Mercy Reflection

Is it difficult to contemplate on the Passion of Christ?

Why is it so difficult to contemplate Jesus on the Cross?


Have we ever been asked or felt compelled to stay by the bedside of a sick loved one? It is difficult! It could be our son, a cancer stricken wife, a Father and although we love sickthem with all of our hearts, it is difficult to share their suffering. Why? Because we don’t want them to suffer; because we rather be in their place; because they don’t deserve it. And yet, we sit by their side and struggle through it because we love them. A friend told me once that she found herself in that situation when a relative was diagnosed with cancer. She would bath this person, care for this person, cried and prayed with this person. Today, I am in shock when I hear from her own lips that those were some of the happiest times in her life. She was the closest she could have ever been to her sick relative…and the presence of God, she exclaims, was so real that it was almost palpable.

            What do we do when we hear Jesus asking us to remember His Passion? When you hear Jesus’ petitions in the diary of St. Faustina, a nun whom Jesus revealed many mysteries of His love for us, what do we do?

In one occasion, St. Faustina complained to the Lord that all her suffering were impeding her to prepare her mediation. The Lord told her that He himself would start giving her the points to meditate on. Each and every time, the points given by Jesus concerned His Sorrowful Passion. He would say “Consider My suffering before Pilate.” (Diary, #149)

Today Jesus said to me, “I desire that you know more profoundly the love that burns in My Heart for souls, and you will understand this when you meditate upon My Passion. Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners; I desire their salvation. When you say this prayer, with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner, I will give him the grace of conversion. This is the prayer: “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.” (Diary, 186-187)

            Jesus is basically asking us for a higher level of intimacy. We have met Jesus and passioncrownofthornsfallen in love with Him. We give Him praises and we pray to Him. But now, your friend wishes that you spend time with Him during His Passion. I ask you – the reader – is Jesus asking you for a greater intimacy in your friendship with Him?

            For some, to contemplate on His passion is not an easy task. We hear comments regarding that it is too intense, too boring, too sad and sorrowful, or that they are reminded of some unjust death in their life. A lady may discuss how God could be so cruel to sacrifice His own Son and how that reminds her of the cruel death her own son experienced in a drunk-driving accident.

I think we are like children in the sense that we are always trying to probe our Father’s Love for us. Let’s see what we can do to make him stop loving us and in that way we would know for sure that he doesn’t love us. Let’s do drugs, let’s lie, let’s be impure…and surely, my father will stop loving me. In regards to God, it is almost as one day we sat down and thought what could be the most horrible thing we could do to him….oh I know, said someone, let’s take His only begotten Son and although He is pure and good, let’s crucify Him on a Cross. We’ll scourge Him first to death, humiliate Him, and then we would nail Him to a Cross. And there He would die; and then, we would see if the Father still loves us. We would see. That would put an ease every pathological problem we have and every wound we have ever gotten. But on the Cross, even on the Cross, Jesus still looks to the Father and say “forgive them for they do not know what they do.” And still, the Father God still looks down to us sinners and offers His son to death on the Cross.  God LOVES us unconditionally.

On the Cross, as we contemplate Jesus, we usually become aware of two things:Jesus_nailed_to_cross-793004

1)      Christ loves me as I am; in my imperfections and with all my faults, He loves me; He loves me.

2)      I feel that Christ is looking back at me saying “Is this how you pay me? Is this how you pay me the love I have for you?

Both of them are ok to feel. See, Love, in our broken world of sin, can only be one thing: forgiveness. Love from the Cross in our broken world can only be one, thing (I repeat myself again) and that is MERCY.

As we contemplate on Jesus on the Cross praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy, let’s also remember that we cannot produce feelings of remorse, sadness, or even joy. It is not in our power to produce these feelings. These feelings are gifts from God. What we need to do then is simply ask the Lord to give us compassion for Him; to give us the desire of sorrow; to give us understanding…and let the Lord of lords reveal Himself to us and reveal His mysteries to us.

