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We have to find the children who have run away and tell them the truth: Our real God is, believe it or not, crushed that they have no faith in Him.
If You Want to Make Jesus Happy
In a movie scene set in a men's room, an advertising executive named Buddy has just returned to work after a stay at a substance abuse rehabilitation clinic. While washing his hands, Buddy meets a new colleague who identifies himself as a recovering alcoholic. He asks Buddy if the staff at the clinic taught him about the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
"They tried," Buddy says, "but I don't believe in God."
His colleague replies, "Really? He'll be crushed when He finds out."
The intended irony punches your gut and gives it a ruthless tickle it at the same time. Suddenly it's the most ridiculous idea in the world that God would care whether His existence is acknowledged by an arrogant, secretly scared-as-a-child corporate big shot like Buddy.
But of course it's not, and He does. It's impossible to read St. Faustina's Diary and not know that.
The Diary explodes the well-worn myth that God is distant, vague, and exacting. The God in St. Faustina's life was affectionate, eager, open, intimate, and consumed with yearning. And Faustina, unlike the people who subscribe to the God-as-tyrant theory, saw Him and talked to Him face-to-face. Because He is eternal, the way she knew Him is the way He truly was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.
In a meditation I read once, the author writes that she feels free to yell at God because she knows she can't hurt Him. Well, yes and no. Yes, we should feel free to yell: it's honest, and He wants us to be perfectly ourselves with Him. No, it's not true that we can't hurt Him. One gift we Christians have been given is firsthand knowledge of that fact.
The crucifixion puts on wrenching display not only Jesus' willingness to suffer for our sakes but also our power to make Him cry. In the history of the world, has any other god ever been said to have wept over his people's rejection of his love? I doubt it. That's not the kind of god we fallen human beings would invent. Gods are all-powerful, and we equate power with unlimited self-gratification, fantasizing about it for ourselves and fearing it in others. Faustina's God — our God — must be the real God because neither she nor we could have made Him up. The real God is terribly vulnerable, for He's terribly in love.
Jesus said to St. Faustina, "The flames of mercy are burning Me — clamoring to be spent; I want to keep pouring them out upon souls; souls just don't want to believe in My goodness ... As often as you want to make me happy, speak to the world about My great and unfathomable mercy," (Diary, 177, 164).
It's hard to believe in His goodness because we see Him as made in our image instead of the other way around. This backwardness, this twisted truth, is our great tragedy. It's the reason Jesus urges the women of Jerusalem to weep, and it's the reason He weeps. His grief is so heavy that He begs St. Faustina to tell the world the truth about Him. But while most of us want to be seen as good so that our egos won't be damaged, Jesus wants us to know He is good so that we will let Him take care of us. He knows He's the only one who can make us happy, and like a true lover, He desires our happiness with a longing that's willing to go to extremes. He will die to secure it.
Many times in the streets I've seen stray kittens and wanted to take them in and give them food, but I've known that there was almost no chance that they'd come to me. Primed by the wilderness, they think they're protecting themselves when they hide from the hand I offer them and scurry back inside their various hungers. We can glimpse Jesus' pain if we replace the stray kitten with our own child. That terrible ache we feel when we imagine it, multiplied immeasurably in Jesus because His love for us is immeasurably vaster than ours for our children, is the urgency behind His words to St. Faustina: "I want to give Myself to souls; I yearn for souls, My daughter... [G]o through the whole world and bring fainting souls to the spring of My mercy" (Diary, 206).
Maybe it's tempting to laugh or to feel smug when clever responses defeat the muddled perspectives of unbelievers like Buddy, but in truth, they're our little brothers and sisters who have been duped into believing that our loving Father is dangerous, so they run away to starve all alone. These souls are the ones Jesus reaches for when He opens His arms on the cross, the ones He searches the crowds for through the lens of His tears. If we want to dry those tears, we have to find the children who have run away and tell them the truth: Our real God is, believe it or not, crushed that they have no faith in Him. His outstretched hand holds nothing but good things. And He is dying of love for them.
Marian Tascio is a writer and English teacher who lives in Yonkers, N.Y.