Friday, March 28, 2008

"All Need Mercy...

Although Divine Mercy Sunday did not exist during Matt Talbot's lifetime, he prayed for and received divine mercy.

"His mercy endures forever."-Sir 51:12

Father John J. Lombardi


Padre Pio was famous for "reading hearts" and for his insights in hearing confessions-and so he can help you be insightful into your own soul, in preparing for your next confession. Jean Vianney used to hear them all night, so he can help you persevere thru any and all obstacles, when approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Blessed Damien the Leper Priest humbled himself and, in the midst of others, shouted his confession across a Hawaiian harbor, so much did he love the sacrament-- and so he can help you love it more!...

I was recently walking thru the Grotto with Don Briggs, our Mt St Mary's rugby coach, on a sunlit day (we were talking about a recent, bloody game!), when we came upon a group of pilgrims. A mother was walking with her children near the reflecting pool, encouraging her girls to pray as they tossed pebbles in it. She said: "And pray for grandpop-that he go to confession." I thought this was an interesting prayer-especially out loud. I began talking to the ebullient mom, and she said her mother said "dad" had not been to confession in fifteen years, and that mom was "concerned". Meanwhile, the girls continued hurling pebble-prayers into the pool. Walking away, I felt spiritually inspired by this manifestation of the mystical Body of Christ and the Love behind it.

This Sunday-the Second Sunday of Easter-- is Divine Mercy Sunday, recently proclaimed by Pope John Paul II. Today, believe it or not, we need God's mercy more than ever. Why?-you ask. We have wars, near and far, and raging nations to quell. The Christian family is attacked ceaselessly and on the verge of breakdown. Drugs, crime and murder occur in unprecedented numbers these days, and not just in inner cities. Our Catholic U.S. Church has just gone thru one of its worst years with clergy abuse issues. Catholic education and identity is in malaise and demise. There are the counterfeit sexuality problems (secularized sensuality parading as legitimate sexuality)--contraception, homosexualism, fornication, and pornography is becoming mainstream. Then there is the Culture of Death which seeks destruction of pre-born innocents and the elderly-and anyone not deemed worthy of "savage capitalism"…Yes, indeed, we need God's forgiveness today. In light of all this, two things are now required: to be candidly realistic by acknowledging the threats to Christian life today; and also to acknowledge the Good -Better-News: God forgives and is all merciful-if we ask Him.

But today there is the growing lack of the sense of sin: people just don't think "white lies" or abuse of the Sabbath-rest is sinful-thus, they miss out on mercy. Other people don't think pornography, gossip, or lack of charity are sins…They, too, miss out on mercy. Others deny the biblical "sacramentality" of Jesus Christ-- thinking they can become "whole" or "renewed" by confessing sins to God alone, neglecting the communal aspects of the Church and the extension of Jesus' priesthood-community. They ignore Jesus resurrection counsel (today's Gospel): "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained" (Jn 20:23, and, His mandate to St Peter: Mt. 16: 19). St James says: "Therefore, confess your sins to one another…that you may be healed" (James 5: 16). Eschewing this biblical advice, many miss out on mercy …Some people take God's mercy-His compassion-for granted-and so don't even ask Him for pardon, missing out on mercy…Others, have been unfortunately trained to receive a kind of "general absolution" whereby they don't confess their individual sins to a priest, but only informally and nebulously, as part of a larger congregation. All these are missing out on mercy--how unfortunate!

But, follow the following phenomenal fact (excerpted from, Divine Mercy brochure): " On Feb 22, 1931, Our Lord Jesus appeared to a young nun, Sister Faustina Kowalska, bringing her the message of Mercy for all mankind. Jesus appeared with red and white rays of light coming forth from his chest and asked her to paint an image with the saying, "Jesus, I trust in You!" on it. Jesus said: 'The pale ray stands for the water which makes souls righteous; the red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. Fortunate is the one who dwells in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him…As a further sign of His forgiving love, Jesus called for the Feast of Divine Mercy to be celebrated in the whole church, and also asked for a novena (nine days of prayer) to be added…(excerpted from Divine Mercy brochure). We also read:

"We can also see these rays as simultaneously symbolizing the Holy Spirit, whom Christ breathed into the Disciples during the same Octave-day appearance. On the strength of that Holy Breath, all sins are forgiven and 'at-ONE-ment' with the Father is accomplished. Here, God in Christ is reconciling the world to Himself (see 2 Cor 5:18). And here the Church, the newly-born Body of Christ, is commissioned to be the instrument of reconciliation down through the ages."

"The Feast of Mercy focuses on God's mercy as an event! It focuses on God's continuing action of mercy throughout salvation history as we see it recorded in the letter to the Romans, culminating in His loving plan to have mercy on all! (See Rom ch's 9-11.) This Feast is a summation of the event to His mercy active in our lives now. It is because of His mercy that we have forgiveness of sin and new life as children of God. This needs to be celebrated!

