Photo: Felix Carroll
What Does Trust Mean?
Dr. Robert Stackpole Answers Your Questions on Divine Mercy
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Apr 17, 2007)
We are encouraged by the Church to grow more and more in "trust" in our merciful Savior.
One of our readers asked me recently:
One main idea of the Divine Mercy [devotion] is to trust in Jesus. If that is the case, then is there still a need to ask, for example, for intercession from Mother Mary or all the saints to grant us a particular favor? ... In a particular context, I see myself praying to God for Him to grant me this particular favor and asking Mother Mary and all the saints to intercede on my behalf — but then I wonder, if I truly trusted in God then why would I need to bother to pray for intercessions for my request?
What then do we really mean by the "trust" that Jesus asks for in His Divine Mercy? Does it mean that we are to do nothing, ask for nothing, strive for nothing, because God is so trustworthy that He will take care of everything Himself? If we followed the line of reasoning of our questioner (above), not only would we stop asking the saints to pray for us, we would not even ask God directly for any help, trusting that He is so merciful that He is willing to help us anyway, and knows what we need. Perhaps we should just relax and let Him take over?
Yes, indeed, our merciful Lord is always willing to help us, but He also won't force His help upon us. Our prayers and intercessions, and those of the saints for us, do not persuade God to help us (as if infinite Love needed persuasion to be loving!). Rather, they permit Him to help us. We thereby give our consent. We open the door of our hearts and lives to the One who stands at the door and knocks (Rev 3:20). He doesn't kick the door down: He just knocks! We have to open the door of prayer to let Him come in so that He can do all that He wants to do in us, through us, and all around us.
The Church faces the same error in those who believe that eternal salvation is a matter of "trust" in God that has nothing to do with a life of obedient discipleship of Christ. For example, there were the 17th century "Quietists," or some Protestant groups — those who believe in "once saved always saved, no matter if we commit serious sin without repentance later on." The error is the same: Saving "trust" in Jesus is seen as a passive thing, or as a single, once-and-for-all "conversion experience" that involves no further effort on our part.
The "trust" that Jesus asks for, however, is certainly not a passive thing. It is an attitude of total surrender to God that is, perhaps, best understood as an "entrustment" of our whole lives to Him. This involves allowing Him to "take charge" and direct every aspect of our lives, more and more, for our good and for His glory. And this involves surrendering to Him our stubborn self-will and all our actions.
Some people like to quote Romans 8:20, "All things work together for good." But they leave out the next line: "... for them that love God"!
Jesus tells us clearly that authentic love for Him means trusting that His commands are best for us and worth following and ought to be actively obeyed ( see Jn 14:15,21).
Thus, if we have not allowed Christ to take charge of our will and our deeds, if we are not growing in obedience to His commandments to love God with all our hearts, and our neighbors as ourselves (Mt 22:34-40), then we have a much too narrow notion of what "trust" in Jesus really means. We are probably treating it as a mere "feeling," or merely as an act of piety, rather than as a total dedication of our lives to Christ.
Receiving Christ's merciful love with "trust" therefore entails the responsibility to be merciful to others. It is to let His mercy so take charge of our will and our lives that His Mercy is able to flow through us to our neighbors in need. As Jesus said to St. Faustina: "I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere (Diary, 742).
All this is but an echo of Our Lord's words in the gospels, where He said "this new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you (Jn 13:34), and again, "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36).
The devotion to The Divine Mercy, therefore, does not invite us to a kind of "trust" that is merely passive resignation to the hardships of life, or an effortless faith that expects God to do all the work! On the contrary, it is a call and a challenge to entrust our whole lives to His love — including our will and our deeds — in intercessory prayer and in active service of His Kingdom of Mercy.
As Jesus said to St. Faustina: "I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls (Diary, 1074).
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at email@example.com.