Hi everyone, I want to introduce my friend Hannah (click here to check her blog out). I met her in Philly while the Pope was hanging out with all of us – haha, if only. I mean I guess he kind of was, just from a distance. Anyways…she has become a solid rock for me to lean on, a girl that can read me through a snap on snapchat and follow it up with “whats going on?” – when really that wasn’t what I was looking for when I sent that snap. If you follow me on snapchat, you know it really is just a candid play by play of this crazy thing I call life and yet she is able to see so much more. Since Philly I have been on a crazy spiritual journey. God put some amazing people in my life during my time there and she just happens to be one of them. We were talking and she asked me if she could write for our blog – of course we said YES!
So here it is!
Take it away Hannah-
We always talk about how Jesus goes out of His way to meet people where they are at. There are many examples of Him physically going out of His way to meet people along the road (i.e. The woman at the well, Jesus and Zacchaeus, the lost sheep, etc). I always read these stories and that part never really meant anything to me. Okay, so Jesus knew that someone needed His help so He went a few steps out of His way to meet a woman and change her life forever and then she converts her entire town–big deal. Once I actually looked into it more, I realized that He didn’t just go a couple of steps out of His way to meet these people. He went miles and miles out of His way into foreign lands where He shouldn’t have been to meet these people–these sinners. And yet He did it without hesitation. He did it without them asking for it. He did it without them even noticing.
I never really understood what “God’s Mercy” was growing up. I knew the Divine Mercy chaplet and the image of blood and water coming from Jesus’ heart. I knew that His mercy was there, I just never really needed it *facepalm*. Until I realized I did.
There are times in all of our lives where we hit rock bottom. That’s not a new thing in the Christian life–everyone has been there. We all know how bad sin hits us and yet we keep going back to it thinking it will satisfy us. Well, that is where my story with Mercy begins.
Going into my senior year of college, I was so excited to come back to campus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I just finished an internship in Texas and I just knew in my heart that God was calling me to be a missionary with FOCUS. The summer was filled with many moments where God was so close to me and revealed Himself very evidently in my life. As the first few weeks of school began, my prayer was changing a little. I didn’t really ‘feel’ much during prayer and I didn’t have this desire in my heart to run to the chapel everyday like I did in Texas. Afterwards, I would walk out of the chapel thinking, “Maybe tomorrow.” But then the next day I made up an excuse and didn’t make it to the chapel. I figured, “God, I’m putting the effort in and You aren’t giving me anything so I’m not doing it anymore. If You want me, You’ll have to figure it out Yourself.” After a few months of trying to find this intimacy with God that came so easily in Texas, I gave up.
I stopped praying. I stopped going to daily Mass. I just stopped.
I felt like I was the only one in control of my intimacy with God. He had nothing to do with it. Let me tell you something, knowing your own human weakness and feeling like your intimacy with God depends solely on you might be the most sinking feeling in the world. I went from drinking one night a weekend to all three nights every weekend. The ‘hook-up culture’ became a normal part of my life and there were many mornings I woke up never wanting to drink again–then doing it all over the next weekend. In the midst of all of this, I still knew God wanted me to be a missionary. I applied in November and got hired in December. That threw a whole new wrench into things. The devil came slyly into my heart telling me I wasn’t worthy of spreading God’s love – when I didn’t even feel loved myself. I was slowly getting into the mindset that my worth came from who was paying attention to me or who liked me. Nothing else.
Fast forward to FOCUS summer training in June. Let’s just say, I knew a lot of healing had to happen before I got to campus and started telling women that their identity is in Christ. I had to first realize that for myself. About three weeks into training, we had a retreat weekend. I went on a retreat called a Spiritual Impact Bootcamp and in adoration I met Mercy for the first time. After going to an intense confession, I went back to my spot and put my head down. I did my penance and took a deep breath. I looked up and saw Christ in the monstrance and behind Him was a HUGE image of the Divine Mercy.
It wasn’t the fact that Jesus was mega life-size. It wasn’t His eyes that seemed to be looking directly at me no matter where I went and it wasn’t even the streams of blood and water flowing from His heart. It wasn’t any of that. It was His foot. He wasn’t just standing stationary waiting for me to come to Him. He wasn’t waiting there until I had everything figured out to run into His arms – waiting until I was perfectly pure, whole and worthy. No. He was coming to me. He was the one taking a step toward me and going out of His way to come find me amidst my brokenness, amidst my failures, amidst this darkness that felt like it was overtaking me. I was the woman at the well that Jesus came miles and miles out of His way to find and show His Mercy.
I didn’t have to find Mercy, Mercy found me.
This was the first time I realized that it wasn’t only me in this fight for His love. He had been running after me the entire time. That small step forward in the Divine Mercy image overcame me like a huge wave of emotion and I realized that all those times I was hungover on the bathroom floor, all those times I went into the chapel and didn’t feel anything, all those times I found comfort in some random person at the bar–He was right there. It was then that I came to realize that Mercy isn’t about me. It is not about what I have or haven’t done, it’s not about how far I have fallen, how many times I have sinned, how many times I went to Mass or how often I prayed. It didn’t matter if I called out to God in those times of darkness or if I ignored Him. All that mattered was the very moment that I knew He was chasing after me the entire time.
Six months later, Pope Francis declared this year the Year of Mercy. Fitting, huh?!
What is the Year of Mercy?
“During this special period of time in the Church, Pope Francis calls all Catholics to be profound witnesses to mercy and to “find the joy rediscovering and rendering fruitful God’s mercy, with which we are all called to give comfort to every man and every woman of our time.” – yearofmercy.org
I don’t think there is a more perfect time in history than now for a year of learning about, seeking after, or understanding God’s Mercy. Something that goes along with the Year of Mercy was Pope Francis blessing a door at St. Peter’s Basilica naming it the Holy Door of Mercy.
Why the Holy Door of Mercy?
“To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion.” -Pope Francis
Now, going back to the “He’s been chasing after me the entire time” part of the story. I never really understood how this correlated with the Year of Mercy and the doors of Mercy until I went on a pilgrimage to Rome this past Holy Week. I knew what a Holy Door was – we have one in our Newman Center that I pass through every day – but its significance never really hit me that hard. What is an indulgence anyway???
That’s beside the point. As I went to Rome, I knew that we would be going through all of the Holy Doors in the four major Basilicas. What I didn’t realize was how many other doors of mercy we would pass through (I think 15 or 16 total). This just reminded me of how God’s Mercy really does work. We know that it’s there, but we don’t really think about it all too often. We only think about it when we need it. But God’s Mercy is truly reflected in all of these Holy Doors that we passed through. All I had to do was make the pilgrimage there (that’s a whole different blog post in and of itself) to allow God to bring me to all of these Holy Doors of Mercy. I simply had to open my heart a tiny, tiny bit to allow Mercy Himself to flood my very being. That’s how God works. He made us human and He knows that we are human and we fail at everything – But through that humanness He allows us to glorify Him.
And so, I stood at the Holy Door of Mercy–I stood before Mercy Himself–to show my gratitude, to show my acceptance and to show my devotion to Him with a kiss.
Is anyone else going to visit the Holy Doors?