I wrote a prayer when I was eight or nine. I remember that I was in my bedroom and very worried. A very big question—for a very small person—was haunting me: What if I died and discovered that I had lost everything, that I had put all my good deeds into a bag with a hole in it? What if everything I believed about heaven wasn’t true?
The shadows of that possibility have darkened the threshold of too many days of my life. The celebration of Good Friday and Easter, and the Feast of Divine Mercy celebrated on this Second Sunday after Easter became over the years a hope against hope that hopefully God would have mercy on me.
A couple of months ago I listened to a number of YouTube videos of people recounting their near-death experiences. In the accounts, men and women claimed to have been drawn up through a tunnel of light, or having been held in the hands of God as they were lifted over the gulf between earth and heaven, or to have met Jesus though they couldn’t see his face. In all of these accounts, while the details varied, there was one striking message: overwhelming, unconditional love that moved people to tears. One gentleman said, “I had a feeling that I can’t explain…it was this most unconditional love, a love I can’t put into words.” A young woman described it this way: “If you took everything you love on this earth and you were able to experience all of it from an entire lifetime all at once, it wouldn’t even come close to the pleasure that was in the tunnel of light.” From a woman who had shot herself: “I experienced love. God’s presence. Light. I experienced God’s wholeness, his grace and his mercy. And unity with Christ that was indescribable.”
One young woman who had struggled with believing God’s existence, and who intensely hated herself, said, “God let me see the me that existed from the moment God created me. I remember being so at peace, so bathed in light and love. I couldn’t get enough of him, couldn’t get close enough to him.” She wanted to know why she’d always felt that God didn’t love her. “But as I fell to my knees, the question that came out of me was: Why didn’t I do more for you? In an instant he revealed to me his true self. And I worshiped him. I remember saying: I could worship you for eternity. God allowed me to look through his eyes and see the truth of who I am. And the truth set me free.”
In the comments of one of the videos, I came across the testimony of a man who recounted having had a vision of God’s hand pointed straight at him. He heard the words: “I told you,” and at the same time he felt an incredibly deep love for him that words could never describe. As God “scolded” him, as he called it, his love drew him closer so that all he could do was weep and ask for forgiveness. “God forgave me and loved me more!”
On this Feast of the Divine Mercy, I invite you to sweep out of your closets any fears or worries about God’s mercy toward you.
St. Faustina wrote these words of Jesus in her diary:
I am love and Mercy Itself.
There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy,
either will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted–it increases.
The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate,
because I Myself take care of it. (1273, page 459)
Our ideas of love are so small, our experiences of delight so poor, that we could absolutely never have the slightest idea of all that God has in store for us. If we call out to him, he will pick us up. If we fall into sin, we need to tell Jesus we are sorry, and trust that he will love us more. Love is, in some ways, also a matter of faith. And the risk of believing makes love all the more beautiful!
We can learn about love from others who have loved greatly. Some people seem to be already bathed in the light of these near-death experiences; they know where they are going, and they serve as role models for us all. These are the people the Church calls saints, and we might even call them…heroes.
by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP
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