Maybe my mood is a bit more somber today because of the rain and gloom compared to the radiant sunshine of the past three days. So, I reflect, Thank you, God, for Divine Mercy Sunday! I don’t know about you but I can be Thomas on many days – I won’t believe unless… I can fill in the blanks with a variety of concerns or issues and then the desired outcome. Even though I have seen countless appearances of God acting in my life and the lives of others, I easily forget and let “dark clouds creep in and cover up the sun” and get discouraged. “We wonder if the sun is still up there. And perhaps we begin to get discouraged as our faith and trust start to waver and change to doubt and distrust.”
This quote is from the book, 33 Days to Merciful Love, by Father Michael Gaitley. I have used this book three different times over the course of seven years and found myself picking it up last night after attending Vigil Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday. I prayed the Divine Mercy Novena this week, beginning on Good Friday, and hope to attend a Divine Mercy Sunday celebration this afternoon in LaSalle at St. Hyacinth’s Church. I have had a few challenges over the past couple of weeks, so I found myself opening to the section, Week Four, Into the Darkness.
The book is a 33-day personal retreat (but often studied together in groups, as I did the first time) in preparation to consecrate our lives to Merciful Love. Through our prayer, study and offering we offer ourselves to Jesus and let his consoling love transform us into saints. The book is focused on the life and spiritual teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux and incorporates some of the teachings of St. Maria Faustina Kowlaska, best known for her writing on Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy image. I have never been the biggest fan of St. Therese and her “little way”, but somehow her teachings shows up when I need them. My mother had a great devotion to her, so I wonder if Mom is tugging her sleeve at those times that I need a reminder of St. Therese’ trust even in dark and difficult times. Early on in the study we consider that sin (I replace with doubt and lack of trust) comes from a lack of faith in God, God’s Word in scripture and God’s goodness. Fr. Gaitley offers the premise that this is the deep root of the darkness in the world, people act as if God does not exist.
Yesterday, in my monthly Benedictine lay Oblate gathering, we studied Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical Letter Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. A few lines have been on my mind since re-reading the assigned sections for our discussion. In #92, Pope Francis says “We have only one heart…” and any act that would mistreat an animal or another creature, creation in general, is “contrary to human dignity.” The darkness in the world feels that we do not live with that one heart of love and compassion for all we have in this world and for each other. So we offer our plea for mercy as we pray and repeat, in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, “have mercy on us and on the whole world”.
Perhaps we need to embrace those days that we are more like Thomas and ask for a sign of God’s presence but then wait in hopeful anticipation for consolation versus living in doubt. We pray and place ourselves in the presence of the fountain of Mercy, over and over again, clinging to the love Jesus offers us, as St. Therese did. As Fr. Gaitley points out in a summary section, it isn’t about getting rid of the difficult and dry times in our faith lives, it’s about finding peace, joy and happiness in the midst of all the challenges and gifts of each and every day.
This Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, is such an important reminder for us to reach out to the extended hand of our Lord as he says to us, “Peace be with you.”
Image: Resurrected Jesus, Side Altar Holy Family Church
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