He was a strong, robust man, the undercover cop who that morning surprised me while I tried to steal a camera from a tourist in St. Peter’s Square. He put the cuffs on me, he made me follow him to his car, and he opened the door, and had me sit down. He also got in the car, looked me in the eyes, and he opened the door, and had me sit down. He also got in the car, looked me in the eyes, and all of a sudden… began to cry! Between the tears he told me that I couldn’t go on like this, that I was throwing my life away and that I had to change. I looked at him in shock, disbelief! He didn’t even know me, didn’t know my name. Why was he so worried about me? I was a drug addict, a thief! Dozens of policemen before him had simply taken me to prison and left me there! Why was he different? I couldn’t understand what was happening. This unknown man cried for me those tears that I had never cried until then. I considered myself a lost cause, hopeless. And instead he told me that I could start a new life… that he would have taken me to church and then to a place where I could get help. Perhaps I would have never given in if it weren’t for the tears… for the first time I didn’t feel like an addict and a thief, but a man, needing forgiveness and healing.”
These are words that I heard in Rome a few years ago during the witness of a young married man, father of a beautiful baby girl, now responsible for a half-way house and missionary in Peru! I never forgot them because they made me think of God. If this police officer was able to make his own the suffering and misery of this young man, that he saw only once, how much more God who knows us deeply and loves us like children! How many times do we perceive God as a policeman, ready to see our mistakes and punish us? And yet Jesus speaks to us of a Father. In whom, more than Him, can we believe? Let’s try to reread Luke 15, called by theologians the “heart of the Gospel.” We will meet that shepherd who runs after the lost sheep, that woman who cleans the whole house to find her lost coin, that father who throws himself on his son’s neck as soon as he returns… It seems like Jesus, telling these parables, didn’t know how else to convince us of the Father’s goodness. He is the one that taught us to ask the Father to forgive us our sins! He is the one that continues to give His forgiveness in the words of absolution of our priests in the confessional. And He is the same one who brings out of the Church new devotions so that the message of His Mercy is not forgotten.
Let’s think of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, or that of Divine Mercy!I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this devotion. It all began in 1931, when Jesus appeared to a humble sister at a convent in Poland, Sr. Faustina, asking her to be “the secretary of his Mercy” and to spread a message that is as old as the Gospel, but always new in the measure that its embraced and lived out. Jesus says to St. Faustina: My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners…”I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart.” (Diary 1588) “My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls (…). If only they could understand that I am the best of Fathers to them and that it is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy. For them I dwell in the tabernacle as King of Mercy. I desire to bestow My graces upon souls, but they do not want to accept them. (Diary 367). “Tell sinners that no one shall escape My Hand…that I am always waiting for them, that I listen intently to the beating of their heart… When will it beat for Me? “ (Diary 1728).
What strikes me, reading the diary where St. Faustina gathered all Jesus’ words, is precisely the motherly tenderness of God, almost begging us to ask for forgiveness, giving us new possibilities to receive it. It seems almost as if the Our Father was flipped upside-down. Instead of us asking with humility the gift of forgiveness, it’s God who begs us to give it to us.Jesus says to Saint Faustina: “ Daughter, …every time you go to confession, immerse yourself 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.” (1602) This generosity washes over us all in a particular way during the Feast of Divine Mercy that Jesus wanted the first Sunday after Easter.
My daughter, tell the whole world about My Inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open… The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. (Diary 699)
Therefore let’s live this time of Lent as a preparation for the great Feasts of the Resurrection and of Mercy, thankful for this unending fountain of goodness that is God’s heart.“Our Father, who art in Heaven, forgive us our sins…” (Lk 11,4) “When he was still far off the father saw him, and moved, ran to meet him, threw himself on his neck and kissed him” (Lk 15:20).
Sr. Simona Ciullo
In this time of Lent I will try to grow in my devotion to the Divine Mercy. I’ll prepare myself to the Feast of Divine Mercy by reading some passages of St. Faustina’s Diary or praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The next time to go to Confession is…