We All Have a Deadline. So Now What?
By Susan Fox
Today I emptied the dishwasher and loaded it.
No doubt my accomplishment does not impress you. But two weeks ago I was looking down the barrel of a proverbial gun, facing the option of open heart surgery or certain death.
Such an experience is certainly frightening, but beneficial. I had to face the fact that the timing of my potential death was disconcerting because I felt I was not "good enough" to go — yet. I guess I thought I had some benchmark to reach and that I'd failed to get there. I was conscious of all my sins of omission.
What one has failed to do is very important when facing a deadline — like death. It was a very sudden and unexpected deadline. I had struggled with illness for 15 years, but I thought it merely was stomach troubles. I never realized that it was really a silent killer — my heart. Thankfully, I poured out my fears to the Lord, and He reassured me. Though my sins were indeed scarlet, He Himself would make up what I lacked.
I could trust Him.
So I went into surgery in that frame of mind after receiving the Catholic sacraments of the Eucharist, Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. And here I am recovering my health, with the sole desire to just live and experience life in whatever form it takes, spending time with my family and friends, doing dishes, daily walks, eating, and resting.
But don't imagine that grace of trust came out of the blue without years of preparation.
Eight years ago, I joined the Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy prayer cenacle at St. George, in Apache Junction, Ariz. We study the Diary of St. Faustina, the Catechism and Scripture. Saint Faustina was the first saint canonized in this millennium, and our Lord called her the secretary of His mercy. Our Lord told her that His mercy was His greatest attribute and that the greater the sinner the more he had the right to God's mercy. Now I can attest to that. But until the trial of my heart surgery, these things were just untried intellectual knowledge.
I remember when I first joined the group, I was not much attracted to the concept of God's mercy, St. Faustina, her Diary, or the image that was painted based on her visions. The image shows the resurrected Christ coming out of the dark with two rays of light coming from His side, one red and one pale, representing the waters of Baptism and the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance.
The Church is a Bride conceived on the cross from the blood and water that poured from the side of Christ. "But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out" (Jn 19:34). And such a Bride has to resemble her husband in suffering. That's why children are baptized to be priest, prophet and king. Priest means victim. Christ is the Suffering Servant and so is His Bride, the Church. The triumph of each Christian life is the cross.
I am part of that Church, and that does make me a bride of Christ. But that part about suffering and dying, I just wanted to leave that job entirely to Jesus Christ. I liked staying at the bottom of the hill when Christ climbed Golgotha. I wanted to be comfortable. But two week ago, that state definitely eluded me. The cross has a way of sneaking up on you.
And so it was with Divine Mercy. Eight years ago I was not attracted to it. But I joined the Eucharistic Apostles anyway because when I looked at my daily experiences and asked God, "What are You teaching me?" the word "mercy" came up repeatedly.
In fact, it seemed like His plan of mercy would play a big role in my life, whether I liked it or not.
So for eight years I went to a weekly meeting to discuss God's mercy. I read St. Faustina's Diary multiple times, all the Scripture passages about God's mercy and the Pope's encyclical on Divine Mercy. Like Jacob wrestling with God all night long, I struggled with His mercy up until I found I couldn't stay at the bottom of the hill anymore.
Suddenly, facing death, I understood His Mercy. Yes, I wasn't ready. In fact, NOTHING I could ever do could prepare me for death or suffering. But He would take care of everything. He'd already paid the price of my peace. I stood at the foot of the cross as the soldier pieced His side and blood and water came out. And I caught the grace of that blessed moment. "Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him" (1 Cor 2:9).
Susan Fox is the facilitator of the Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy of St. George Catholic Church, Apache Junction, Ariz. She can be found online at Christsfaithfulwitness.blogspot.com.
Learn more about EADM. Learn how to start a Divine Mercy cenacle in your area.