How Does God Forget All the Bad News?

Isn’t it fanciful to think that a prayer somehow wins graces for other people who we don’t know? The bygone era of offering up our day and the sufferings throughout the day, isn’t it an outdated devotion that surely has little merit in our times? If God is absolute perfection, why does he need our virtuous behaviour to win graces for other souls? Sure, it helps us to become holy, and it helps the person who is the recipient of our act of charity, but how can it help others who we don’t see or know? Can it really be true that our actions in some way affect the whole mystical body of Christ? We will be aware of the charitable acts that we perform, or the intercessory prayer that we make for someone. Maybe we pray the rosary for peace in the world or for priests. How about the spontaneous prayers we sometimes say, such as a simple thank-you to God for our family? What impact do these have on Christ’s mystical body? But how about everything else that we do that we are not consciously aware of? The person we subconsciously want to avoid because we can’t be bothered in having to hear their personal plight, or the person at work we regularly become irritated with or snap at? Are these just meaningless day-to-day human interactions that have no real higher design or deeper purpose? If we really believe in the Christian worldview that every moment is saturated with meaning, and that God’s actual or temporary grace is available to help us come closer to doing his loving will, then all the irrelevant day-to-day happenings in the office and at home do in fact make a significant difference.

The problem we encounter when confronted with these truths of our faith is that they are difficult to visualise and make real in a concrete way that somehow brings them to life. Our minds are finite and we inhabit such a small part of the world. To imagine how our seemingly insignificant actions impact the whole mystical body of Christ is just simply too much for our minds to begin to comprehend.

Perhaps another reason it is difficult for us to visualise, and therefore understand more fully, is that if we receive ten acts of kindness from someone and then they put us down, or perhaps we are on the receiving end of what we perceive as an unjust or cruel act, we will always remember this one act and invariably erase from our memory the other kind or just actions we have experienced. When I say ten instances or occasions, I don’t mean this literally, as we don’t count the number of times someone has been kind, just, or honest. However, if we experience just one occasion where someone treats us indifferently, then this one moment will take on much greater significance and will overshadow all the other occasions. This one instance will inevitably lead us to reconsider our original judgement and perception of the person. Yet with God how different it is, as “love covers over many a sin” (1 Pt 4:8). One act of charity, a desire to love God more, a simple prayer such as ‘Jesus, I love you,’ has incalculable benefits to his mystical body. This is really difficult for us to comprehend. What is unusual is that Jesus in the twentieth century has revealed the immensity of his love for mankind and unveiled the mysteries of the Faith more explicitly to souls around the world that at any other time in history. His words, if read with an open heart and mind, shed abundant light on the mysteries of the Faith. We see vividly in the passage below how charity in God’s eyes can truly cover over a multitude of sins. This is from the private revelations of Jesus to Marcel Van, a Redemptorist brother from Vietnam (d. 1959), who received messages from God which have been approved by the Church:

Little child of my love, listen to me. In truth the tabernacle in which I reside resembles a telegraph room where news from everywhere arrives continually. And I, like the chief telegrapher, I must stay there all the time, always listening. News comes to me every day, some sad, some happy; and although the latter are often of no consequence, they are still able to please me to such an extent as to make me forget all the bad news.

Let us suppose that news from sinners comes to my ears from everywhere; some blaspheme my love, others address hard reproaches to me and speak all the evil they can of me. But if at the same time the words of my spouses come to me from divers places, these words make me forget all the blasphemies, they even make me forget to punish the sin of the blasphemers. As if under the spell of a charm, I am unaware that they have offended me, so that I give to them all the graces of which my hands are full. My child, do you know what these words are which charm me so much? They are none other than parcels of sighs of love which are sent to me by my spouses. This is fortunate for sinners since, if I had not received these words making my heart happy, I would have chastised them already.1

What is interesting in the first part of this revelation is where Jesus describes how some happy news of no real consequence pleases him to such as extent as to make him “forget all the bad news.” If only we could be like that! Wouldn’t life be a lot more peaceful and trouble-free. He goes onto describe some serious sins — blasphemy and speaking evil about him. These are deliberate and malicious sins which are mortal in nature and as a result cut off the life of grace. Yet these sins and the punishment due because of them, are forgotten by the “words of my spouses.” In Jesus’s eyes, anyone who loves him is referred to in the Conversations recorded by Brother Van as his spouse. This, therefore, does not mean only those souls who are consecrated religious. He is charmed by the simple acts of love — the “parcels of sighs of love,” as he says to Brother Van. He also describes how he is unaware of the offences he has received and so gives those who have offended him graces which his hands are full of.

