As I was thinking about the approaching Feast of Divine Mercy this Sunday, I tried to remember the time in my life that I most keenly experienced the Lord’s mercy. The memory immediately surfaced—the occasion of my third miscarriage.
My earlier two miscarriages, although difficult, were within the first twelve weeks of my pregnancies. I grieved for those lost children and commended them to the Lord. I was comforted by the fact that I had baptized their tiny persons and felt confident that they were with God. My third miscarriage, however, was very different. I had experienced some signs that I might not carry the baby to term, but by the fifth month, I had begun to be hopeful. And then one day, midway through the morning, I began hemorrhaging. I called a friend who rushed over to care for my young boys, and my husband hurried home to take me to the hospital. I hadn’t thought about the fact that I would experience labor, but I certainly did. The whole experience was beyond hard.
Once home from the hospital, I just wanted to stay home and “hide.” I felt too raw emotionally even for kind people to try to console me. My husband, however, wise man that he is, knew that I needed to be with people. We all went to Mass, and then to a charismatic prayer meeting with a group we belonged to. While there, as the music swelled around me, I pictured Jesus sitting in a chair with our baby raised up in his arms. The baby was laughing delightedly in that special way that babies have. Although the sorrow from my loss was still with me, my heart rejoiced as I recognized the truth of my child’s new life. This gift of the Holy Spirit’s comfort came to me when surrounded by the body of believers in worship. I look back and am grateful to God that I did not hide and stay isolated in my pain.
The following week a good friend came over. It was 1975, and many of us decorated with wall hangings because they were often attractive and always more inexpensive than art. Cassie said that she was making a banner for me, and she knew just how she would decorate it. What she wanted from me was what it should say. I really didn’t know, so she said, “Well, what did you learn throughout the last six months? You could express that on a banner, and you’d always have it as a reminder.” These words came immediately to mind: “His steadfast love endures forever.” So that’s what she put on the banner, and it hung there on our wall for many years, reminding us every day of the Lord’s great and eternal love.
How can this be so? How could I go through one of the most difficult periods of my life and come out on the other end thinking, “His steadfast love endures forever?” Because he is mercy. Ten days before the feast we celebrate today, Jesus hung on a cross and showed each one of us the extent of his love and how great was (and is) his mercy: “Father, forgive them.” How can this be so? How can it be that a response to betrayal, denial, and crucifixion is forgiveness? Because his steadfast love endures forever. Because he is love beyond all telling. Because he is mercy. And today we celebrate with gratitude that he is, in fact, Divine Mercy.