Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jesus's Distressing Disguise - Mercy Meditation, Sept. 25th, 2016

via Wikipedia Commons

At the hour of death when we come face-to-face with God, we are going to be judged on love; not how much we have done, but how much love we put into the doing.
― Mother Teresa

Today’s Gospel reading reminds me of our newest Catholic saint, St. Teresa of Calcutta. She spent her life lifting “Lazarus” out of the gutter, providing tender care for the poor, the sick and the dying. She was motivated always by her great love for Jesus, “in His distressing disguise,” saying, “When we touch the sick and needy, we touch the suffering Body of Christ.”

Yet this little saint of the poor spoke often of another kind of poverty. She knew that the greatest gift she could give to the abandoned and the poor was the gift of love. She reminded us that the lack of love was the greatest poverty, and she recognized that this poverty afflicted even the rich, saying, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for... There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

The place to begin to serve the poor is in our own homes and families; wherever God has placed us. The poverty we encounter there may not be physical but spiritual. For many of us in affluent America, this is where we must reach out with the love of God: to the lonely, the lost, the addict, the young woman facing a crisis pregnancy, our elderly neighbor living alone. Mother Teresa reminds us, “There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them.”


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Renewed by Merciful Love - Mercy Meditation for Sept. 11, 2016

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord.” -Psalm 51:12

The word “create” in Psalm 51 is the same word found in the creation story in Genesis. In Christ, we have the chance to be recreated, made new, washed clean of sin, just as we were originally created by God before the fall. We are reborn! The free and gracious gift of forgiveness and redemption has been won for us by Christ’s victory over sin and death.

But there’s more to it; there is the part we sometimes forget to talk about – what we must do to be ready for this awesome and undeserved gift. That is repentance.  

David repented of his sin against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah before composing the beautiful psalm that is sung today, the Miserere. Paul repented of his past role in the persecution of Christians after his experience on the road to Damascus. He never takes credit for his own salvation, always remembering the merciful love of God that transformed him into a disciple of Christ. With mercy and gentleness, Jesus seeks out the lost and calls the sinner to repentance, conversion, and discipleship.

The longer version of today’s reading includes the beautiful story of the Prodigal Son: a story of hope, unconditional love, and restoration. But it is important to realize that the Father did not go out to find his son in the pigpen, although he may have wanted to. It was only when the son changed his heart, repented, and resolved to return and beg forgiveness that the Father ran to meet him, welcoming him home with rejoicing.

Jesus longs for our return, but He will not force us to accept His mercy and love. He calls our names and invites us to the feast. Listen for His invitation and turn back to the Lord; you, too, are invited to the banquet. Turn, and enter into the joy.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Trusting Jesus With All Your Heart

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:25)
The first time I read this passage, I was surprised by Jesus’s words. How could Jesus, who admonishes us to love one another, tell us to hate our own families? Referring to the footnotes in my study bible, I learned that in the Hebraic culture of the time, the use of the word “hate” in this context was an emphatic way to express total detachment.

This admonition holds special meaning for those called to forsake family life for a priestly vocation, but it is also a reminder to all Christians that no one should ever take the place of God in our lives. Many of us can recall at least one time in our past when a romantic relationship, a close friendship, or a beloved family member occupied the place in our hearts that was meant for God alone. If our commitment to follow Christ is not strong, we might find ourselves idolizing a person in place of God.  

In Paul’s letter, he speaks of his dear friend Onesimus, who had become like a son to him, a beloved child of his old age and a comfort in his imprisonment. Although he finds it difficult to let Onesimus go, Paul does not cling to this relationship. Releasing him to his previous master, Paul says, “I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you,” asking that he be received as a brother in Christ, no longer a slave.

Be willing to let go of whomever or whatever concerns you, even your child, “your own heart.” Give God full authority over your life, your worries, and your family members; consecrate all that you love to His Divine Mercy and trust Him to care for them better than you could yourself.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Trust in the Mercy of God

“Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.”
(Sir 3:17)

Today’s readings all speak about humility: a difficult path to follow, but one that leads to life. In his general audience of November 20, 2013, Pope Francis spoke about how God’s mercy brings new life to those who humbly confess their sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation:

… Jesus gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins. It is a little difficult to understand how a man can forgive sins, but Jesus gives this power… God forgives every man in His sovereign mercy … Through the apostolic ministry the mercy of God reaches me…

Perhaps many do not understand the ecclesial dimension of forgiveness… the Christian is tied to Christ, and Christ is united to the Church. For us Christians there is a further gift, there is also a further duty: to pass humbly through the ecclesial community… I go to my brother priest and I say: “Father, I did this...”. And he responds: “But I forgive you; God forgives you”… this is beautiful, this is having the surety that God forgives us always, He never tires of forgiving us. And we must never tire of going to ask for forgiveness...

