Sunday, April 7, 2013

His Divine Mercy

Note: This was a reflection I gave after praying the chaplet of divine mercy. The chaplet is simple, powerful, and beautiful. (Learn how to) Pray it. Learn about St. Faustina here.

I find it funny that after all my work on this--the reading, the reflection, etc.--that better words and more powerful words, the work of the Holy Spirit, explained this to children as I spoke to them today. Maybe I'll write down those words and it will show me that my "labors" are nothing, truly, in comparison to the Holy Spirit working in me. I told them that people can encounter Christ through two things: the Eucharist and the Church. We are the living members of the Body of Christ, and the lost, confused, and broken encounter Him through us IF we unite ourselves to Him.

Today is about mercy which "triumphs over judgment." The justice of God is real, something we should never forget. But God is so willing and ready to forgive all who come to Him. But if they never encounter Him they will never know His mercy. We, as His members, must give that message to the world: That He is risen, He loves us, and that His mercy extends farther than all of creation.

If you have comments or reactions, please let me know in the comments below.

His Divine Mercy

If a tree is known by its fruit, to what shall we compare the infinite mercies of God, a fruit of his great love? We know that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and so where Love is the tree, mercy is the fruit. Mercy cannot come from anything else but a deep love.

There can be no other fitting witness and proof of God's mercy than being itself. Faustina recounts Him saying, “If I call creatures into being—that is the abyss of my mercy” (sec. 86). God created man in order that he might love Him; God already loved us. Man, however, was seduced by the devil. He was made to believe that his love could be shared among God and his own desires.

Man, if he had loved God wholly, would have loved everything else in proper proportion and thus he would have been happy. Man, by his sin, not only brought his vision out of perspective but damaged creation itself. One may even say that all of mankind, when they sin, harm creation, the foundational sign of the Trinity's love. This transgression would be enough to erase mankind from creation as a matter of justice. The Lord punished man, but his punishment was such that man might be restored to God.

Man was cast away from paradise, that is to say perfect union with God. Nevertheless, God did two things to ensure we would return to Him. First, he promised that there would be one whom would free man from his error and sin. Secondly, he cast the body and soul of man into discord so that they would be at war with one another. Both were acts of merciful justice. By placing discord within us, the lens of our focus could discover God more clearly. When we encountered truth and peace, two things now outside of us, we would be drawn to it. The light of Truth burns brightly in the darkness of disunity, conflict, and sin.
Adam and Eve are a good lesson in what the consequences of sin are, not just in the moment but for subsequent generations. Sins we commit may not affect us as much as they will our children or our children's children. The state of sin that we enter into was laid down by our parents and ancestors.

My dear brothers and sisters, there is a great darkness that covers the world. It is the darkness of self-centeredness and isolation where countless men and women wander the earth resigning themselves to destruction. God desires that His mercy enter into this darkness.

Jesus said to St. Faustina: “At that last hour, a soul has nothing with which to defend itself except my mercy. Happy is the soul that during its lifetime immersed itself in the Fountain of Mercy, because justice will have no hold of it” (sec. 1075).

We hear the words of James echoed in this for he says “Judgment is merciless to the one who has not shown mercy, but mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

How shall we grow in mercy, and how shall we go about spreading His mercy to the world? Both occur when we grow in love in light of His love and when we are merciful in light of His mercy.

We must first recognize Jesus Christ as Lord and humble ourselves before His great power and love. Then we must humble ourselves a second time, for when we look at Him we are forced to look upon ourselves: weak, limited, and lacking in love. By setting God as the first point we now establish ourselves as the second point. In this process we reveal the great chasm between us. But the arms of Christ stretched out on the cross are greater than any chasm. And if this chasm were to be as deep as the ocean it was God who established the depths and there He would reach for us.
Jesus reached to Peter in the raging waters, not abandoning him in his moment of doubt.

In recognizing this great love we grow in gratitude and joy. The result of that joy is a heartfelt prayer that all people will know this joy. James reminds us that “whoever brings a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). The justice of God is real, but His mercy is such that He is willing to let His justice fall away. Recall the prodigal son, wasting everything and having nothing, how by his own designs was left in loneliness and squalor. When he made his pilgrimage back to the father the father ran out to embrace him. It says that the father was “filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him” (Lk 15:20). The son admitted his guilt knowing that he deserved nothing. He asked for little yet the father gave him everything.

This is just one illustration of the mercy of God; there are countless others. Christ desires this for all men: that they return to Him so He may pour out His divine mercies upon them. Those of us who have encountered Him have drunk from the font of His mercy—some of us a small amount, some of us a great deal. All of us, whether young or old, require His mercy to continue on our pilgrimage on earth.

