I do not play golf, but an old friend of mine does and, one time, when I asked him what his score was, he asked me, “Which one, the real one or the one with mulligans?” Confused, I asked him what a mulligan was, and he told me that, in informal golf among buddies, opponents sometimes allow an unfortunate golfer who has just made a poor shot an extra stroke, not counting that poor shot in the scorecard. Obviously, such an action would be grounds for disqualification in a real golf tournament, and would never be allowed in an “official” round of golf.
Imagine a baseball player being allowed an extra strike, a basketball player given an extra foul shot, or a football kicker being given an extra chance to hit a winning field goal. None of these things would ever be allowed in the world of sports, because they would be called cheating and unfair. However, Heaven does not play by our rules, and Jesus loves us so much that His rules often make no sense at all to anyone who believes in “playing by the rules.”
The Story: Words and Image
Many years ago, in the early 20th century in Poland, Jesus appeared to a humble, un-educated nun named Sister Faustina, who is now a saint. He asked her to write down everything He said, and to have an image of how He appeared to her created for all to venerate and appeal to.
She wrote His words in notebooks, which were converted into her diary, which is now sold all over the world in many languages. The image she had created is now venerated across the globe by millions of Catholics. I have personally attended a gathering of over 20,000 people at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts on Divine Mercy Sunday, which has been designated as the Sunday after Easter Sunday.
The beautiful image is of Christ with His left hand over His heart, from which red and white rays emanate. The red ray symbolizes His precious blood that saves us, and the white ray symbolizes the waters of Baptism. Devotion to Divine Mercy includes the recitation of a Chaplet, usually said at 3pm, the hour of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, which is designated as the hour of Divine Mercy.
John Paul II was the strongest promoter and supporter of this lovely devotion, and it is no coincidence that Sister Faustina was canonized on his watch.
The Message: Contrition, Trust, Faith, and Love
Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos once said that “No one was ever lost because his sin was too great, but because his trust was too small.”
The Message of Divine Mercy is simply that Jesus loves us infinitely more than we can possibly hurt Him. Because of this infinite love, Our Lord will always give mulligans to those who come to Him in sincere contrition and sorrow for their sins, and with a true intention to change their ways, as well as forgive others.
We may not understand such an endless willingness to forgive, but that is only because we have never truly experienced such an endless desire to love. In short, God’s love and mercy does not play by our rules, because the only rules that count are those created and applied by God.