We have had a lot of rain here in my hometown this summer. It was a wet spring and it appears it is going to be a wet summer too. Last year, we were praying to St. James for rain, especially for our farmers. Western New York had suffered low lake levels and drought conditions for a couple of years prior to this spring, but that is a distant memory now as the rains keep coming. Not being fond of hot weather, my son and I are reveling in the downpours, the thunder, the lightning and even the beauty of the grey skies against the green and gold fields. Not being fond of hot weather, to us, the rain feels like mercy. Falling and cleansing the whole world, leaving behind perky flowers and cools breezes, God’s liquid mercy makes all things new.
Like the rains we have been experiencing, God’s mercy is also thoroughly drenching, yet gentle and mild. Water seeks the lowest place, and God’s mercy runs right into our deepest wounds and sins. Mercy is much on my mind and heart these days as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the July 13th apparition at Fatima in 1917 when Our Lady showed Lucia, Jacinta, and Francesco a terrifying vision of hell. She asked the children to pray, especially the daily rosary, and make sacrifices for poor sinners so that they not go to hell.
1917 was a time of rising scientism and atheism, when people doubted the existence of hell. Blessed Mother chose that time to show the world in no uncertain terms that hell exists and many are the souls who go there. Today even more people disbelieve hell’s existence, don’t like to talk about it, and especially wouldn’t tell little children about it, lest they be frightened. Children are exposed to all sorts of inappropriate media aimed at destroying their innocence, but aren’t told a critical truth: hell exists and poor sinners who choose a life separated from God will go there.
God Doesn’t Force His Mercy on Us
God is the ultimate gentleman. He created us, died for us, and loves us so much that he wants to spend eternity with us, but only if we, with our free will, desire to spend eternity with him. He sets before us life and death, good and evil, beauty and rot, truth and lies, mercy and judgment and allows us to choose which way we will go.
As Jesus told St. Faustina and Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis repeat often, we live in the Time of Mercy. This is the graced time of history after Our Lord’s life on earth when the Doors to Mercy have been flung open by Jesus’ saving sacrifice on the Cross. He died to pay the debt we cannot pay for the sins he did not commit. He loves us that much. He desires our love that much. But the one and only “catch” to receiving his love and mercy, and thus avoiding hell, is that we have to love him back.
“If you love me you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
This is how we love him. He has told us clearly. We love him by following his commandments, by living lives that are moral and merciful, loving and just.
Who Am I To Judge?
It is quite true that it is not ours to judge the state of anyone’s soul. It’s hard enough to judge the state of one’s own soul without constant prayer, the light of the Sacraments and good spiritual direction. But it is also true that this same God of Mercy is also the God of Justice. The Time of Mercy, like all other eras, will come to an end, followed, according to Jesus as he spoke to Faustina, by the Day of Justice:
Speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. … You (Faustina) will prepare the world for My final coming (Diary, 848 and 429).
Jesus tells us to read the signs of the times. We are living in a post-Christian world. As cries resound for “freedom” around the world, increasing numbers of individual souls are becoming enslaved to sin, addiction and tyranny. Far from becoming increasingly civilized we seem to be reverting to a state with more in common with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. God has been pushed out of the public and private squares and, the gentleman that he is, he has left. The void that remains has been filled with so much that degrades, divides, and ultimately destroys us. The signs Jesus told us to be on the watch for are all around us from wars in distant headlines to violence next door and anger in our own hearts.
But no one knows the mind of God or the time clock he keeps. Whether the Day of Justice comes in our lifetime or in a thousand years, that “day” will arrive for each of us at our individual deaths. Death, Judgment, Heaven & Hell: these four last things will come for each and every soul that God has given life to.
It Is God’s Place To Judge
While he is mercy and love, he is also perfect justice. Unless you desire and ask for his mercy, you will receive his justice. In the official documents from the Fatima apparitions, Lucia writes:
Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.
So many souls, hardened to goodness, truth, and beauty, hardened to mercy and love itself, say “no” and in God’s perfect justice are given their will’s desire: hell.
GOD LOVES YOU!
All you need to do to open up to that love is throw yourself into his merciful arms. The Sacrament of Confession is the Gate of Mercy. Mercy flows like a mighty Niagara through that gate and will wash away your every sorrow, pain and regret, making you new and whole again, free from the burden you didn’t even know you were bearing, free to receive that life giving love Jesus tells Faustina is burning in his heart for you.
“O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.”
This is the time of mercy. This 100th anniversary year of Fatima is a graced time from Our Mother Mary, given to us that we might look back at what a culture gradually separating itself from God’s mercy and grace yields. We all see the disintegration in society, in the human person; we all see the despair and the destruction. Run to Mary’s motherly arms. She will console you, encourage you and help you in turn run to Jesus’ arms of mercy.
All grace flows from mercy…even if a person’s sins were as dark as night, God’s mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary: that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest (Diary, 1507).
Do not wait. No one knows when or how the time of mercy will end. For you the end may come today. All the Saints in heaven are praying for you, cheering you on, hoping you will say “yes” to the great unfathomable gift of God’s mercy. Do not believe the lies that your sins are beyond mercy, that God could not forgive you, nor love you. We all make decisions we regret in our lives, have things we are ashamed of having done. But making the decision to throw yourself into Jesus’ merciful arms is a decision you will not regret, but rather spend eternity thanking God that you received the grace to make it.
If our all-loving Mother felt it was important to show the vision of hell to three innocent shepherd children in a much more innocent time and place, it is vastly more important for today’s souls to know this truth. Hell is real and many are the souls who go there. But the mercy of heaven is also real and ALL are the souls who may choose to go there! Love mercy! Love Jesus! Follow his commandments!
Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy…Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask (Diary, 1146).