Who, here, is familiar with Divine Mercy? The second half of the twentieth century found a great deal of focus in the Roman Catholic Church on the merciful aspects of God, culminating in the work of St. Faustina Kowalska to explain and promote the message and image of Divine Mercy (“Jesus, I Trust in You”). The image itself shows Jesus beckoning with rays of red and white, symbolizing blood and water, promising not to turn anyone away who merely trusts that He means what He says… in Scripture, from the cross, and through His vicars in the Church. In 2015, Pope Francis declared an “Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy” whereby the theme of God’s mercy was highlighted as a source of joy and hope throughout the world. It is difficult to approach any Christian church, from the Catholic Church on through the post-Reformation denominations, and not hear about mercy.
What is mercy? It is knowingly stepping out of a position of power to assist someone’s need, without expecting reward, compensation or applause.
What is God’s Mercy? God’s knowingly stepping out of His position of power to assist us in our needs.
People who set their positions aside to help others are commendable. What is the appropriate response if they are not seeking compensation, especially when our needs prevent us from returning the favor? Certainly, a gesture of gratitude – but more than an impersonal “thank you.” A personal response, a candid sharing of ourselves, would be meaningful for both parties. In this way, mercy necessarily connects people.
The same holds true with God. In showing mercy, God is aware of our limitations and the impossibility – the absurdity – of producing anything to reward an Almighty Creator. How could we, inhabitants of His earth, give Him anything He has not imagined into being, which we have not already taken from His treasury?
We can give our personal response, a sharing of ourselves. We possess and govern our own will. Yielding a share of that to God is indeed a true gift which He does not already possess.
Numerous teachings on Divine Mercy have been proclaimed by saints and theologians of recent time to counter the despair, fear and littleness we experience with the expanding awareness of evil in our age. Thousands hear and turn toward God in the comfort of this loving embrace. Yet, thousands more do not, who embrace the post-Christian messages of humanism, relativism and individualism with dysphoria and distrust. Thousands fortify themselves in self-esteem, self-justification and self-preservation. Such mindsets reject mercy because they do not perceive any use – any need – for it.
Recall this from our thought earlier this month: Brokenness permits mercy to penetrate the shell of self-reliance. It is through our brokenness that mercy reaches us.
Brokenness is the most fundamental common denominator of humanity. We are all broken. Brokenness will win the battle of spiritual deprivation because need is not a weapon… it is our supply pipeline… our very lifeline. Without need, life has no purpose. Even the staunchest individualist can be persuaded to see – and experience – the validity of this argument.
Need opens doors.
If we have no place for need, we cannot understand mercy; because, without need, mercy is meaningless.
Jesus Himself is God’s finest and most concrete demonstration of His need to connect – He is Need Incarnate. Thus, embracing need is but one shade of awareness away from embracing God.
Consider this: Missionaries of St. Thorlak regularly appeal for mercy by leading with our need, by practicing voluntary humility. By offering our need willingly to others, we very literally draw mercy out of others – giving them an opportunity to experience the connection that mercy permits, even on the smallest scale.
Now, consider this: God Himself demonstrates voluntary humility par excellence. He is all in all; yet, He chooses to need: He chooses to need our recognition, our understanding, and our willingness to trust that He does not reject us in our weakness. He needed this so badly that He took the flesh and constitution of a human to get that much closer and speak His longing that much more clearly.
God does not require an elaborate response. In fact, the words are provided for us in the image of Divine Mercy: “Jesus, I trust in You.”
We might say that Missionaries of St. Thorlak embrace that in the particular way of our charism: in recognizing that Jesus dwells in the hearts of those around us, and entrusting our needs to them, we echo: “Jesus [-in-others], we trust in You.”
Pray: Jesus, I Trust in You!
Contemplate: Does the degree to which we trust others reflect the degree to which we trust God?
Relate: How do we trust others? Do we trust as though we are trusting God-in-them?
To see an earlier Missionary Thought on “need,” visit https://mission-of-saint-thorlak.weebly.com/mission-activities/missionary-thought-of-the-week-for-april-10-2017-dont-fear-the-need
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak