is Love.
St Faustina wrote that on the night of Sunday, February 22, 1931, while she was in her cell in Płock, central Poland, Jesus appeared to her as the ‘King of Divine Mercy’, wearing a white garment with red and pale rays emanating from His heart.
In her diary (Notebook I, 47, 48) she wrote that Jesus told her: “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: ‘Jesus, I trust in You’. I desire that this image be venerated first in your chapel and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.”
The promises of Divine Mercy are very clear. To the Saint, Jesus expressed His desire to have a feast of Divine Mercy on the second Sunday of Easter, and promised: “Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment” (Diary 300).
Again, she writes in her diary: “My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.
“On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.” (Diary 699)
Divine Mercy is a golden thread running through the entire scripture, from the book of Genesis to Revelation, God’s mercy has been constant. In Jesus we see the face of mercy.
Mercy is receiving forgiveness and blessings that we do not deserve. This is the point of many parables. But two central texts of mercy are the prodigal son and the good thief. They received mercy they did not deserve. So, yes! I trust God’s mercy. I trust that forgiveness is possible. I trust that the Father will grant me forgiveness, fully and completely, if I turn away from my sins and place my whole life in His merciful hands. You too can trust in Him.
Key Message: We can trust God’s mercy regardless of how bad we have been.
Action Step: Just before, during or just after Divine Mercy Sunday go to Confession and bring everything to the priest in a spirit of contrition. Go to Mass on that day, and in a church before the Blessed Sacrament exposed or in the tabernacle say, one our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be for the intentions of the Pope, and the Creed. Also make a devout prayer to the Merciful Lord (i.e. The Divine Mercy chaplet or, simply say, “Merciful Jesus, I trust in You”). You can offer this for yourself or a loved one who died. Then, trust the Divine Mercy.
Scripture: John 20:19–31
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