The Feast of Divine Mercy holds a very special place in my heart, and the “Jesus, I Trust in You” message of this feast has been popping up in my life a lot lately. There’s something about imagining those pure, beautiful rays from Jesus penetrating every part of me that is incredibly comforting. Mercy and compassion readily flow from Jesus’ heart, and there’s no turning that off. He’s there offering His rays of mercy any and every time I turn to Him. “Jesus, I Trust in You” is a beautifully simple and profound prayer that’s so easy for me to say throughout the day. Sometimes, when I’m having a particularly hard time, that’s the only prayer I can get out, yet it’s so rich.
The Divine Mercy Chaplet became a regular part of my life back in 2009. In the last couple of months of my dad’s life, he was at home on Hospice, and the Sister Servants of Mary would come to sit with him 3 nights per week. It is their amazing ministry to care for the dying, and it was beautiful to watch the nuns care for and pray with my dad. One of the nuns introduced him to the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and he found a lot of comfort in it. The night that my dad passed away was not a night that Sister was supposed to come, but she called earlier that day and asked if she could come that evening instead of the next due to the need of another family. Sister arrived early that evening to sit with my dad, and she suggested we pray the chaplet first once she saw his condition. My dad was no longer conscious or able to open his eyes, and he was laboring to breathe. It didn’t appear that he could hear us, but we sat around him and prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet out loud. Immediately after we completed the chaplet, my dad took his last breath. It was as if he was waiting to say that chaplet one last time before departing the earth! It was an incredibly powerful moment, and that is when my devotion to Divine Mercy began. I had a lot to learn (and still do).
Fast forward to a little less than 6 years after his death. I had said the Divine Mercy Novena leading up to Divine Mercy Sunday, as I had been doing since learning more about it. I didn’t know that my dad had written me a letter, as neither my mom nor I came across any type of letter as we sorted through his belongings. On Divine Mercy Sunday 2015, going on 6 years since my dad had passed, my mom grabbed a certain file that she rarely used, and out of this very thick file, just ONE envelope fell to the ground. Written on the outside of the envelope in my dad’s handwriting was, “Alexa…Open upon my death.” I immediately started crying and was covered in goosebumps that we came across this letter on Divine Mercy Sunday after all that time. It was clear to me that God’s hand was on my life, even in the midst of so much suffering. He knew where I was and what I was going through, and He had a plan, even though it often felt to me like He didn’t.
I was so glad to have the letter, and I could see God’s hand on it, but I must admit that I wondered why it took almost 6 years to find it. I had been housebound, and things were so tough, so that letter could have brought me comfort during those years. My finding it on Divine Mercy Sunday strengthened my faith, so I posted the story on Facebook in case even one other person found encouragement from it like I did. I was blown away by the number of people who reached out to me saying that they were going through a crisis of faith and needed some sign or something to hold on to, and that my story was a ray of hope that strengthened their faith. This was one of the few times in my life where I feel like God “pulled back the curtain” a little to show me that He is always up to far more than I could imagine. I realized then that if I had found my dad’s letter soon after his death, there wouldn’t have been a story to tell, so it wouldn’t have impacted anyone else. It was that waiting- that painful gap of almost 6 years- then the finding of the letter on Divine Mercy Sunday that made this story so powerful and impactful to others. Selfishly I had wished that I had gotten the letter right away when the grief was so intense, but I saw that God asked me to wait so that He could comfort others with this too. Yes Lord, You know best!
The Divine Mercy theme has presented itself to me many times along the way, like last month when on the way home from adoration, my mom and I went to a random U-turn instead of the U-turn we were supposed to take. God placed a poster-sized image of Divine Mercy in front of my face on the back of the SUV in front of us in the U-turn! (See last blog post. He really needed to get my attention on this trust issue!) I’ve never seen something that large on the window of a vehicle before, much less the image of Divine Mercy! The vehicle then made another U-turn and went in the opposite direction without stopping anywhere first, which made no sense. It was no coincidence that this happened though, especially since I was lamenting and asking Jesus what He wanted of me exactly when we pulled behind that SUV! The message that I keep getting is that He wants me to trust despite my circumstances.
Then during Holy Week this year, my mom and I headed to a church that was offering confession. We got there, but the line was extremely long (how amazing to see!). I can’t stand that long because of my muscle situation, nor could I sit in the type of pew in that church, so after a few minutes we left, planning to go to a different church the next day. We passed another church on the way home and saw cars there, so when I got home, I went on their website to find that they too were offering confession, so headed back there. When I walked into the confessional, I saw a picture of Divine Mercy right there on the wall! I’ve never seen that in a confessional before, but I immediately got goosebumps and felt God’s presence and message of trust once again. It ended up being the best confession experience of my life, and the priest had so many wonderful things to say to me about persevering in suffering. It wasn’t even my plan to go to that particular church, but there was Divine Mercy again- both in the image and in the sacrament!
I went back to confession at that same church this weekend since you can receive a plenary indulgence for going to confession and receiving the Eucharist on the Feast of Divine Mercy. Lord knows I am in need of His mercy, so I went back for another helping of it, especially since trusting in Him is one of the things I’m struggling most with right now. Funny how the thing I am struggling most with- trust- is the thing that God is asking of me and reminding me of the most right now. I smiled at the sight of the Divine Mercy image as I entered. The same priest heard my confession, and this time he suggested I read the section on suffering in 1 Peter 4.
1 Peter 4:19 really hit home for me: “Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.” There’s that word, ENTRUST! The message for me to trust is coming through loud and clear right now, and I also appreciated being reminded that God is faithful, because it’s easier to trust in someone who is faithful. The “suffering in accordance with God’s will” also resonated with me because it reminded me that sometimes suffering still occurs even when it’s not your fault and even when you are seeking God’s will for your life. The “continuing to do good” part was a necessary reminder that good can still come out of bad circumstances and suffering- that God doesn’t need ideal circumstances in order to work! In that last line, God also encouraged me to write this blog post today- to share my struggles with trust and my experiences with Divine Mercy- in the hope that others are encouraged and draw near to His Divine Mercy as well. He is there, always, waiting for each of us to run to Him- even when we struggle, even we when doubt, even when we are numb. He is the same, no matter in what condition we come to Him. Jesus, I trust in You.