God Is Merciful

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday and I am so pleased that I remembered to pray the Novena and chaplet this year.  Today we are remembering a Polish nun, a Polish Pope, and the grieving country of Poland over the loss of their President and other government officials in a terrible plane crash.

It seems of late that the mantra of “God is merciful” has proven to calm my anxieties in dealing with changes in my career — and the usual family stuff of life.  When my mind begins to race — to worry about things that have not happened yet — when my ‘worst case scenario’ plays out in my head — I force out the thoughts by repeating over and over “God is merciful, God is merciful, God is merciful.”

Established only a year following my reception into the Church, Divine Mercy Sunday parallels my Catholic life.   Pope John Paul II’s great devotion to Blessed Faustina and Divine Mercy gave way to her canonization and the establishment of the Sunday following Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday just 10 years ago.  Just as my Catholic life coincides with Divine Mercy, my Protestant life coincided with the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II.  He was my face of the Church — the voice of Christ in the world.  It seems quite fitting that God took him on the Saturday Vigil of the Feast of Divine Mercy in 2005.  I feel like I lost him way too soon after becoming Catholic.  But, I was so blessed to attend World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002 and to see him at the Wednesday General Audience on two different trips in 2003 and 2004.

When reading or listening to scripture, I never know what may stand out — as though I’d never heard it before.  In today’s first reading from the book of Acts 5:12-16, the Apostles are performing signs and wonders such that the people are bringing people out on cots for healing.  It says, “Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.”  Without listening closely, one might attribute this to Jesus.  After all, my favorite miracle is of the woman who suffered years of hemorrhaging.  She reached out to touch just the hem of His garment and he ‘felt the power go out of him’ as she was healed.  The passage in Acts is not of Jesus but of Peter — that if just the shadow of Peter would fall on them — they would be healed.

The wind — I will always remember the wind.  At World Youth Day in Toronto, I went completely unprepared to sleep on the ground for the Saturday night Vigil.  Such as it was, we pitched makeshift tents of tarp.  We were awakened early — before dawn — to torrential rains.  We awakened — groaned — raised umbrellas  — readjusted ‘tents’ — huddled under said tents and prayed the rosary — wondered if the rain would stop in time for Sunday Mass.  The closer it got time for Mass, the more the rain began to taper off to light rain — drizzle.  It became partly cloudy — sun tempted to peek around the clouds — misting rain.  Then, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II entered the far right of the stage.  From the moment he appeared to the moment he arrived at center stage, a great wind swept across the airfield — partly cloudy became sunny — by the time Mass was over we were dry and the sky was brilliant blue.   On the day of his funeral, as his casket lay in St. Peter’s Square — a closed book of the Gospels lay on top of the closed casket — until the wind came.  As I watched live on television, I saw the wind flip the Gospels open and pages flying wildly — what page was the Holy Spirit looking for?  I wonder….. the wind.

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