Please let’s remember that it’s not in our power to produce these feelings. It’s a grace JesusBaptismthat we must ask for. That’s what contemplation is…it is not a moment of reflection; it is a moment where we ask for the graces we desire and God reveals Himself to us.

May God bless you always and remember to do at least one act of Mercy today and each day!


St. Ignatius of Loyola and Prayer as a continuous conversion

      I have often defined “prayer” as a response to God’s omnipresent and omnipotent Love which is found in every dimension of our daily lives in the form of what St. Ignatius calls an effective Love. Today, upon further reading and reflection, I am more ready to define “prayer” as a transformation; an on-going conversion, if you wish, towards a perfect union with our very Trinitarian God. I have also grown more inclined to go beyond the reality of God’s call for an intimate union and to lay greater emphasis on the conversion process that this union entails. Prayer ought to be more than a final revelation about God’s Love or a once felt metanoia. It should constitute a one-on-one progressive relationship and consequent transformation. Prayer, viewed in this light, makes us aware of two very important realities in regards to the God-creature relationship: God is perfect Love, and we are wounded and imperfect. The mystical union which the Gospel calls us into with God is more than simply being able to acknowledge Its Majesty in our midst but a progression or pilgrimage towards holiness. StIgnatius Adopting St. Ignatius’ description of his own soul, we can also claim to be pilgrims in journeying to a more intimate union with our Creator. Personally, I find great strength in this. To understand prayer from a pilgrim’s perspective allows me to be more conscious of the effects of original sin and redemption and how each of my actions could become a prayer. Moreover, I am reminded of the call to continuously surrender to God’s Will and the spiritual treasure found in humility.

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Let us start by saying that a pilgrim is aware of his/her sinful state and the Redemption which has been gained by His Lord. In his journey, prayer is viewed as the soul’s progression from being self-centered to becoming Christ-centric. This transformation that our souls are to undergo illuminates the value of being aware of both our sinful and redeemed state. First off, we should state clearly that the pilgrim bears the effects of original sin or the consequences of the Fall by the first Adam. This becomes evident in our own lives as we have felt the challenge to reconcile our desire to approach God with the discouragement planted by our wounds, distrust of Love, ill-informed reasoning, a misdirected will, selfishness, vanity, and concupiscence. The pilgrim recognizes its sinful tendencies but looking at prayer as a journey gives him/her a greater disposition to accept his/her faults. This in turn makes the pilgrim more receptive to God’s Graces and able to grow from his/her common spiritual struggles. Moreover, the pilgrim knows as well that he/she bears the fruits of the new Adam. Through Christ, by His Life, Death, and Resurrection, the wounded soul has gained adoption as a son or daughter of the Almighty God. This turns the effects of the first Adam into an opportunity to meet God’s Merciful Love and receive the fruits of redemption. While the soul remains wounded, always unrepeatable, wonderfully made and autonomous in his free will, he/she shares the image of Christ’s baptism. The soul receives the fruits of redemption while living in the mystery of Love where the pilgrim’s freedom to move closer to Its Majesty is still respected by presenting both the choice of life or death. Prayer in the life of the pilgrim becomes the continuous effort to choose life and such a choice is typified in changing from the old Adam into the New Adam.
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Eventually, prayer, in union with Christ, becomes the pilgrim’s very action. As the pilgrim embarks on his/her journey, the soul views prayer as a re-orientation of his/her focus. The objective is to remove anything that may impede the soul’s on-going conversion into the new Adam. St. Ignatius depicts this clearly in his Spiritual Exercises in the way the soul is helped to obtain greater degrees of freedom in order to progress into a deeper union with The Creator. Through specific meditations and reflections found in his Spiritual Exercises, the soul, by God’s Grace, works on freeing itself from the prison of its own ego and re-orients all its faculties towards God. What has caused the soul to fall is now a conduit to Its Creator. For instance, the ability to reason now becomes the key to free ourselves from our concupiscence. Our memories can now be divinized to see God as our primary reference point. Our wills become an opportunity to participate in the Trinitarian life by choosing to be a sincere gift of self to others. In brief, the soul becomes rooted in Christ and our prayers carry the fruits of His very Passion, Death, and the Redemption which He has gained for us. By His merits, our prayers operate in the power and intimacy of the second person of the Trinity. Our soul becomes the incarnation of Christ and our very actions including our sufferings and joys, united with Our Savior, become actual prayers.
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     To the pilgrim, these prayers are a constant surrendering to God’s Will and a deepening relationship with His Savior. To look at prayer as a journey serves to expose several lies which I have always found to be roadblocks on my journey towards Love. I am referring particularly to the tendency to make prayer a superficial and un-engaging act while adopting the mindset that we have reached a final stage of conversion. A pilgrim is not interested in viewing prayer as a finite solution to the reality of God. As we have mentioned before, the soul rather sees prayer as a journey rooted in an on-going affair. This allows the soul to address God with sincerity knowing that the objective is not to be found sinless but to be part of the relationship anticipated by the desired union. The soul does not keep moments of desolation and consolation to himself/herself but shares these with His Creator. Superficial prayers are inapplicable when the pilgrim understands prayer to be a heart-to-heart conversation with its Creator. Moreover, consistency in relating to God is highly valued as this is the basis of the relationship. Time is scheduled to be spent with the Lord and an on-going awareness of God’s presence is fostered throughout the day. The transformation is never final since the Creator is infinite but yet the journey provides fulfillment for the pilgrim’s deepest longings. As the soul works on becoming freer, the pilgrim does not experience a recurring metanoia but a deepening knowledge of God’s Mercy. This moves him/her to respond more fully to the Lord and in this way gradually surrender to His Will.

