“The decisive factor in obtaining God’s Mercy is trust.
(…) Trust in God should be strong and enduring,
without doubts or hesitations.”(Father Sopoćko)
Excerpts from the four-volume publication by Rev. Dr. Michael Sopoćko
"GOD'S MERCY IN HIS WORKS"
“Man’s thoughts of God are very vague as „no one has ever seen God” (John 1: 18).
(...) If we had never seen the sun, but formed our idea about it solely from such light as on a dull day, we would have never created the exact concept of that source of the daylight. Or, if we had never seen white light, but experienced it only through the seven colours of the rainbow, we would have never learned what whiteness is.
Similarly, we cannot develop a concept of the Divine Being by ourselves. The most we can do, is to learn about His perfections, revealed to us as they are in created things, in the state of multiplicity and diffusion, whereas in God they exist in an absolute, simple unity.
God, as the most perfect Being, is the purest and simplest spirit, thus, made of no parts. (...) It is not possible to sound the depths of all the perfections found in the Divine Being: there are many, and they far surpass our mental abilities.
(...) Of all these perfections Lord Jesus singles out the one which, as the fountain-head, is the source of everything that crosses our earthly paths, and in which God desires to be praised eternally. That perfection is the Mercy of God. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”(Luke 6:36).
The Mercy of God is the perfection of His activity, stooping down to all inferior beings to free them from their misery and to complement their deficiencies; it is His Will to do good to all suffering from any shortcomings, who cannot fulfil their needs by themselves. A single act of mercy is pity, but the unchanging state of pity is mercy.
God’s relation to creatures is revealed in Him replacing their deficiencies by granting them all kinds of perfections. This granting of perfections, considered in isolation, irrespective of the circumstances, is the act of God’s goodness which gives to each and every one according to its will. If we see a complete disinterest of God in granting His blessings, we attribute it to His munificence.
The watchful care of God, to make sure that with the help of all the blessings He is giving to us we reach our goal, is called Providence. Granting of perfections, in accordance with a pre-arranged plan and order, is the work of Justice. And finally, granting of perfections to creatures to save them from their misery and to eliminate their scarcities is the work of Mercy.
A shortcoming in a being is not always its misfortune since each creation is entitled merely to what God had foreseen and decided for it. It is no misfortune for a sheep, for instance, to have no mind, nor is it a disaster for a man to have no wings. But the lack of mind in a man or wings in a bird would be a terrible misfortune.
Whatever God does for creatures, He does in accordance with a carefully devised and scheduled order, determined by Divine Justice. But since that order was unanimously accepted and was not imposed upon God by anyone, thus in establishing such order, and not any other, we should also see the work of Mercy.
For example, the rescue of baby Moses left in his basket in the waters of the Nile river will be called - in general understanding, regardless of any circumstances - a goodness of God. But if we consider the disinterest of God in this rescue, which for Him was not needed, and the baby himself did nothing to deserve it - it will be the work of God’s Munificence. Again, when we reflect that God had decided to lead the Israelites out of Egypt by Moses, we may call his initial rescue the act of God’s Justice. The watchful care over the baby abandoned in the river and exposed to so many dangers we attribute to Divine Providence. And, finally, rescuing a child from poverty, abandonment and numerous shortcomings, and granting him perfections in the form of proper conditions for living, growth, upbringing, and education, will be the work of God’s Mercy.
And because in each of the above instances we are struck by the child’s helplessness and various needs, we may say that the goodness of God constitutes that Mercy which creates and gives; the Munificence of God - that Mercy, which lavishly gives to us regardless of our merits; the Providence of God - that Mercy, which keeps vigil; the Justice of God - that Mercy, whose rewards exceed our deserts and whose punishments undershoot our sins; and finally, the Love of God - that Mercy, which takes pity on human misery and draws us to Itself. In other words, the Mercy of God is the mainspring of God’s external activity, meaning that it is present at the source of each creation of the Creator.
In the entire Bible there are over four hundred passages where the God’s Mercy is praised directly; in the Book of Psalms - one hundred and thirty, while many more passages extol the Mercy of God implicitly. (...) God wants to teach us about His inner life, about His relationship with creations, and especially with people. God wants us to praise Him in His Mercy, so we may follow Him in His acts.
