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.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Treasures in Heaven: Mercy Meditation, July 31st, 2016


Treasures in Heaven

Today’s readings all remind us of the transience of life on earth, and the importance of seeking what is beyond: the treasures of heaven. Through God’s mercy and love, the joys of heaven can be experienced while we are still here on earth if, in faith, we focus on “what is above.” St. John Paul II expressed his thoughts on this message in his general audience of July 21, 1999, saying:

“The depiction of heaven as the transcendent dwelling-place of the living God is joined with that of the place to which believers, through grace, can also ascend… Thus heaven becomes an image of life in God. In this sense Jesus speaks of a “reward in heaven” and urges people to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (M 5:12, 6:20; cf. 19:21).

…Since believers are loved in a special way by the Father, they are raised with Christ and made citizens of heaven… The fatherhood of God, who is rich in mercy, is experienced by creatures through the love of God's crucified and risen Son, who sits in heaven on the right hand of the Father as Lord.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up the Church's teaching on this truth: ‘By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has ‘opened’ heaven to us...’ This… can be anticipated in some way today in sacramental life, whose centre is the Eucharist... as we pass through this world we are called to seek “the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1)…”

Keep your eyes on Christ, hidden in the Eucharist, listening always for His voice in your heart, seeking to do His will, and the treasures of eternity will be yours.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Pray Always - Mercy Meditation for July 24th, 2016


The Prayers of Ten Good Men Can Save a City

In the first reading for July 24th, we get to listen in on an extraordinary discussion between Abraham and the Lord about the situation in Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham, in his humble and somewhat crafty way, says, “See how I am presuming to speak to the Lord, though I am but dust and ashes!” Then he proceeds with his bargaining on behalf of the citizens of these cities, ultimately persuading the Lord to spare the cities if just ten innocent men are found there. Intercessory prayer in action!

In the Gospel, Jesus, teaching the Apostles how to pray, gives us the perfect prayer: the Lord’s Prayer. It begins with praise for our heavenly Father and concludes with petitions for ourselves and for the world – for the bread of life, for forgiveness, for strength against temptation. Jesus continues teaching about prayer in the next passage, encouraging us to persistently ask the Father for all that we need, and He, who gives His children all good things, will hear and answer our prayers. We should trust completely in the merciful God who will not deny the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who seek Him.

Jesus’s teaching – and Abraham’s conversation with God – both assure us that our prayers are heard in heaven. We even learn that the prayers of just ten good people can save a city. Sadly, those ten were not found in Sodom and Gomorrah.

In our own times, when sin abounds even more than it did then, it’s more important than ever to pray and intercede for each other, for our cities, and for the world. Be one of the ten. Pray always, and trust in the mercy of God. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Good Samaritan - Meditation on Mercy, July 10th, 2016

Photo from St. Henry Catholic Church, Ohio - Wikimedia Commons
"Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Who are you in the parable of the Good Samaritan? Have you ever reached out in mercy to someone wounded by the side of the road? Have you ever walked by someone in need, with your eyes averted? Or have you experienced the helplessness of being the one who has been beaten, robbed, and left for dead, dependent on the mercy of strangers?  Most of us have played all these parts, including me. Sometimes, I am the wounded one lying in the street, rejected and abandoned. More often, I am the one who swiftly walks by, pretending not to see. Very rarely, I am the one who picks up and cares for the wounded one.

The Samaritan is ultimately the figure of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. It is he who picks us up and cares for us. Yet in these times, no one seems to care. No one even says thank you. No one even knows it happened. That’s what is so amazing. They rise the next day in the inn, just thinking, “I picked myself up, I cleaned my own wounds, I don’t need God, I don’t need anyone, I am independent.” Somehow we have come to believe only in self, not in God, not in Jesus. Even many of those who were brought up to love God and to know Jesus just reject it all and live their lives apart from Him.

In the prophecy of Hosea, we hear how much God loves us, as a father loves his children. Although we turn away from Him, refusing to recognize Him and breaking His heart, He loves us still. He offers us mercy and healing; He will not come in wrath.

When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them, the farther they went from me,
sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms;
but they did not know that I cared for them.
I drew them with human cords, with bands of love;
I fostered them like those who raise an infant to their cheeks;
I bent down to feed them…
How could I give you up, Ephraim, or deliver you up, Israel?
My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred.
I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again;
For I am God and not a man, the Holy One present among you;
I will not come in wrath. Hosea 11:4-9
Our dear God must be so much offended. And I know I have offended him more than anyone else. I spent decades offending God. And I know others will find their own path to Him but I just pray it takes shorter than it did for me. I just pray that it does not come too late. I don’t know the end of the story, but I want to be ready and I want my family and all my loved ones to be ready, to know God and love him so that they may spend eternity with Him no matter what becomes of this earth or each of us. Just let me never forget the healing given to me by the Good Samaritan. Don’t let me credit the innkeeper, myself, or someone who walked by, not knowing the one who loved me. Let me know and serve the Lord in this life that I may be happy with him forever in the next.

Dear Lord, convert my heart. Draw me, day by day, nearer and nearer to your Sacred Heart. There, as I can bear the lesson, teach me your blessed ways. Amen.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Lord of the Harvest - Mercy Meditation, July 3, 2016

"It is really God himself, the "Lord of the harvest", who chooses his labourers; his call is always undeserved and unexpected. And yet, in the mystery of God's covenant with us, we are called to cooperate with his providence, and to use the powerful tool which he has placed in our hands: prayer! This is what Jesus himself asked us to do: "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest!" (Mt 9:38)....
Prayer moves the heart of God."
John Paul II

Today’s Gospel tells of Jesus sending out His disciples with the simple mandate to proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom. They are to take nothing for the journey, but depend on the generosity of those they meet. These men are to be received and cared for as if God Himself had entered each village. Those who welcome the disciples receive the peace of God; those who reject them will suffer severe consequences.
These disciples might be said to have experienced the call of God to the priesthood, and their primary duty, then as now, is to proclaim the Good News of the coming of the kingdom of God. God, in His great mercy, desires that not one soul be lost. To achieve this mission, God has empowered His disciples to cast out evil in His Name, even giving them the authority to pass judgment on those who, in rejecting them, have rejected God. This amazing empowerment continues in the Church and the priesthood to this day, and yet Jesus reminds us, rejoice not in the authority and power given to the Church, but in the fact that the names of those who remain faithful to her are written in heaven.

In contrast to the Gospel’s strong depiction of the disciples’ mission, the first reading from Isaiah uses tender imagery to depict the Church, the New Jerusalem, comforting God’s people as a mother comforts her child. But the message is the same; both readings describe the Church’s loving mission of bringing the Good News of God’s kingdom to the whole world. This mission and mandate to seek out the lost, visiting every village and home, will continue until the end of time. The Church continues to offer peace and mercy to all whose hearts are open to hear the Good News, welcoming His chosen disciples as if they were welcoming Christ Himself.