Trust Completely in Divine Mercy, and Be Merciful to Others

“More Brilliant than the Sun," a weekly series by Robert Stackpole, STD, Director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy 

The series so far:
PART 1: The Plan of the Heart of Jesus to Drive Back the World's Darkness
PART 2:  What Do We Really Mean By “The Heart of Jesus”?
PART 3:  Devotion to the Heart of Jesus and its Roots in Holy Scripture
PART 4: The Heart of the Savior in the New Testament
PART 5: 
 The Heart of Jesus Manifest in His Tender Affections and Compassionate Love
PART 6: 
 The Heart of Jesus in the Garden and on the Cross
PART 7:  From Easter Onward: The Heart of Jesus Lives in His Church
PART 8:  The Flowering of Love for the Heart of Jesus in the Middle Ages
PART 9:  Saint Gertrude the Great on Bringing Comfort and Joy to the Heavenly Christ
PART 10:  Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and Reparation to the Sacred Heart
PART 11:  On Consoling the Heart of Jesus
PART 12:  Saints and Servants of Consoling Reparation to the Heart of Jesus
PART 13:  The Twelve Promises — and the Great Promise — of the Sacred Heart 
PART 14:  Holiness from the Heart of Jesus: St. Charles De Foucauld
PART 15:  Holiness from the Heart of Jesus: Blessed Dina Bélanger
PART 16:  The Social Reign of the Sacred Heart
PART 17:  The Reign of the Heart of Jesus in Families
PART 18:  Jesus Unveils the Great Mercy of His Heart
PART 19:  Popes, Saints, and Visionaries on the Merciful Heart of Jesus
PART 20: To Console the Heart of the Merciful Savior

PART 21: Trust Completely in Divine Mercy, and Be Merciful to Others

In the context of her meditations upon the Passion of Christ, St. Faustina wrote: “Therefore let every soul trust in the Passion of the Lord, and place its hope in His mercy” (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 72). Here is the constant refrain of her spirituality: “Jesus, I trust in You.” I wrote about this in depth in the year 2000 in a Marian Press book, Jesus, Mercy Incarnate, but it bears repeating here:

It is worth remembering this refrain [“Jesus, I trust in You”], because sometimes Catholics have been tempted to respond to the Passion of our Lord in a different way. We can be tempted to turn upon ourselves, to utterly despise ourselves for being the cause of the miseries of our Savior. Our following of Christ might even become an endless penitential lamentation [Catholic Jansenism, one might call it]. According to St. Faustina, however, that is not the principal attitude that Jesus asks from us as penitents. Of course, there are appropriate times and seasons for deep contrition, tears and penance. Moreover, our sins really were the cause of our Savior’s Passion, and of His deepest sorrows too, and knowledge of that fact ought to lead us to lament the miserable creatures that we become, when we wander far from His grace.

Nevertheless, our Lord also does not want to leave us wallowing in sack-cloth and ashes. Rather, as St. Faustina tells us, what Jesus wants us to do, above all, is to trust in Him: a spirit of sincere penitence, to be sure, but combined with total confidence in God’s Mercy (what theologians used to call “compunction”). In one of the meditations in her Diary titled “Conversation of the Merciful God with a Despairing Soul” (entry 1486) she heard Jesus say:

O soul, steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. ... My child, all your sins have not wounded My Heart as painfully as your present lack of trust does — that after so many efforts of My love and mercy, you should still doubt my goodness. ... You have a special claim on My Mercy. Let it act in your poor soul; let the rays of grace enter your soul; they bring with them light, warmth, and life. ... What joy fills My Heart when you return to Me. Because you are weak, I take You in My arms and carry you to the home of My Father.

In short, Jesus the Good Shepherd does not want to plunge us into endless sorrow and mourning. Above all, He wants us to trust in Him, so that He can put His lost sheep on His shoulders and bring us home rejoicing (Lk 15:5-6).

Jesus clearly taught St. Faustina that the same thirst and longing for the good of souls that He had during His ministry in Galilee, and in His agony and passion, He still has for us as the risen Lord. The risen Savior still seeks us out with that same merciful, Shepherd’s love ever burning in His Heart. In fact, He told her it is His heavenly “delight” to sanctify human souls on earth, filling them with Mercy, and that this is the “kingdom” that He longs to establish: His indwelling in each and every human heart. That is why, near to the end of her life, Jesus said to Sr. Faustina (recorded in her Diary, entry 1784):

How very much I desire the salvation of souls! My dearest secretary, write that I want to pour out My divine life into human souls and sanctify them, if only they were willing to accept My grace. The greatest sinners would achieve great sanctity if only they would trust in My mercy. ... My delight is to act in a human soul, and to fill it with My mercy. ... My kingdom on earth is my life in the human soul.

