Sunday, May 31, 2015

Misery and Mercy

Two Godzillas are ravaging New York and eating all the people they can get their claws on. One Godzilla says to the other “I always feel so happy after eating these things. It’s weird.” “Of course you feel happy,” the other monster replies, “these little guys are chock full of antidepressants.” 

 Yuks aside, depression is an increasingly serious illness for our society today; 14.8 million Americans over 18 are chronically depressed according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. The numbers are also high for teenagers and middle schoolers, who often remain undiagnosed. In 2013, someone in America committed suicide every 12 minutes. In 2012 alone, there were 41,502 drug overdose deaths in America.

 It’s glaringly obvious that our culture is suffering from chronic despair.

Let’s face it; life can be damn tough. Parents divorce, friends get killed in freak car accidents, unemployment leaves you destitute, health problems can wipe out your savings. Sex, drug, and alcohol addictions can destroy marriages, families, and relationships. Life can really suck, and it seems like there’s not much out there to help us handle it. 

Except puppies!!!

Or is there? Of course, Christians believe that you can always turn to God in times of crisis. But how many times have you mentioned God to a friend in need and watched them roll their eyes at you, snort in disdain, and dismiss “that whole God thing” as nothing more than pie-in-the-sky? Or perhaps you have even done that yourself, thinking that the hole you’re in is so deep that no one, not even God, can pull you out. Or perhaps you think you’re so far gone, so filthy, and so mired in your misery that God wouldn’t even want to look at you, much less help you. I got myself into this mess, you think, so it’s up to me to get myself out of it. So you try to fix things, doing whatever it takes, even if it means ending your own life. 

A long time ago in the history of the Catholic Church, there came to be a group called the Jansenists, who declared that God was not actually a loving and merciful Father but rather a vengeful and harsh dictator, smiting sinners for even the slightest offences and damning people to hell left and right. They even went so far as to put up paintings of an angry-looking bearded God in front of the tabernacles in churches so that no one would feel brave enough to receive communion.

This heresy hurt the heart of Jesus so much that he appeared to a small Polish nun, St. Faustina, and revealed to her His message of Divine Mercy. He told her:
“Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Write: before I come as a just judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy.”
What a comforting message from a merciful God! Jesus condemns no one, not even the greatest sinner, and the doors to His heart are always open, eagerly waiting to pour down a flood of graces upon the weakest soul. In fact, the weaker and more miserable we are, the more right we have to His mercy.

This is a fact that has comforted me through many dark days of depression, loneliness, and battling various deep-rooted sins. Jesus does not look upon our misery and struggles with disdain, but with love. He knows that we are weak creatures, He remembers that we are only dust, and He aches to help us if we would only turn to Him. But so many of us, even good, devout Christians, still continue to see Jesus as a demanding Judge rather than a merciful savior. Listen again to what Jesus told St. Faustina:
“The flames of mercy are burning me. I desire to pour them out upon human souls. Oh, what pain they cause Me when they do not want to accept them! Tell them, My daughter, that 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. There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it. The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I myself take care of it.”

Jesus Himself delivered these words to a humble Polish nun, and it blossomed into the Divine Mercy devotion. Jesus even requested that a special image be painted of Him, with rays of love shining forth from His heart and the words “Jesus, I Trust in You” written across the bottom. 

 Many of us do not turn to God in time of trouble because of two things: our pride and our fear that God will punish us for how badly we screwed up. But imagine that you are a parent, and you just found your child lying on the floor with a half-empty bottle of cough syrup beside him. He’s very sick from drinking half the bottle, but rather than running into your open arms, he tries to hide from you because he thinks you will spank him for getting into something he wasn’t supposed to. When you chase after him and try to assure him that you only want to help, he runs away from you even faster. Imagine how frustrating this is, seeing your little son so sick and wanting so badly to help him, but being unable to because he is (wrongly) afraid that you’ll beat the crap out of him.

This is how God feels when we run away from Him. As our Father, it breaks His heart when he sees us get into something we shouldn’t (like pornography, drugs, a bad relationship, etc) and He longs more than anything to snatch us from the fire before we severely hurt ourselves. But what do we do? We head for the hills, like Adam and Eve did after eating the forbidden fruit. Instead, we need to be like the prodigal son and say to ourselves “I will rise up and go to my Father.” 

 Perhaps we have fallen so hard, so many times, that we don’t think it is even possible for God to forgive us. But this is placing a limit on a mercy that has no limit. Because our own hearts are so mean, so hard, so slow and reluctant to forgive, we place those same limitations on the heart of God. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Never has this world needed the message of Divine Mercy more, and never has there been a greater opportunity to approach God, in all of your misery, brokenness, and sinfulness, to be healed again and again, as much as it takes. Remember, Jesus didn’t allow Himself to be crucified to save the perfect people. He died for every stinking one of us.


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