Before we start: long blog, important stuff. There are five sections, each with a bold title. If you can, read it all through when you have the time to focus. If not, skim until you get to the third section, What Does Divine Mercy look like? From there, read all the way through to the end!
To anyone who is new to my blog…welcome! You are always invited here, and to leave me a message on any post. Please read, respond to, and think more about what I write about. Though it’s currently a mix of study abroad updates and thoughts, almost every post is put out into the world with the hope that reflection upon the topics I write about will bear fruit upon further reflection for you all, my dear readers! Without further ado,
Why Divine Mercy?
I began this blog on August 24, 2015 to share my experiences in Kraków, Poland and the Holy Land that are coming up this summer. I will be going to these two places for a pilgrimage and then for World Youth Day, which is a truly universal meeting of young Catholics from all over the world, flooding together to become reinvigorated in our love for the Lord, and for the Holy Church He established on Earth. The theme will be Mercy, during this year of mercy. Today, Divine Mercy Sunday, is a really important day in the liturgical year for Catholics, and it’s a beacon of hope for all, even in this already joyful time of Easter.
Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated exactly a week after Easter Sunday. Instituted as an official feast of the Catholic Church just 16 years ago, by St. Pope John Paul II, in 2000, we celebrate that God’s Divine Mercy is even grander than all else. Divine Justice does not require that Christ die for us. What we deserve in our sinfulness is death, separation from God. That’s how much our sins distance us from He who is the Holiest of all things holy. The truth of what sin is proclaims that we deserve to die and to stay dead, every one of us. Me, you, Pope JPII, Christ’s closest disciples…all of us. The reason Divine Mercy is a beacon of hope is because Divine Mercy seeks us out. Divine Mercy sees what we deserve, and despite the pain we cause God by separating ourselves from Him, God still sent His only Son to suffer this humiliating and painful death in our place. Completely blameless before His Father, Jesus took our place. The following image is famous (at least among Catholics):
The white and the red lights (if you can call them that) are the Blood and Water which spilled out of Christ’s Body when He was stabbed in the side by the Roman centurion while He hung on the Cross. These are, for all people, the Waters that cleanse us, the Blood that makes us new. In the Old Testament, blood serves as a seal on a promise or agreement made between two people or groups of people. Here, Christ’s Blood that was shed in the Sacrifice of the Crucifixion marks the new covenant between God and humankind. God promises to show Divine Mercy as long as we turn to Him in trust and self-abandonment, AKA, as long as we turn to Him in faith!
Divine Mercy is about welcoming home all who have been far from Christ’s Heart. It is about welcoming each and every one of us – from the passionate atheist to the grandma who attends morning Mass every day – back to Christ’s heart, where He is waiting to wash us in His love, the “endless abyss of His mercy”.
Asking for Divine Mercy
There’s a set of prayers called the “Chaplet of Divine Mercy.” It takes less than ten minutes to pray; it is very simple yet incredibly powerful. If you choose to pray it in the form of a Novena, where you pray the same core set of prayers every day for nine days, there are 9 intentions, one for each day. I prayed it with my wonderful boyfriend these last days, beginning on Good Friday (the day of Christ’s crucifixion), and ending yesterday, the day before Divine Mercy Sunday. The intentions, given by Christ Himself to St. Faustina, a humble Polish nun in the early 20th century, are beautiful. Let me share one with you all:
Today bring to Me THE SOULS OF THOSE WHO HAVE SEPARATED THEMSELVES FROM MY CHURCH, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church, My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion.
Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son’s Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen.
The first paragraph are the words that Christ spoke to St Faustina as He taught her how to pray these prayers in sequence. The second paragraph is St. Faustina’s response to Christ’s words, and the third paragraph is addressed to God the Father, to whom we present Christ as the perfect sacrifice, He who stood in our place and continues to stand between us and Divine Justice. Christ is the gate through which we are welcomed to celebrate the Feast of Love, the Heavenly Banquet.
What does Divine Mercy look like?
Let me share real quickly the story of the Prodigal Son. It is perhaps the most well-known parable in the Gospel, and it perfectly illustrates God’s love for us and His joy when we run back to Him. Here’s the context: the younger of two sons tells his father he wishes for his inheritance, in cash, so that he can go live whatever life he chooses, where he doesn’t have to work in his father’s house. So his father gives him what he asks, and the boy runs off and squanders it all – to the point that he is jealous of pigs in mud, because they have food to eat, but he sits there starving:
“When he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:17-24. Emphasis added.)
My intentions with this post are to share that God cares for each of us. I trust that each person who reads this will have been brought to my blog by God’s work. My prayer is that, with my meager efforts, and through my faults and inability to express myself adequately, Jesus will reach hearts that would have otherwise been harder to reach. As I am writing this, I am recognizing that one of those hearts is mine.
Dear readers, I am always in need of God’s mercies. I don’t often feel patient with the fellow students in my program. I am so, so quick to judge. I get jealous of people that get to spend time with my loved ones. I wish I could be home and squander away the richness of time I have been given in this beautiful country. It is only through God’s grace, through His Mercy that I am still writing on this blog, going to Mass, and growing my faith.
Friends…if you go back up and read those three paragraphs again, about those who have strayed from God’s love, I know it is hard but think: Could it be that Christ was asking me to be brought into His Most Merciful Heart? On that fifth day of the Novena, were Catholics around the world praying for my heart to be softened?
Most importantly…dear friend…was it you, your very abandonment of God that tore at Christ’s Heart and Body during His Passion? Was it someone you love? How many times have we walked away from God’s love? His open arms? All the richness He offers?