The words which describe this are truly mysterious and remarkable. “As if under the spell of a charm, I am unaware that they have offended me, so that I give to them all the graces of which my hands are full.” How can this be? How can a few sighs of love enable Jesus to forget serious offences and distribute graces to the very people who are offending him? God is infinite love and the dimensions of his love stretch beyond the limited capacity of our finite minds. His love for us is beyond what we will ever understand this side of heaven. We see here the evidence for the excess of divine love as God showers graces on people who, humanly speaking, have done nothing to deserve his love but in seriously insulting him deserve only punishment. It is this aspect of our faith that, while unfathomable, leaves us with a significant responsibility. Jesus calls each one of us who have come to know him more intimately to truly believe that we can have an unbelievable impact on his mystical body.

In the course of our lives we might do something for another person where, for argument’s sake, we take their place and perform a duty that they were set to do themselves. When we were younger, we may have replaced another player in a game at half-time and taken up their position in the field. In the workplace we may step in when someone else is ill and do their job until they are well enough to come back to work. While we may take the place of someone else, so to speak, in most instances this does not lead the other person to experience significant life-changing benefits. The person’s work we have done while they are off sick just means that they are able to pick up their job without having to try and catch up on a lot work. In the spiritual world it is very different, and the favours that Jesus bestows on people reveal again the gratuitousness of his love. In the passage below, Jesus pours out his heart to a Benedictine monk about his grief in receiving indifferent and cold responses from his fellow priests.

Love Me in this way not only for yourself, but for all your brother priests whose hearts have grown indifferent and cold. Love Me for them. Take their place before My Eucharistic Face. Persevere in loving Me and in adoring Me for those poor priests of Mine who no longer love Me and who never adore Me. They are many, and the sorrow of My Heart over such priests is a sorrow that no human language can describe, for it is a divine sorrow; it is the grieving of a divine Heart. It is a pain of an infinite love rejected again and again by finite creatures who have become blind in a terrible darkness of the spirit. 2

He then goes on to describe how, in seeing the monk who is receiving the revelation from Jesus adoring him before the Holy Eucharist, he will actually see the priests who are cold and indifferent and will show them pity, with many returning to embrace his divine mercy.

Love Me, then, and console My Heart by adoring Me for them. When I see you before Me, I will see them, and in seeing them, I will be moved to show them pity, and many of those who are far from Me will return to My tabernacles; and many of those who have spurned My divine friendship will, in the end, surrender to the embrace of My mercy. Do your part, and I will fulfil all that I have promised.3

This is truly a remarkable mystery of our faith. What is significant is that Jesus is just speaking to one monk and yet, in his adoration before the Holy Eucharist, Jesus “will see them.” This reveals the extraordinary power of one soul in repairing for the sins and indifference of others. Jesus is also providing certitude that his display of pity towards many priests who are indifferent to his love will result in them embracing his mercy. This can only happen through graces being showered upon the priests who have rejected his love and fallen into darkness. The act of adoration by the Benedictine monk unlocks the heart of Christ, who is the source of all grace, and his simple display of love towards Jesus results in a superabundant flow of graces to many priests who are living in darkness. The divine generosity is of such a degree that it completely confounds our limited view of how, what on the surface seem inconsequential acts of charity. We are invited to see the extraordinary value of all our virtuous acts in repairing Christ’s mystical body. The challenge open to all of us is to think about what we can offer God, to enable him to “forget all the bad news.”

  1. Marcel Van, Conversations with Jesus, Mary and Therese of the Child Jesus (Gracewing, 2008), 15.
  2. A Benedictine Monk, In Sinu Jesus: When Heart Speaks to Heart: The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (Angelico Press, 2016), 180.
  3. Benedictine Monk, In Sinu Jesus, 180.
Brent Withers About Brent Withers

Brent Withers is originally from New Zealand. He is now living in Farnborough, England, with his wife and three young children. He returned to the Catholic Church about ten years ago after being away for about twenty or so years. He has previously published essays with the Homiletic & Pastoral Review. Presently, he is employed as a commissioning manager for mental health services in an inner London City borough.


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