One of the most beautiful sections of the Diary of Saint Faustina is to be found in Notebook V, written around January 1938, the final year of her life on earth. In it, she recounts the ‘Conversation of the Merciful God’ with a series of souls – one who is sinful; one who is despairing; one who is suffering; one who is striving after perfection; and finally, one who is a perfect soul. In other words, there is something in this section of the Diary for every soul, regardless of the state in which the soul finds itself. For now, let us look at the words of the Lord which are intended for the Sinful Soul.
Saint Faustina begins this section of her Diary by entitling it ‘The Goodness of God’ and she opens with these words – “The mercy of God, hidden in the Blessed Sacrament, the voice of the Lord Who speaks to us from the Throne of Mercy: ‘Come to Me, all of you’.“
Immediately, we are reminded that the Throne of Mercy which is mentioned is none other than the Tabernacle, found in every single Catholic Church – indeed, the beating Heart of every single Catholic Church. We are reminded, too, that the Lord is really and truly present in every Tabernacle, waiting there silently for all of us. This Eucharistic Lord is the same Merciful Jesus with Whom Saint Faustina is communing; and it is the same Lord before Whom we genuflect whenever we enter a Catholic Church.
Speaking first to the Sinful Soul, the Merciful Lord says this –
“Be not afraid of your Saviour, O sinful soul. I make the first move to come to you, for I know that by yourself you are unable to lift yourself to Me… Be willing to talk openly with your God of Mercy, Who wants to speak words of pardon and lavish His graces on you. How dear your soul is to Me! I have inscribed your name upon My Hand; you are engraved as a deep wound in My Heart.” (Diary, para.1485)
Despite these consoling and encouraging words, the Sinful Soul feels entirely unable to turn back from the path of sin and to the Lord who calls him, as he has neither the strength nor the courage required. This may well be an experience we recognise in ourselves at points in our own lives. Recognising it’s sinfulness, the soul is afraid. And so the Lord continues –
“My child, do you fear the God of Mercy? My holiness does not prevent Me from being merciful. Behold – for you I have established a Throne of Mercy on earth – the tabernacle – and from this throne I desire to enter into your heart.. You can come to Me at any time; I want to speak to you and desire to grant you grace.”
And now, the Sinful Soul is filled with doubt – can what the Lord says be true? Even for a soul so filled with sin and misery? The Lords says this –
“My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of My goodness? For you, I descended from Heaven to earth; for you, I allowed Myself to be nailed to the Cross; for you, I let My Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this Fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy.”
Here, then, we have the secret of how the Sinful Soul can encounter the Lord, the God of Mercy.
Firstly, contrition – contrition opens the human heart, even by the slightest degree, to accepting the mercy of God. That tiniest opening is all the Lord needs – His grace will do the rest.
Secondly, humility – for pride stifles trust and closes the heart to the action of divine grace.
Thirdly, trust – the belief that the Lord desires to forgive, and the belief that the misery of the soul does not preclude that forgiveness. On the contrary, the greater the misery of the soul, the greater it’s right to beg the mercy of God and to expect to receive it.
In the Diary, we then read the response of the Sinful Soul once it has taken these three steps –
“You have conquered, O Lord, my stony heart with Your goodness. In trust and humility, I approach the Tribunal of Your mercy, where You Yourself absolve me by the hand of Your representative. O Lord, I feel Your grace and Your peace filling my poor soul. I feel overwhelmed by Your mercy, O Lord. You forgive me, which is more than I dared to hope for or could imagine. Your goodness surpasses all my desires. And now, filled with gratitude for so many graces, I invite You to my heart. I wandered like a prodigal child gone astray; but You did not cease to be my Father. Increase Your mercy toward me, for You see how weak I am.”
All of us are sinners and in need of the mercy of God. All of us are human and in our frailty, we seek ourselves and our self-will at times, rather than the Lord and His will for us. For moments such as those, the words above from the Diary of Saint Faustina, recounting the conversation of the Merciful God with the sinful soul, should give us hope and remind us that the mercy of God far outweighs our misery.