Prayer and devotions draw us closer to Jesus, closer to God, and closer to heaven. When we pray we inch closer and closer toward the eternal. When this happens, we not only experience less worry and more peace; we become conduits for the miraculous.
I know that for myself, prayer, devotions, and a firm belief in miracles have strengthened all aspects of my life — physical, emotional, and psychological. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t get a cold, experience sadness or fear, or sometimes feel depressed. But being in the presence of God certainly changes the way we behave, love, and treat others. Prayer and devotions move us toward spiritual transformation and are ways of bringing the marvels of peace, compassion, and mercy to ourselves and the world around us.
One devotion that has had a tremendous impact on my life is the Divine Mercy of Jesus. I was first introduced to the Divine Mercy while enrolled in pastoral formation in 2007. At the time I was considering studying to become a deacon of the Church, but after much discernment, I decided that I needed to spend my time with my wife and young sons instead of serving the bishop of our diocese. While I took a great deal away from those theology classes and training, it is this particular devotion that has left the most significant mark.
The Divine Mercy of Jesus was revealed to a young, uneducated Polish nun named Faustina Kowalska, through a series of miraculous apparitions she experienced in the years before World War II. In these mystical encounters, Jesus requested that a painting of himself be crafted, bearing the words “Jesus, I Trust in Thee.” In the image, beams of red and white light emanate from the heart of Jesus, the colors symbolizing the merciful blood and water that poured from his body at his crucifixion. It was that sacrifice and the love behind it that radically changed the course of human history.
Those who meditate and pray with the image of Divine Mercy are reminded that God wants us to believe in the miraculous, to ask him to let his mercy pour out on all the world, that we should be merciful to others, and that the more we trust in Jesus, the more we’ll receive grace and blessings in our lives. As St. Faustina writes in her spiritual journals, which have come to be known as “Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul:” “When I see that the burden is beyond my strength, I do not consider or analyze it or probe into it, but I run like a child to the Heart of Jesus and say only one word to Him: ‘You can do all things.’ And then I keep silent, because I know that Jesus Himself will intervene in the matter, and as for me, instead of tormenting myself, I use that time to love.”
Imagine what our lives would be like if we followed Faustina’s example and lived with a faith that calls out, “Jesus, my Jesus, you can do all things!”
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the times I felt closest to God were the times I felt less tense in my life. There is a direct correlation. When I prayed, especially the Divine Mercy, the stress of life didn’t disappear, but the burden felt so much lighter. Questions were answered. Signposts appeared that pointed me in the right direction. And doors appeared that often led to new opportunities or fresh ways of thinking. I don’t mean to say that help arrived in an instant, though there were plenty of times when this did happen. But I certainly could deal with them better when I knew Jesus was there to help me through life’s ups and downs.
Think about it: don’t we often feel better if we call on a trusted friend who reassures us that no matter what we’re going through, he or she is there to support us? The Divine Mercy helps us to realize that Jesus is that friend who lifts us when we stumble, who offers his hand to us when we feel alone, and who reminds us that with God all things are possible.
Gary Jansen in the author of “Life Everlasting: Catholic Devotions and Mysteries of the Everyday Seeker.”
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