“THE MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL DOES NOT PROCLAIM
THAT THE SINNERS SHOULD BECOME GOOD,
BUT THAT GOD IS GOOD FOR THE SINNERS”
(“Diary” of the Father Sopoćko).
DIVINE MERCY DEVOTION
“Our Lord’s love for us is both divine and human, for He has fully both divine and human nature and will. Hence, we may regard the Most Sacred Heart of the Saviour as the symbol of His threefold love for us: a divine love, a spiritual human love, and an emotional human love.
In the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus we worship, above all, Our Lord’s human love for mankind, in addition to His divine love for us, which, being the love for the wretched, is Divine Mercy. So, in this devotion we worship a trace of Divine Mercy - as it exists merely in relationship with Him.
In the Divine Mercy devotion, a more appropriate material object is the blood and water which flowed from the pierced side of the Saviour on the Cross. They constitute a symbol of the Church. (...) This blood and water flow ceaselessly in the Church as soul-cleansing graces (in the sacraments of baptism and penance), and as life-giving graces (in the Sacrament of the Eucharist), through the Holy Spirit given by the Saviour to the Apostles.
(...) The formal object in this devotion - its motive - is the eternal Mercy of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for fallen humanity. It is indeed the love of God for mankind in a wider sense, as it is not the love of affection for perfection, but a compassionate love for misery...
(...) Accordingly, the Divine Mercy devotion is a logical consequence of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as they exist in a relationship. Now the Divine Mercy devotion exists by itself, and does not identify itself with the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as it has different material and formal objects and a completely different goal. It relates to all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, and not - as in case of the devotion to the Sacred Heart - to the Second Person alone. Moreover, it suits better the mental condition of contemporary man who needs to trust in God. JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU, and, through You, I trust in the Father and in the Holy Spirit.
The devotion to Divine Mercy - the mercy we receive from God in the sacrament of penance - is one of the devotions which befits all souls, as it leads to the adoration of the Most Merciful Saviour, not in any particular state of Him or mystery, but in His Universal Mercy, in which all mysteries are revealed at their most profound (...), for our worship is directed to the venerated Person of God the Man. This is expressed in an ardent act of worship: JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU, which impels a human soul to feel wretchedness and transgression, but also to feel the virtue of trust which constitutes the foundation of our defence”.
Trust is a decisive factor in obtaining God’s Mercy.
Natural trust - as the expectation of human help - constitutes a great power in a person’s life. But expecting help from other people often leads to disappointment. Those who trust in God, on the other hand, are never disappointed. “…steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in the Lord” (Ps. 32:10). (...) in His farewell speech, delivered in the Cenacle after the Last Supper, Our Lord, having given His last orders and foretold to the Apostles the afflictions that they would have to endure in this world for His Holy Name, spoke of trust as the essential condition for perseverance and for securing the help of God’s Mercy: “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
This is the last statement of the Saviour before the Passion, recorded by the beloved Apostle, who wanted to remind all the faithful throughout the ages how important is the trust which the Saviour not only commended, but commanded.
Why does God so strongly urge us to trust? Because trust is the homage paid to Divine Mercy. Anyone who expects God to help him is thereby acknowledging that God is Almighty and good, that He can and wants to help us and that He is, above all else, merciful. “No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18). We are to meet God in truth, as a false knowledge about Him chills our relationship with Him and obstructs the graces of His Mercy.
(...) Our spiritual life depends mainly on the concepts of God that we create ourselves. If we create false concepts of the Lord Most High, our relationship with Him will be erroneous, and all our efforts to set it right will be in vain. If we have a distorted idea of Him, our spiritual life will be full of gaps and imperfections. If, on the other hand, our concept of Him is - as far as is humanly possible - true, our souls will, quite certainly, grow in holiness and light.
The concept of God is, then, the key to holiness, as it governs our attitude to God and God’s attitude to us. God has adopted us as His children, but, unfortunately, in practice, we do not behave like children. The sonship of God is just a phrase, and in our actions we fail to show childlike trust in such a good Father.
(...) For lack of trust prevents God from lavishing His blessings on us; it is like a dark cloud impeding the work of the sun, or a dam blocking access to spring water.