What an incredible teaching this is! Here Jesus is telling us that we can bring Him “delight” in heaven, and even give Him the “kingdom” He so earnestly desires, if only we give Him our hearts. “What joy fills My Heart when You return to Me,” He said. “Because You are weak, I take you in my arms and carry you to the home of My Father” (1486).

If we want to live in the light of the Cross of Jesus Christ, therefore, it is not just penitential sorrow that He asks of us. What He desires above all is that we trust in Him: for the forgiveness of our sins, and for all that we truly need for our life journey — in other words, He asks us to let Him love us: to let Him transform and sanctify our hearts with all the graces of His Mercy that He merited for us on the Cross. The miracle He promises is that when we do that, we actually bring “joy” and “delight” to His Sacred Heart, and we give Him the “kingdom” He longs for most of all.

"I thirst!"
This is essentially the same message, as we have seen, that our Lord gave to St. Gertrude the Great, Bl. Julian of Norwich, the Venerable Bernard de Hoyos (the great apostle of the Sacred Heart in Spain), St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and so many other intimate friends and confidantes of His Heart. As Christ is reported to have said to Sr. Josefa Menendez (Menendez, The Way of Divine Love, p. 306 and 171):

I thirst! … I thirst for souls, and to appease this thirst I have given the last drop of my Blood. … The most ardent longing of My Heart is that souls should be saved.

Saint Faustina also was an exceptional practitioner of the works of compassion and mercy. Jesus spoke to her about this quite strongly on several occasions (see especially Diary, 742 and 1317). Even as a child she used to hold raffles, and go door to door in her village to raise money for the poor of her parish. As a teenager she looked after the spiritual and temporal needs of a homeless person who lived under the stairs of her apartment building. Jesus said to her on one occasion: “My daughter, look into My Merciful Heart and reflect its compassion in your own heart and in your deeds, so that you who proclaim My mercy to the world may yourself be aflame with it” (Diary, 1688).  

Be transformed
From the pen of St. Faustina, we have been given a special prayer for the grace to exercise this apostolate of mercy. It usually goes by the name of “Prayer for the Grace to be Merciful to Others.” Here, St. Faustina asks to be “transformed” into the Lord’s own mercy, so that she might ultimately become a living reflection of His compassionate Heart. This prayer is recorded in her Diary, entry no.163. Here is just an excerpt from it:

O Most Holy Trinity! As many times as I breathe, as many times as my heart beats, as many times as my blood pulsates through my body, so many thousand times do I want to glorify Your mercy. I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and my soul to my neighbor. … Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. … May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me. You yourself command me to exercise the three degrees of mercy. The first: the act of mercy, of whatever kind. The second: the word of mercy — if I cannot carry out a work of mercy, I will assist by my words. The third: prayer — if I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically. O my Jesus, transform me into Yourself, for you can do all things.

A remarkable incident in Sr. Faustina’s apostolate of mercy occurred while she was serving as the porter at the main entrance of her convent (see Diary, 1312). A poor young man, barefoot and with his clothes in tatters, came to the convent door on a cold and rainy day begging for hot food. Faustina immediately went to the kitchen but found nothing there for him. After searching for some time, she succeeded in finding some soup, which she reheated, and into which she crumbled some bread. After the young man ate the soup, He unveiled to her his true identity — the Lord Jesus Christ Himself — and then vanished from her sight. Later, she heard these words in her soul: “My daughter, the blessings of the poor who bless Me as they leave this gate have reached My ears. And your compassion, within the bounds of obedience, has pleased Me, and this is why I came down from My throne — to taste the fruits of your mercy.”

True and ultimate object
What St. Faustina learned here is that Jesus Christ is not only an example of merciful love for the poor and suffering that He wants us to imitate, and the living fountain of the grace of the Holy Spirit that enables us to do so. In addition, our Lord is also the true and ultimate object of all our acts of mercy. What Jesus Christ living within us enables us to do is precisely to love Jesus Christ hidden under the guise (so to speak) of our neighbors in need.

In the life and witness of St. Faustina, therefore, the development of the Catholic tradition of bringing joy, delight, and consolation to the Heart of Jesus seems to come to full fruition. And the importance of this unfolding tradition in the life of the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, should not be underestimated. After all, as Catholics we are all meant to be fashioned into saints of our Savior’s Merciful Heart, disciples of Christ who live out our faith primarily for His sake rather than just our own. If He loves us so much that He was even willing to be born in a stable and die on a Cross in order to win our hearts for His own, should not the quenching of His thirst for the good of souls, and the consoling of His Heart through the relief of human poverty and suffering always be among our highest priorities?

This series continues next week with Part 22: "Winning the World for Christ: The Merciful Heart of Jesus and the New Evangelization."
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