Oh the fear that comes from realizing…that was me!!! I am guilty of murdering the holiest man ever to have lived! It is my fault. What to do, what to do? Oh, hope beyond all hope! Christ does not play with our souls. He does not leave us hanging, without knowledge of how we will find forgiveness for our actions. The very next line of the prayer is this: As they return to unity with the Church, My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion. We who have already exercised our power to destroy the body of the Son of God, also have the power within ourselves to restore Him to health, healing His wounds and lessening His suffering.
Responding to Divine Mercy
Divine Mercy is a call to come home. This time in the Catholic Church, Easter, is about returning to God because we have seen the glorious light of the Resurrection. Especially today, on Divine Mercy Sunday, the faithful are offered a special way to receive “in great abundance the gift of the consolation of the Holy Spirit”! What is this, you may ask? It’s a plenary indulgence! For fully initiated Catholics, we are invited to
- make a Sacramental Confession (it can be some 20 days before or after, so long as our intention was to get to Confession but we were unable to for a long while),
- receive the Eucharist,
- pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and
- “in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, recite the Our Father and the Creed, and also adding a devout prayer (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!).” (detached from affection for sin means that we are not planning or giving in to the desire to run to any of our habits of sin as soon as we ”get this prayer thing over with”. No one else can determine if you are in this state of detachment from the affection for sin; that’s between you and God.)
Celebrating Divine Mercy for Non-Catholics
Wait, but what about non-Catholics? There’s nothing for you guys? What’s the point of sharing this joy if I’m going to wave it in your face and tell you “look here, look at all you’re missing out on?”
First of all, if you are feeling left out, the easiest and quickest way to fix that is to become Catholic! (I had to add that invitation in somewhere! Millions of Catholics would love to have you join this family of believers!)
Friends who are not ready to enter RCIA classes to learn about the faith, to begin to participate in the beauty and the joy that is Divine Mercy, start doing some research. Call up the local Catholic parish and make a meeting to ask questions about Divine Mercy. Call up a priest and ask all those questions that have kept you apart from the Church for so long, whether or not they are related to what I’ve talked about on this blog. Don’t settle for the poor representative of the Catholic faith that you met some months, years, or decades ago. There’s bad eggs in every bunch, and the Catholic Church is not exempt from this truth.
If you aren’t Catholic, do some research. Talk to a faithful Catholic. Sit in on a Mass (don’t go up during the distribution of the Eucharist, because you do not understand what you’d be receiving). Talk to someone who teaches RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). My dear, incredibly loved, non-Catholic friends, start learning about Divine Mercy by asking the questions you have about the Catholic Church. It is not an excuse to get to Heaven and say, “I got a bad impression about the Church this one time (or many times), but I didn’t ever really look into what those people were talking about,” if you have not done your research. That is just the same as saying “I know someone who had a bad meal once, so I decided I would just stop eating.” No, we are responsible for our own souls, and thank God that He gives us so many resources to figure out how to care for the gift of eternal life, that which goes beyond tomorrow, beyond the constraints of time. Pretty exciting, right?
Okay, here’s the recap:
Let us fall into the hands of the Lord and not into the hands of mortals, for equal to His majesty is his Mercy; and equal to his name are his works. (Sirach 2:18)
This verse, from which I got the title of my blog, captures what Divine Mercy does for us: Divine Mercy takes us from our darkness and sin, and as we learn to trust God more, we fall into His hands. God’s mercy is bigger than this world, greater in than the entirety of this universe. Divine Mercy is something we can trust in.
If you’re Catholic (or you have been baptized into the Catholic Church), you are already disposed to receive again the most invaluable gift of Divine Mercy. Before you receive Christ into your body, go to Confession where He waits for you with open arms, ready to throw you the biggest party Heaven’s ever seen. Then, full of forgiveness and God’s mercy and free from the sins that have caused you to feel trapped…After that, go to Mass, and, finding yourself there, realize that in the breaking of the bread, with all that kneeling down and standing up, you are a witness to the most incredible miracle of all time. I promise, the more you learn about the Mass, the more incredible it gets. Even just writing about this fills me up – an inexplicable feeling I want you to know for yourself.
If you aren’t Catholic and you are feeling left out, begin the process that will bring you into this body of faith! No, I am not saying you should just go sign up for the next RCIA group and start your classes next September (although, if you are ready, please, go now!!). I am saying that God is so good that He wants you to come to Him. He will force nothing on you. He will not coerce you or trick you into doing what is not good for your eternal soul: God will never deceive you. So then, what your first step should be is this: start thinking. What is it that makes you not want to be Catholic? What about the Church repels you? Why is it that this promise of mercy entices you, but everything else seems to repel you? Do the sins of the humans that make up the Church seem too unsteady? Why do you want the mercy without the work? Why don’t you want to commit to mercy? Why don’t you want to live forever?
Friends, once you start to ask these questions, when you start to think in a new way, once you allow yourself to learn what of your understanding of the Church is true and what is false, you bring yourself and your loved ones closer to eternal life. No matter how set you are against the Catholic Church, my invitation today is for you to come forward to learn about Divine Mercy, about the Love of God.
Do you desire mercy? Come, enter into eternal life, and listen as the Creator of the Universe calls out to all His angels and saints, saying, “Let us eat and celebrate, for my son was dead, and is alive again! He was lost, and now he is found!”
Let us find ourselves in Christ’s heart. Amen, Alleluia!