As human beings we are amazingly good at stuffing up our lives, our health, our minds, our relationships – just about anything that crosses our paths. As human beings we are also amazingly good at forgetting where to go to get our stuffed lives fixed. Thankfully our Creater understands us better than we understand ourselves, so He regularly issues us invitations to hope. If we answer an invitation our lives can begin to get repaired and the gloom on our horizon can give way to optimism.
Most of us have come into contact with someone whose marriage is in trouble, or whom we are pretty sure has an addiction to alcohol, gambling, narcotics etc, or whom we suspect are having a difficult time making ends meet or trying to cope with a toxic relationship. Until that person can admit that there is a problem, and then come to the point of desiring to be free of the problem, there is very little that anyone can do to help them. Up until then, he or she is unable to listen to any helpful advice. The catalyst for change generally comes only after hearing the story of someone who has been in the same sorry pit and how they got out of it. It might take a long time for the seed of that story to ripen into action in the troubled person, but it will happen. Such stories are the invitations to hope that God gives us, and which He expects us, as His ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20) to pass on to others.
How often we forget that the name ‘Jesus’ means ‘Saviour’! The angel of God instructed St Joseph to give the unborn baby in Mary’s womb the name of Jesus, ‘because He is the one who is to save His people from their sins.’ (Matt 1: 21). It is sin that lies at the heart of all the misery in our lives. To get out of that misery we need the power to forgive, or the power to seek forgiveness; the power that heals, restores and makes new (Rev 21:5). Such power comes only from God and was purchased at the immense price of the blood, sorrows, tortures and death of Jesus.
Here is an invitation to hope issued by Jesus through St Faustina (passage 1602 ‘Divine Mercy in my Soul’): ’Today the Lord said to me, Daughter, when you go to confession (ie. the sacrament of reconciliation), to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity. The torrents of grace inundate humble souls. The proud remain always in poverty and misery, because My grace turns away from them to humble souls.’
To access this power requires admitting that we have stuffed up our lives. The reason why pride is so bad is because it stops people admitting that they need help and it also stops them from admitting that they want to change.
Going to Confession is a lot like going to the doctor, only better. For the Divine Physician to help us we have to tell Him all that is wrong with us, and show Him all of our inner wounds – the self inflicted ones as well as the hurts received from others. He has the power to heal us. Through His intermediary He gives us advice and the medicine of penance (be it prayer, service, restitution or some form of self denial). Afterwards the uplift of grace comes, which helps us resist temptation and helps us to forgive and seek forgiveness of others.
The season of Lent is a time when lots of invitations to hope are issued. Sadly some priests only go as far as talking about the need for conversion, but never talking about what we need to be converted from (sin that leads to misery) and what we need to be converted to (getting out of the pit and living a much happier life under God’s smile). Unfortunately these priests who speak about the need for conversion don’t understand that we in the pews need a far more direct approach. We need to hear that the major step in the conversion journey is going to confession. If we want to kick start our spiritual lives and ask God for a second chance, we need to go to confession – because that is where the grace, healing and bounty of God’s love is found. That is where the Mercy of God meets us right where we are in our sinfulness, heals us, cleans us up, and sets our souls singing for joy with His personal care and attention.
The biggest invitation to hope is issued by God on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday that comes after Easter Sunday. On this day the flood gates of God’s Mercy are wide open. This day is meant to be the great altar call day; the day when God’s priests challenge God’s people to take hold of the transforming power of the Passion, Death and Resurrection in their own lives by making a whole new start with Jesus through the Sacrament of Penance (Confession). On this day miracles of Divine Mercy should superabound to the glory of God. Sadly the great majority of priests have never really taken Divine Mercy Sunday seriously. To paraphrase a famous quote, it hasn’t been tried and rejected because it has never been truly tried.
Here are some of the promises that Jesus gave through St Faustina: (passage 49b,50a ibid) ‘I desire that there be a Feast of Mercy. I want this image, which you will paint with a brush, to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy. I desire that priests proclaim this great Mercy of Mine towards souls of sinners. Let the sinner not be afraid to approach Me. The flames of Mercy are burning Me—clamoring to be spent; I want to pour them out upon these souls.’ (passage 570 ibid) ‘No soul will be justified until it turns with confidence to My Mercy, and that is why the first Sunday after Easter is to be the Feast of Mercy. On that day, priests are to tell everyone about My great and unfathomable Mercy.’ (passage 1521 ibid) ‘Tell my priests that hardened sinners will repent on hearing their words when they speak about My unfathomable Mercy, about the compassion I have for them in My Heart. To priests who proclaim and extol My Mercy, I will give wondrous power: I will anoint their words and touch the hearts of those to whom they speak.’
How I have longed to hear a priest speak about God’s Mercy on Divine Mercy Sunday! That has yet to happen. The most I have heard is a tiny brief acknowledgement as Mass begins or a small announcement about parish devotions at the end. To some it is of no consequence that the Magisterium of the Church has both approved and strongly recommended it. Others want to preach about what they want to preach about that Sunday and won’t consider that they happily talk about God’s love on the Feast of the Sacred Heart and about the marvel of the Eucharist at Corpus Christi. It has to be the priest that preaches of Mercy and leads the faithful in Divine Mercy devotions that Sunday because the priest is the witness par excellence of the Mercy of God in the sacred Tribunal of Penance. He is the one who knows how great God’s Mercy really is because He has absolved so many sins in God’s name. During the homily is when he needs to preach it. We all know that at the Divine Mercy Devotions those that come are already convinced of God”s Mercy and are leading regular sacramental lives. Jesus wants to reach those who are on the fringe, those whose souls are at risk. In the pews on any given Saturday vigil and Sunday Mass there are plenty of them. That’s why the homily that Day is so important, because it is supposed to be the biggest invitation to hope of the whole year of grace.
Even then, should you be so fortunate as to come across a priest who actually preaches about God’s Mercy on Divine Mercy Sunday, they don’t go far enough. To preach of God’s Mercy and then to not offer the Sacrament of Penance to those whose hearts have been touched is plain stupidity. It is a mighty rare priest who tells his congregation that he will be available after Mass for any who want to avail themselves of the Sacrament of God’s Mercy. Multiply them Lord!. If they only preached on His Mercy and generously made themselves available in the confessional afterwards they would see stupendous miracles of grace. If they were really convinced that these promises of Jesus to St Faustina are real, they’d have an assistant priest already in the confessional ready and waiting for pentitents as soon as the homily of Mercy begins. Particularly with the grace of returning to the Sacrament of Penance, if you don’t strike while the motivation is there, and red hot, that motivation dissipates rapidly and may never ever come to fruition.
So, if you haven’t experienced God’s personal Mercy towards you for some time, get along to the Sacrament of Mercy this week.
If you have experienced God’s Mercy for yourself, tell someone about it – issue them with an invitation to hope. If needs be, change names, dates and places, but get your story of God’s Mercy out there online – on a facebook page, on a Catholic online forum, as an xt3 personal blog.
If there is a priest that you know who might benefit from reading this, send him a copy. They need invitations to hope, too.
Divine Mercy, I trust in You.
St Faustina, pray for us
Father Sopocko, pray for us.