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Divine Mercy

This revised edition takes you on a tour of Divine Mercy throughout salvation history, through the Old and New Testaments, in the writings of the Church's great theologians, and in the lives and writings of the saints down through the ages.

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Which is He: A God of Wrath or of Mercy?

Dr. Robert Stackpole Answers Your Questions on Divine Mercy

By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Aug 27, 2014)
People reading the Diary of St. Faustina for the first time are sometimes surprised to find passages in which Jesus tells her about God's "wrath" and "anger," and not just about His mercy.

For example, speaking of the rays pouring forth from His Heart in the Image of The Divine Mercy, Jesus said to her (entry 299): "These rays shield the soul from the wrath of My Father. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him."

The voice of the Heavenly Father also spoke to St. Faustina about the power of the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy to appease God's wrath (entry 811): "God's anger is placated, unfathomable mercy envelops the soul, and the very depths of My tender mercy are moved for the sake of the sorrowful Passion of My Son" (see also entry 476).

If God is so merciful and loving, why does He speak to St. Faustina about His wrath and anger? One of our readers, named "J.P.," sent me a question about this that sums up the problem very well: "Can you elaborate more on the concept of 'God's anger'? I want to understand what it means for God to be angry at us sinners. ... I don't blame Him, and I believe He has every right to be angry at us ... but how do we reconcile the idea of an angry God with one who has infinite mercy for His children? Especially since, if I am not mistaken, it is Jesus who is mentioning this term to St. Faustina."

Thanks J.P., for putting the question so well. Of course, if we are honest with ourselves, we know we all deserve a fair dose of Divine Anger. But isn't the gospel message, and the Divine Mercy message given to St. Faustina, precisely the "good news" that He is NOT that kind of God?

First, let's try to clear away any clouds of confusion. Let's start by defining what God's anger is not, and could never be. Holy Scripture and the Catholic Tradition do not mean by God's "wrath" and "anger" that He has a bad temper that needs to be appeased before He can be merciful to us, or that He "feels" angry with us at times, and needs to be "calmed down" by our repentance!

God does not have changing feelings or attitudes. If there are passages in Scripture that seem to imply that He does, these need to be understood as metaphorical ways of speaking about God's total opposition to evil and total support of all good. The First Vatican Council stated clearly that God is "almighty, eternal ... infinite in intelligence, in will, and in all perfection ... absolutely simple and immutable ... of supreme beatitude in and from Himself."

"Immutable" means unchangeable, in that He radiates every "perfection" at every moment, and dwells in infinite "beatitude" or, in other words, infinite joy. This also means that God does not have a strict and vengeful side to His personality that needs to be "bought off" before He can be merciful to us. God has no "sides" to His character at all. Hard as this may be for us (as finite creatures) to understand, God is always infinitely perfect in every way, perfectly merciful AND perfectly just in everything that He does. In fact, all his perfections are manifest in His every action.

Now that we know what God's anger is not, let's try to define what it is: the divine perfection of "justice," a justice by which He permits the self-destructive effects of sin and evil to run their course, thereby rendering to the sinner his due. In other words, God's "wrath" means that if we are stubbornly evil and impenitent, He will permit our sins to have their inevitable destructive (and especially self-destructive) effects upon our bodies and souls.

It's all there in the first chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans. If we insist on going our own way, following the "I did it my way" philosophy (made famous in Frank Sinatra's hit song!), then God's anger means that He will respect the freedom He gave to us, and say to us, in effect: "OK, do it your way, if you insist. I will not compel you to turn away from your sins and be sanctified. But if you do decide to 'do it your way,' you will have to experience the rotten fruits — the self-destructive effects — of the path you have chosen, both in this life and the life to come."

For those cruel and cold-hearted souls who remain stubbornly impenitent and who resist God's grace to the end of their lives, God's anger takes the form of the "eternal punishment" of sinners, which simply means that He allows them to turn their backs on Him and live forever in their self-chosen exile from the light of His countenance.

That is why the catechism defines "hell" as essentially "a state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed" (1033). As Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, explained in the book Pillars of Fire in My Soul: The Spirituality of St. Faustina (Marian Press, 2003): God is totally opposed to all evil, and sends His lightning bolts to oppose it (so to speak), yet we cling by our sins to the lightning rod of evil, and then complain that He is a God of wrath!

Clearly, God does not want us to suffer His wrath and indignation. As Jesus once said to St. Faustina (Diary entry 1588): "I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force Me to do so; My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice." Another time He said to her (entry 1728) that when sinful souls "bring all My graces to naught, I begin to be angry with them, leaving them alone and giving them what they want."

Thanks be to God, J.P., that His mercy is so much greater than our sins! We do not need to be afraid at all, for as He said to St. Faustina (entry 1485): "Do not be afraid of your Savior, O sinful soul. I make the first move to come to you, for I know that by yourself you are unable to come to Me. Child, do not run away from your Father; be willing to talk openly with your God of mercy who wants to speak words of pardon and lavish His graces on you. ... My Mercy is greater than your sins, and those of the entire world."

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 questions@thedivinemercy.org.

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Beverly — Aug 27, 2014 - 14:13 EDT

This is so apropos to what is happening in the world today with the terrorists' attacks...we as believers must stand in the gap for those who are victims in the midst of great suffering...holding them dear to our hearts, Our Lady's heart, and Our Lord's heart...praying that God will be merciful to those who are innocent victims in these war torn regions...

Haydee — Aug 27, 2014 - 15:06 EDT

Our merciful God please heal the heart of your children who do not know you. Let your compassionate heart through the sorrowful passion of your son lead them to you. Increase our faith in Jesus name all the angels and the saints our Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit. Jesus I Trust in You please heal all the broken hearted, in distress, lonely and all the sinners. Amen.

Caren — Aug 27, 2014 - 20:08 EDT

Yes,God is Merciful since I was young I heard his thunder voice and the bright eyes of God and the lord Jesus. Because I always running away from him he give me his chastisement but he will never let you completely down. Until one day,I decided to surrender completely my life and my soul to Jesus at that day my dream vision to God never stop, especially if I pray for those suffering souls,abandoned all these earthly materials,and do some charity to poor. God never stop giving us a lot of graces but of course Satan and his evils are always there he is always watching me if my faith will failed as I did before but I trust to Jesus and to the blessed Mother . God is Merciful he is like our Father who give us punishment when we did some wrong but he is love he is always there to answer you "ASK ,SEEK and KNOCK " the door will be open for you have patience. Pray with all your heart and your soul.

RJ — Aug 28, 2014 - 20:47 EDT

My mother was a huge devotee of Divine Mercy...she always had a stack of the cards with the image and how to say the chaplet and would just hand them out to anyone she would see! By virtue of her "pestering" I learned about it and would say the novena at Easter, but that's about it.
My mom passed 2 years ago and I thank God for the gift she gave me....It seems to be the only consolation in this miserable world...As I read and learn more and more about DM, I am amazed at the depths of His mercy...it takes a while to sink in how much He loves us, but He does.

Pam — Aug 29, 2014 - 1:56 EDT

Beverly..you said exactly what is in my heart too. We must be in constant state of prayer..praise..thanksgiving..and supplication for people all over the world. We need to lift up especially the persecuted and tortured..God help them. God please surround them with your holy angels..let them feel your presence and peace and strength all around them.let them be confident of Your love and forgiveness. Help them to love and comfort one another in prayer..praise..thanksgiving..and song as the face their tormentors. Help them to forgive these monsters. Let Your angels escort them to Your presence O Lord! Amen! Come soon Lord Jesus!


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