(...) Nothing gives such glory to Divine omnipotence as the fact that God makes those who trust in Him omnipotent. Yet, if our trust is never to be disappointing, it must bear those characteristics of which the King of Mercy spoke Himself.
(...) When trusting in God, we must not rely too much on ourselves, on our own talents, prudence or strength. If we do, God will withhold His help and leave us to learn about our inefficiency from bitter experience. In Divine matters we must learn to distrust ourselves and be convinced that if we act alone, we can only harm, or even wreck, God’s plans.
Our trust in God should be strong and enduring, without doubts or hesitations. Such was the trust of Abraham, who was ready to offer up his son in sacrifice. And such was the trust of the martyrs. On the other hand, the Apostles, during the storm, were found lacking in this virtue, and the Lord Jesus reproached them with the words: “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26).
If our trust is strong, we must beware pusillanimity and presumption. Pusillanimity is the most despicable of all temptations for, if we lose the courage to persevere in good, we quickly fall headlong into sin. Presumption, on the other hand, leads us in to danger (for instance, the occasion for sin), with the hope that God will come to our rescue. This is temptation of God, and such temptation usually ends tragically for the tempters.
In our case, trust should go hand in hand with fear, which is the outcome of acknowledging our own misery. Without that fear, trust turns into self-importance, and fear without trust turns into pusillanimity. Fear with trust becomes humble and brave, and trust with fear becomes strong and modest.
Trust should be accompanied by longing, namely the desire to see God’s promises fulfilled and to be united with our beloved Saviour. (...) The longing for God must be in conformity with His Will; it should be humble, not only with regard to feeling, but also with regard to will, which should encourage us to work unceasingly and to surrender completely to God. After all, a trustful longing should be based on a sincere penance for sins, otherwise, it is a mere delusion.
Trust is, above all, homage to the Mercy of God which, in exchange, bestows on the trustful the strength and courage they need to overcome even the most formidable difficulties.
(...) Trust in God drives away all sadness and depression and fills the soul with great joy, even when circumstances are at their worst. (...) Trust gives us inner peace that the world cannot give. Trust paves the way for all the virtues.
There is a legend about how all the virtues resolved to leave the Earth, stained by so many sins, and to return to their heavenly homeland. When they approached the heavenly gates, the doorkeeper let all of them in, with the exception of trust: trust was excluded, for the wretched people on Earth, surrounded by so many temptations and sufferings, to be saved from despair. Thus, trust had to return to Earth and was followed by all the other virtues.
Above all, trust comforts the dying who, in their last moments, recall all their sins and are driven to despair. Appropriate acts of trust should then be suggested to the dying. They should be reminded of their true home, now no longer distant, where the King of Mercy joyfully awaits all who trust in His Mercy.
Trust secures us a reward after death, as it has been proven by the numerous examples of the Saints. We need only to think of Dismas, the thief dying on the cross next to Our Lord, whom he approached with trust in the hour of his death to hear the blissful assurance: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
(...) ”Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come” (Jeremiah 17:5-6). Here is a picture of today’s world, trusting so much in itself, its own wisdom, strength and its own inventions which, instead of making it happy, fills it with the fear of self-destruction. Inventions are undoubtedly a good thing and in accordance with the Will of God, who said: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the Earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28), but we must not trust exclusively our own mind, forgetting the Creator and the homage and trust that we owe Him.
Let us trust in God in all our needs, temporal and eternal, in our sufferings, dangers and derelictions. Let us trust in Him even when it seems that He has abandoned us, when He withholds His consolations, leaves our prayers unanswered, crushes us beneath a heavy cross. Then we should trust in God the most, for this is the time of trial, the time of testing, which every soul must undergo.
O Holy Spirit, give me the grace of trust - which is unwavering because of Our Lord’s merits, and fearful because of my own weakness.
When poverty comes knocking at my door: JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU
When sickness lays me low, or injury cripples me: JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU
When the world pushes me aside, and pursues me with its hatred:
JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU
When I am besmirched by calumny, and pierced through by bitterness:
JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU
When my friends abandon me, and wound me by word and deed:
JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU
Spirit of Love and Mercy, be a refuge for me, a sweet consolation, a blessed hope, that in all the most difficult circumstances of my life I may never cease to trust in You!”