The Feast of Mercy is a Day of Atonement. The Feast of Mercy is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Day of Atonement (see Lv 16, Lv 23:26-32 and Sir 50). It is a day of forgiveness of sins for those who approach the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is an annual celebration like the Day of Atonement-all sins and punishment are washed away in His infinite mercy. The focus of this paschal event is on God's mercy for us sinners and His free gift to those who turn to Him with trust. (From Divine Mercy

We are encouraged to partake of God's mercy-it is one of His essential attributes. Mercy, from the Hebrew word, hesed, means forgiveness, to pardon a wrong. God-as-sovereign is not obliged to excuse us, but out of His nobility and generosity, he does forgive us to free us. We see many other Lessons of Mercy in the Bible:

In David's lament, we read one of the most famous confessional psalms: "Have mercy on me, O God, in your abundant mercy blot out my transgression" (Ps 51:1ff). This is David's prayer after he committed the sin of adultery and asks for God's forgiveness. This Psalm is in the Bible not only to "report David's confession," but also to let you know God's mercy forgives all sins-even the most serious…I recently visited a drug treatment center and, after giving a conference on the "drunk-become-venerable-disciple," the Irishman- Matt Talbot, a counselor mentioned how much shame the resident clients have from taking drugs and being bad stewards of their bodies, often with extensive and gigantic effects upon others, thus finding it difficult to approach God, to seek mercy, or make a confession…I thought, how true that must be for these folks, and yet how truer it is, to just such persons, that God's mercy should be proclaimed and offered thru the Divine Mercy devotion-and to all of us who are sinners, no doubt, with our own shameful sins.

If and when we progress in the spiritual life we sense that, when we do sin, we can actually become enslaved to sin (cf. Jn 8:34), and its consequences; we subsequently perceive we need God's grace and mercy. When we ask for it and He does forgive us, we become free. Thus the psalmist says: "Let your mercy come to me that I may live" (Ps 119:156): How can you progress in the spiritual life and truly trust God to free you more-of all your sins and enslavements to bad, harmful, wrong things or people? Know the enslavement; know the grace given.

The prophet Jeremiah reports Yahweh saying: "I will surely have mercy on them" (31:20). Notice: God will surely forgive His people, and so make acts of entrustment unto His mercy by a daily examination of conscience, and filter out all bad stuff by seriously amending your life. Unlike humans, God is merciful-He does not have to learn it, acquire it or think about it, as we do, and then bestow it: He is mercy! Trust Him.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Mt 5:7). Have you heard the saying, "If you want to keep it, give it away" ? Practice this wisdom thru giving away mercy and forgiveness-without restraint-to others. And when it doesn't come easy, or you feel yourself resisting, do it anyway-stretch and grow-become someone else (cf. 2 Cor 5: 17-in Christ, become a "new creature"). We are called to be mirrors of Divine Mercy when we give it to others.

"Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy…'" (Mt 9:13). Many of us religious folks can get used to boxing in God by imposing inordinate rules on others-especially if we are striving for perfection and holiness (which we all should be doing). We need beware of this subtle phariseeism. Jesus constantly warned the Pharisees that we need to imitate God and His merciful ways as part of the call to the perfecting process. Mercy blends with justice and holiness, with righteousness and moral living-it is not an opposite, nor an enemy, but a fulfillment. Sometimes, when we strive for holiness we need to re-learn the lessons of mercy…

" Jesus, Son of David, Have mercy on me" (Mk 10:47).
This is the foundation of The Jesus Prayer. The full prayer is: "Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of God have mercy on me a sinner." Memorize this prayer. Some say it's the Gospel in miniature, because it acknowledges Jesus as God; that He can forgive us, if we acknowledge we are sinners. Pray it unceasingly …

"…Then gentiles might glorify God for His mercy" (Rm 15:9). St Paul is saying that God attracts thru His forgiveness-do you?...

"By His great mercy he has given us a new birth" (I pt 1:3). We need to be born again-spiritually-- by asking forgiveness and giving forgiveness-otherwise we are "spiritually dead" and outside God's mercy.

What to Do/How To Live Divine Mercy:
Go to confession-soon! Entrust yourself to Jesus-He is there, an Ocean of Mercy waiting for you. Scott Hahn-convert and speaker-- says it is like "medical care"-taking a cleansing shower to help others around you sense cleanliness and spiritual sheen…Intercede for others: especially agnostics and atheists-pray for their conversion. Pray especially for the most hardened sinners; your prayers can help them and alleviate God's just punishments upon them and the whole world…Spread His Mercy: forgive others (don't hold grudges), and, like Saint Faustina, talk about Jesus-as-mercy to others, and link them to His love. Be a witness by embracing Jesus' divine Light and spreading it to others. Think of Damien the Leper Priest and Mother Teresa of Calcutta-they loved Jesus in the Eucharist and in His disguises-in the poor and most unwanted: go find Him as you experience His mercy more and more…

"Most Merciful Jesus, whose Heart is Love Itself, receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who particularly extol and venerate the greatness of Your Mercy. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident in Your Mercy; and united to You, O Jesus, they carry all mankind on their shoulders. These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart from this life."

How to Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet:
Pray one Our Father, Hail Mary, Apostles' Creed. Then, on the Our Father Beads you will say the following words: Eternal Father, I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. On the Hail Mary Beads you will say the following words: For the sake of His sorrowful passion have mercy on us and on the whole world. In conclusion, three times you will recite these words: Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world. (From the Diary of the Servant of God, St. Faustina)