St. Vincent de Paul lived in 17th century Paris France. And sometimes in the afternoon he liked to take a walk to clear his head. On one particular afternoon a crying woman ran up to him. She was inconsolable. In between the outbursts of tears and sobbing he was able to piece together what had happened. Her husband, that morning, had jumped from a bridge into the river. He had taken his own life. The woman was broken with grief. She feared the worst for her husband’s soul. But in a moment of Heavenly grace, St. Vincent de Paul was given a bit of knowledge of what had happened that morning on the bridge. He said, “Madam, do not be afraid, in that time and distance from the railing of the bridge to the water’s surface your husband repented, he is saved.” Go and pray for him!
On this Divine Mercy Sunday we are reminded that our Lord is always reaching out to us. Even in that millionth of a second between life and death, he still reaches out to us. In that short span of time, in that millionth of a second this is what the conversation may have sounded like:
Jesus speaking with a despairing soul:
Jesus: O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy.
-But the soul, deaf even to this appeal, wraps itself in darkness.
Jesus calls out again: My child, listen to the voice of your merciful Father.
-In the soul arises this reply: “For me there is no mercy,” and it falls into greater darkness, a despair which is a foretaste of hell and makes it unable to draw near to God.
Jesus calls to the soul a third time, but the soul remains deaf and blind, hardened and despairing. Then the mercy of God begins to exert itself, and without any co-operation from the soul, God grants it final grace. If this too is spurned, God will leave the soul in this self-chosen disposition for eternity. This grace emerges from the Merciful Heart of Jesus and gives the soul a special light by means of which the soul begins to understand God’s effort; but conversion depends on its own will. The soul knows that this, for him, is final grace and, should it show even a flicker of good will, the Mercy of God will accomplish the rest.
My omnipotent mercy is active here. Happy the soul that takes advantage of this grace.
Jesus: What joy fills My Heart when you return to me. Because you are weak, I take you in My arms and carry you to the home of My Father.
Soul: (as if awaking, asks fearfully): Is it possible that there yet is mercy for me?
Jesus: There is, my child. You have a special claim on My mercy. Let it act in your poor soul; let the rays of grace enter your soul; they bring with them light, warmth, and life.
Soul: But fear fills me at the thought of my sins, and this terrible fear moves me to doubt Your goodness.
Jesus: My child, all your sins have not wounded My Heart as painfully as your present lack of trust does – that after so many efforts of My love and mercy, you should still doubt My goodness.
Soul: O Lord, save me Yourself, for I perish. Be my Savior, O Lord, I am unable to say anything more; my pitiful heart is torn asunder; but You, O Lord…
Jesus does not let the soul finish but, raising it from the ground from the depths of its misery; he leads it into the recesses of His Heart where all its sins disappear instantly, consumed by the flames of love.
Jesus: Here, soul, are all the treasures of My Heart. Take everything you need from it.
Soul: O Lord, I am inundated with Your grace. I sense that a new life has entered into me and, above all, I feel Your love in my heart. That is enough for me. O Lord, I will glorify the omnipotence of Your mercy for all eternity. Encouraged by Your goodness, I will confide to You all the sorrows of my heart.
Jesus: Tell me all, My child, hide nothing from Me, because My loving Heart, the Heart of your Best Friend, is listening to you.
Soul: O Lord, now I see all my ingratitude and Your goodness. You were pursuing me with Your grace, while I was frustrating Your benevolence, I see that I deserve the depths of hell for spurning Your graces, Jesus (interrupting): Do not be absorbed in your misery – you are still too weak to speak of it – but, rather, gaze on My Heart filled with goodness, and be imbued with My sentiments. Strive for meekness and humility; be merciful to others, as I am to you; and, when you feel your strength failing, if you come to the fountain of mercy to fortify your soul, you will not grow weary on your journey.
Soul: Now I understand Your mercy, which protects me, and like a brilliant star, leads me into the home of my Father, protecting me from the horrors of hell that I have deserved, not once, but a thousand times. O Lord, eternity will hardly suffice for me to give due praise to Your unfathomable mercy and Your compassion for me. (From the diary of St. Faustina)
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His Mercy endures forever.
Peace and all good,
Fr. Christopher Ankley