PRAYER - THE ROAD TO GOD’S MERCY
God, in his infinite Mercy, prepared for each of us an abundance of graces, virtues, gifts, harvests and blessings, but to obtain them we need to pray to express our will to accept all these tokens of God’s Mercy. Even God withholds His graces if we withhold our will to accept them.
(...) Of the two thieves on the cross one prays and goes to Heaven and the other swears and dies. (...) Prayer is mandatory for everyone: the sinners and the just. Without prayer, sinners will not be freed from the shackles of their inveterate addictions and will not obtain God’s Mercy. Without prayer, the just will not move forward on their road of virtue and will not last long in its heights, but soon collapse conquered by temptation.
(...) God will always be the Lord on a throne and humanity will always be a creature at its foot. There is a place for a man there, on his knees, he becomes a man of great worth and joy: “(...) ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). (…) What an abundance of His Mercy God promises to those who will pray. Not only will they receive what they pray for, but already in their earthly life they will enjoy complete happiness.
But are we praying only by ourselves?
(...) The Holy Spirit is the creator of our sanctification, in which our prayer plays a such important role, thus the prayer must - in a special way - depend on Him: “(...) no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit”(1 Cor. 12:3). He shows to us the loftiness, necessity and power of prayer, while inspiring in us longing for it. In other words, the Holy Spirit provides the spirit of prayer, which is one of the most essential conditions for the prayer to be effective.
(...) He penetrates into our hearts and knows best what is needed for our salvation. He gives us an idea what we should pray for and how we can reach perfection. He teaches us also how to pray, filling us with holiness, zeal, trust and perseverance.
(...) Here is a symbiose of the Holy Spirit with prayer, which constitutes the road to God’s Mercy, and, at the same time - by its efficacy - the work of the said Mercy.
(...) To pray and to obtain mercy means to have the Heart of God and the salvation of the soul.
(...) We have to pray with simplicity and present ourselves as we are, with the talents and resources we received from God. (...) Moreover, we have to be inventive in our prayer, draw it from our soul, from the depths of our heart lifted to a supernatural state. (...) I have no idea how much man has to exalt himself to evaluate the quality of his prayer on the basis of his extraordinary efforts, when we ourselves are incapable, as it is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who supports our incompetence and prays inside us through inexpressible longing. If the prayer comes from Him, from the heart, it breaks through Heaven and receives everything.
“(...) they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1)
To persist in prayer, (...) we should not be bound by prayer books, but rather pray in the spirit of faith with submission to God’s Will, adoring His Being, His beauty, His highness and goodness - namely, what will not become an illusion. (...) We may not always have new thoughts, but we can always direct to God our feelings, in which all the powers of the soul unite. Thanks to such prayers the Saints brought great creations into life, reaching to the ends of the world and transforming work into prayer”.
“THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF HUMANITY IS TRACED BY THE EFFORTS OF GOD
TO ESTABLISH CONNECTION WITH HUMANITY”.
“IF YOU STOP TALKING TO GOD [PRAYING]
YOU WILL MISS JESUS AND WILL NOT HEAR HIM TALKING TO YOU”
(“Diary” of Father Sopoćko).
THE SPIRIT OF FAITH
“Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).
With these words the Apostles asked the Saviour to increase their faith, as they understood that faith is a gift of God’s Mercy that they did not deserve. Thus, they humbly asked for that gift as for the greatest blessing. The Saviour replied: “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6). There, Christ talks about the power of faith to encourage the Apostles to desire and ask for it.
(...) To believe means to acknowledge what God revealed to us and, through the Church, taught us to believe in; it is homage that our mind unconditionally pays to the truthfulness of God (...) “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6). Accepting that testimony of Christ and submitting our minds to His words, we perform the act of faith, which - repeated often - shapes in us the spirit of faith. To be born in God and to be His children we have to trust and receive Christ. (...) Faith lifts a soul above the temporal world, gives us victory over it and takes us to the sphere invisible to earthly eyes. “(...) your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
(…) The life of grace received at baptism is a seed that is supposed to give life to the holiness of a Christian, as faith constitutes a foundation and a root. As the tree gains its strength from its roots, the life of a Christian gets it from faith: faith is an indispensable condition for each and every life, each and every spiritual advancement and the peak of perfection.
