Love of Neighbor

The following is an excerpt from the Marian Press book 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle:

“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. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.” — Diary, 742

This week’s spiritual exercise is all about God’s mercy and our responsibility to show mercy to our neighbor. At the very core of St. Faustina’s spirituality is God’s unfathomable mercy for every soul. Saint Faustina would come to understand in time that we must become aware of our own misery in order to seek God’s mercy. Let’s get to it!

The young mystic reflected in her Diary:

[F]rom the beginning I have been aware of my weakness. I know very well what I am of myself, because for this purpose Jesus opened the eyes of my soul; I am an abyss of misery, and hence I understand that whatever good there is in my soul consists solely of His holy grace. The knowledge of my own misery allows me, at the same time, to know the immensity of Your mercy. In my own interior life, I am looking with one eye at the abyss of my misery and baseness, and with the other, at the abyss of Your mercy, O God (Diary, 56).

As Christians, we are called to trust in God’s mercy for us. After that, we are to offer mercy to others. In order to better understand the need to offer mercy, let’s look for a moment at God’s great mercy and love. It is impossible to completely understand the great mystery of God. However, throughout history, we can see that God has revealed Himself and His salvific plan. He spoke to His people through the prophets. The Old and New Testaments reveal God’s salvific plan for mankind. He always seeks the salvation of souls.

Desiring to know and understand God more deeply, Sr. Faustina often reflected on the Holy Trinity. On one occasion, she wrote, “I absolutely wanted to know and fathom who God is.” During her prayerful reflection, she was suddenly caught up in what she thought seemed like the next world. “I saw an inaccessible light, and in this light what appeared like three sources of light which I could not understand. And out of that light came words in the form of lightning which encircled heaven and earth.” She said she did not understand any of it and it caused her to be sad. But then she saw Jesus. “Suddenly, from this sea of inaccessible light came our dearly beloved Savior, unutterably beautiful with His shining Wounds. And from this light came a voice which said, ‘Who God is in His Essence, no one will fathom, neither the mind of Angels nor of man.’” Jesus then told her, “Get to know God by contemplating His attributes” (Diary, 30).

Jesus Offers Mercy to Heal our Brokenness

We know that Jesus came to earth not to be served, but rather (extraordinarily) to serve us! Because He loves us, He became man and poured out His life upon the Cross to redeem us. When the lance pierced His sacred side, it caused Blood and Water to gush forth, which is a fount of mercy for us. We must humble ourselves in order to receive God’s mercy. We must admit our littleness — that we can’t survive on our own, that we are sinners — and admit our great need for God’s mercy, acknowledging the fact that we are miserable creatures. I know “miserable” might sound too strong or harsh. Yet, truth be told, we are all broken in some way, and all in need of God’s mercy. Jesus told Sr. Faustina: “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy” (Diary, 723).

Pope St. Paul VI spoke about God’s mercy and our brokenness and misery. He began by stating that his spirituality resembles that of St. Augustine — that there is an inner struggle going on within himself, “as there is in each of us,” he said. The struggle is between the weaknesses within us, or miseria, and the “love of God that seeks us out, to cover the miseria that each one of us is.” He said the encounter between the two is misericordia, or “mercy.” He explained, “So, on the one hand, every one of us carries baggage, we all have miseria within us, we are all broken, but God sent his Son to cover over the brokenness, to redeem it and draw us back into the Father.” The pontiff went further to explain that mercy exists because sin exists, and it must be redeemed. He concluded, “When miseria and misericordia encounter each other, misericordia becomes prominent in our lives, we become conscious of God’s goodness to us.”

We Offer Mercy to Our Neighbor

I am reminded of something St. Teresa of Calcutta was famous for saying. She often preached that, for love to be authentic, it must be sacrificial, and that many times, love “hurts.” Showing Christ’s love to others can be utterly transforming to the recipient of the love, but also for the giver of the love. This chapter on “Love of Neighbor” began with a quote from Jesus Himself: “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. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it” (Diary, 742). Jesus sounds very serious. Of course He is. He instructs us that our deeds of mercy to our neighbor should arise out of love for Him. We should examine our hearts to see if anything there hinders the way we love Jesus. Furthermore, He asks that our deeds of mercy be carried out always and everywhere. In other words, we don’t pick and choose to whom we should show mercy, and we don’t decide when it should happen.

I was once roused from a sound sleep at 2 a.m. when the phone rang. A distraught elderly neighbor apologized for the time of the phone call, but said he desperately needed my help. It was wintertime, and his frail wife, who had just recently suffered a stroke, was sitting in the dark, cold car, refusing to budge. She suffered from advanced dementia, and her husband couldn’t persuade her to go into the house to go to bed. She swore it was not her house. That’s where I came in. I quickly dressed and walked across the icy driveway in the dark of the night to lovingly convince and assist Bev to go back into her warm home. With God’s grace, I was able to get Bev inside her home and tuck her into her warm bed. As she settled in, she clung on to the Rosary beads I had given to her. Though agnostic, she very much appreciated the gesture and felt comforted by the holy beads. God’s love can work wonders through our deeds of mercy — big or small, day or night.

Something to Ponder

Take time throughout the week to ponder ways in which you can show your love to God and trust in His mercy. Consider spending extra time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and ask Him to heal that brokenness of yours that Pope St. Paul VI spoke about. Pray to be more attentive so as to discover the needs of others and discern the best ways in which you can show God’s mercy in deed, word, and prayer, as Jesus instructed.

A Merciful Action

Jesus asks for deeds of mercy “always and everywhere.” Pray on that divine instruction and carry it out. Respond to needs that unfold, and choose to move beyond your comfort zone to help others. Jesus also tells us, “You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.” We must work hard to offer mercy to others. Mother Teresa often said that real love costs us something. With that in mind, pray, ponder, and act!

A Prayer of Mercy for This Week 

(To be prayed each day this week.)

Dear Merciful Jesus, You require more of me than I have given. Please heal my brokenness, and open my eyes, ears, and heart to those who need mercy from me. Mother Mary, pray for me. Saint Faustina, please pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You! Amen.  

You can order 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here:

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