God’s forgiveness… is transmitted to us by… our brother, the priest; and he too is a man, who, like us in need of mercy, truly becomes the instrument of mercy, bestowing on us the boundless love of God the Father… are we conscious of the beauty of this gift that God himself offers us? …God never tires of forgiving us; through the ministry of priests he holds us close in a new embrace and regenerates us and allows us to rise again and resume the journey.”


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Strengthened by Discipline - Mercy Meditation, August 21, 2016

"Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines..." (Heb 12:5)
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you,
will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. (Lk 12:24) 
Several years ago, I waited nervously in a long confession line, preparing to reconcile after many years away from the Catholic Church. Opening my pocket bible randomly, I read: “…whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb 12:5-7).

Had I not been drawn to confession that day by the message of the Divine Mercy, that passage might have caused me to slip out and disappear for at least another decade! Fortunately, at that time, the Divine Mercy messages were just beginning to spread in this area and reading them had given me the courage to return to confession. Jesus asked for the Feast of Mercy to be celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter, promising, “On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.  The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment… Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet” (Diary, 699).

Fear had long kept me from approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but Jesus’s promise was the invitation I needed to finally come back. I stayed in line that day and was washed clean by God’s mercy and welcomed home. Even the promised discipline, which I gradually learned from Church teachings as I rediscovered the “narrow gate” that leads to life, was truly a gift. As Paul goes on to say, “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it…” (Heb 12:11).


Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Flame of Divine Mercy - Mercy Meditation, August 14th, 2016


The Flame of Divine Mercy

In today’s Gospel, Jesus expresses His burning desire to accomplish His great mission, saying, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” His passion, death, and resurrection will spark the purifying flame of divine mercy, opening heaven to all believers by the forgiveness of sin.

Yet Jesus also predicts the division and opposition that will arise even among families, as one chooses to follow Him and another rejects His message. As in ancient times, when the prophet Jeremiah was threatened with death for speaking God’s often unpopular word, many Christians today face opposition within their own families and communities, while the violent persecution of Christians increases worldwide.

In his prayer entrusting the world to Divine Mercy, St. John Paul II takes up the theme of fire, speaking of his own “burning desire that the message of God's merciful love may be made known to all the peoples of the earth” and referring to the Divine Mercy messages as "the spark which will prepare the world for [Jesus’s] final coming" (Diary, 1732). He added, “This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness! I entrust this task to you... May you be witnesses to mercy!”  

Are we willing to witness to God’s merciful love despite the opposition we may face in our own families and from the world? Are we ready, as St. Paul says, to resist sin even to the point of shedding blood? By keeping the flame of God’s merciful love burning even amid storms of opposition, we will enter into the eternal peace won for us by Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Divine Mercy in My Soul: Mercy Meditation for August 7th, 2016

Just one week ago, the World Youth Day celebration came to a close. The footage from Poland showed vibrant images of over a million young people from every nation worshiping Jesus Christ in freedom and joy. Poland, a country that faced brutal oppression and occupation first by the Nazis then by an atheistic Communist regime, was transformed. The dream of John Paul II is coming true.

Some of the World Youth Day events took place at Poland’s Divine Mercy Shrine. From this Shrine in 2002, Pope John Paul II said,

Today… I will solemnly entrust the world to Divine Mercy. I do so with the burning desire that the message of God's merciful love… may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope. May this message radiate from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world. May the binding promise of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled: From here there must go forth "the spark which will prepare the world for His final coming" (Diary, 1732).

This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness! I entrust this task… to all… who will come here from Poland and from throughout the world. May you be witnesses to mercy!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us, “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” This message is more urgent now that ever, as revealed in the Divine Mercy messages given to St. Faustina for our times. Jesus urged St. Faustina to “tell souls about this great mercy of mine, because the awful day, the day of my justice, is near” (Diary 965). Jesus also told St. Faustina where to find the greatest access to His Divine Mercy, saying, “Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy. There the greatest miracles take place... come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one's misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated... The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full (Diary, 1448).
These messages are clear. Now is the time of grace and mercy: Don't be afraid; don’t wait; be ready. Place all your trust in Jesus. He longs to give you His merciful love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the great "Tribunal of Mercy," so that you can become one of the "great cloud of witnesses" - the spark that will bring the message of God's infinite mercy to the entire world.