(...) If we live in faith, if faith constitutes the root and source of our all activities, then our life becomes strong and stable despite external and internal difficulties, despite darkness, obstacles and temptations, as then we judge everything as God does and participate in one permanence - the fidelity of God.
Let us develop and strengthen our faith through proper acts, not only during our spiritual exercises but also in our ordinary activities. Let us see everything through eyes of faith and we will escape the routine which is one of the greatest dangers in our lives.
Let us penetrate our tiniest works with faith, each day from dawn to dusk, and the more we advance in our faith - the stronger, more zealous and active our faith will become and the more abounded we will be in joy and peace, since the more open-minded we will become and the stronger will be our hope in the love of God and our neighbour.”
WORKS OF MERCY
THE VIRTUE OF MERCY
- A DUTY TO PRACTISE WORKS OF MERCY
“The virtue of mercy is a brotherly bond of people, the vigilant mother, who comforts and saves everyone who suffers. It is an image of Divine Providence because it has an open eye for everyone’s needs, but most of all, it is an image of God’s Mercy, as Our Lord said: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
We should understand that this virtue is not only advisable, but it is a mandatory duty of each Christian. Many people share a mistaken view of the virtue of mercy: they think that by practising acts of mercy they practise only the act of grace and sacrifice which is up to our will and good heart. However, it is not like that at all.
The virtue of mercy is not an isolated advice, which one can follow or reject sinlessly. It is a binding law and a duty that no one can fail to fulfil. It comes from the Holy Bible, from the voice of reason and from our brotherhood. Already in the Old Testament everyone was obliged by the virtue of mercy. In the books of Moses we read: “For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land” (Dt. 15:11).
(...) To an even greater extent the duty of mercy is placed upon us by Our Saviour. Depicting the Judgment Day, He put the following words in the mouth of the judge: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
(...) The failure to practise acts of mercy toward our neighbours is enough to be rejected by Our Lord. “(...) for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me” (Matthew 25:42-45).
After reading these words of Lord Jesus, there is no need to prove that the virtue of mercy is our lawful duty, as our just Heavenly Father cannot punish us for what is not commanded.
(...) Numerous verses of the Holy Bible talk about an earthly reward for our acts of mercy toward our neighbours. “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” (Proverbs 19:17).
(...) Jesus Christ promises even greater blessings and graces for merciful people: “(...) give, and it will be given to you(...) For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:38).
(...) The reward for being merciful goes beyond earthly matters. The spiritual goods are hundredfold more precious and they all can be confined to one word: forgiveness. It is the greatest goodness, the most precious treasure and the most prized pearl, which one can find easily by practising works of mercy toward our neighbours.
If one was unlucky enough to weaken his faith and is groping in his life, let him be merciful and, undoubtedly, he will find the lost heavenly light. If one has not yet had the chance to experience Our Lord’s Mercy and, thus, is not able to follow Him, let him begin by practising acts of mercy toward his neighbours, and the words of Our Lord will certainly come true for him: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
(...) The virtue of mercy brings upon us grace and light, washes away our sins leading us towards the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it saves our souls from death, namely from an eternal damnation, as it has been stated in the Holy Bible: “and for all who practise it, charity is an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High” (Tobit 4:11).
(...) In order to receive the eternal reward for practising acts of mercy, certain conditions have to be met: intentions behind the acts should be pure and they should be practised willingly, continuously and without any personal preferences.
(...) What a great privilege it is for us to act in the name of God on Earth in rendering His Mercy and freeing our brothers and sisters from poverty as well as healing their bodies and souls.
(...) What a joy it is for us, that Our Lord let us, in such an easy way, atone for our sins and earn our eternal reward!”
“HOLINESS IS NOT A PRIVILEGE OF A FEW,
BUT ALL, WITHOUT AN EXCEPTION - THE GREATER SINNERS”
(“Diary” of Father Sopoćko).
Scripture quotations are from The Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
table of contents
All rights reserved: © Text compilation – Urszula Grzegorczyk
Consultation – Sister Maria Kalinowska, The Congregation of the Sisters of Merciful Jesus.
The texts may be copied only on the condition that the full name of the source
© Translation: Ewa Olszowa, Copyediting: Matthew Vinall