In order to traverse this world and for mercy to enter our hearts our lives must imitate the Israelites who were enslaved and then wandered in the desert. Our captivity is the captivity of sin. When we are aware of our sinfulness we seek deliverance from the bondage of sin. Our hearts are thus disposed toward the Lord—a great act of His mercy. For “in the land of their captivity they shall have a change of heart; they shall know that I am the Lord their God. I will give them hearts, and heedful ears; and they shall praise me in the land of their captivity … and I will bring them back to the land which with my oath I promised to their fathers” (Baruch 2:30-32a, 34). Furthermore, “I will lead [Israel] into the desert and speak to her heart … and on that day ... she shall call me 'My husband' … [and] I will espouse you to me forever. I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy.” (Hosea 2:16, 18, 21).

Just like the Israelites we will wander in the desert. Being freed from the grip of sin will not ensure that our eyes will look backward to what we once had. This is why when the Isrealites grumbled “Would that we had died at the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!” (Ex 16:3). What they longed for were the comforts of the life of slavery they once had. This may seem strange to us: do they desire the backbreaking labor of slavery and the shame of subjection? No, they desired the idols of Egypt that held no power over them yet to which they could abandon themselves in lust, gluttony, and a multitude of sins.

We too are the same. We abandon our sin out of fear and love of God, but when He demands that we become even more perfect we sometimes grumble, wishing to abandon ourselves to the slavery of sin—all that sin demands of us is that we abandon ourselves to it. It holds no power, and yet we give it power. Christ asks us to abandon ourselves to Him so we may bear the yoke of freedom. It is only in abandoning ourselves to Him we gain ourselves.

God has us enter the desert of deprivation, trial, and suffering so we may find Him. While it is a period of trial, it is also a period of prayer and contemplation. In entering the emptiness of life, all sins are exposed as mist and all of our desires become as if nothing. All that remains in the desert is God and the fullness of Life promised to us. Indeed, “From this fountain spring all graces for souls. The flames of compassion burn me I desire greatly to pour them out upon souls. Speak to the whole world about my mercy.” (§1190). Faustina writes Jesus' words to her: “[Urge] all souls to trust in the unfathomable abyss of my mercy, because I want to save them all. On the cross, the fountain of My mercy was opened wide by the lance for all souls—no one have I excluded!” (sec. 1182).

The prophet Micah additionally says, “Who is there like you, the God who removed guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, and will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt?” (Micah 7:18-19).
When the Israelites wandered, their hearts were prepared through deprivation to receive the fullness of God.

We may have to wander for a time or face man trials in both youth and old age. All of these things are meant to train our hearts to find Him and rest in Him. Our sufferings are not the result of wrath but the growing pains by which we come to know God. Like the pains of childbirth it gives way to unimaginable joy—we shall suffer for a time only to emerge with a greater love.

Our God is a God who delights in mercy. His anger is aroused more profoundly when we, the beneficiaries of His mercies, turn away and neglect them. The sinner who does not repent from his sin is less vile in His eyes than one who returns God's love and then retracts it. This is why God had dealt so harshly with Israel, even so much as to say “you are not my people, and I will not be your God” (Hosea 1:9). The flames of his anger, however, are extinguished with the blood and water that flow from His side.

There are more words I could say on this subject, but a drop of God's mercy is greater than an ocean of words. The choir of angels sing his mercy. The procession of saints, those in heaven and on earth, preach it to all they encounter. St. Clement of Rome said so many years ago, “Let us comply with His magnificent and glorious purpose, and let us crave his mercy and loving kindness on bended knee, and turn to His compassion” (1 Cor sec. 9).

How shall we be known? What tree shall we be? If we grow in love it means that we will grow in patience, kindness, humility, understanding, and mercy. As we pray for mercy we grow in love. That love compels us to love the world that Christ did not abandon from the first grievous sin to the present moment. That love, moreover, compels us to bring sinners to Christ.

Let us recall, in closing, Christ's words to St. Faustina:
Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice..... (sec. 1146)

Many are tormented, many are lost, many do not know His mercy and thus walk toward the door of His justice. Pray fervently that His love and mercy will be made known through you, through His priests, through holy men and women, through His Church, through prayers, through self-sacrifice, through service, and through His most Holy Eucharist. God has sent us to gather the harvest, shall we not bring the wheat he desires most—the repentant sinner?
"I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you" (Psalm 51:15)