      At last, the act of surrendering turns prayer into a complete dependence on God’s Grace. The ability to understand what we have mentioned above (our sinful nature and redemption, the Incarnation and God’s Will) rest wholly on the Graces that God imparts. The pilgrim understands that he/she cannot advance one inch forward without God’s Grace. In our arrogance, we shy away from His Graces. In our journey, the most sought after gift then becomes humility. For St. Ignatius, the three degrees of humility (provided in His Spiritual Exercises) represent three levels of generosity which the pilgrim would want to experience in following Christ. Again, we find in Ignatius’ writing the call to be transformed into Christ. When looking at the first degree of humility, the pilgrim desires to be detached from any mortal sin. The second degree seeks detachment from venial sin. The third degree of humility calls for the pilgrim’s total configuration into Christ sharing His poverty, humiliations, and Cross. The greater degree of our humility, the more our souls open to God’s Graces and we grow in our mystical union with God. This reality of our journey seems to be heightened by looking at prayer in the context of our pilgrimage.
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      In conclusion, prayer is to be transformed into the new Adam: Christ. And in this process, we do contemplate God’s outpouring self through our daily events and even in our very actions. In understanding my current spiritual state to be the one of a pilgrim, I find it easier to accept my faults and the redemption Christ has gained for me. I can more trustingly approach His Merciful Heart with the goal that one day I would be able to hear both My Savior beg for my heart and my heart begging for His. Certainly, God’s effective Love will become manifested in my caring for those who are in need. My life will be my prayer. My prayer will be my conversion.


Reconciliation


ForgivenessReconciliation is an important element of our spiritual growth. In the Diary of St. Faustina, we learn that we must forgive those who have offended us and that we must ask God to forgive us when we offend Him. Moreover, we must ask ourselves pardon when we offend our very selves. Reconciliation is necessary because it moves us into union with Love.
Let’s ask ourselves the following:
1) Do I harbor any hatred or negative feelings in me? If I do, that’s an offence against Love.
2) Is Jesus walking next to me? If we do not feel Jesus walking next to us, let’s reconcile and accept
His invitation to be His friend again.

This invitation from Jesus is Mercy. Remember that although God can do all things, He cannot Love you without forgiving you at the same time. And guess what? He Loves you. In fact, He adores you.

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On the second of this month (September), Mother Mary tells us through one of the seers from Medjugorje the following:

“Dear children, I am beside you because I desire to help you to overcome trials, which this time of purification puts before you. My children, one of those is not to forgive and not to ask for forgiveness. Every sin offends Love and distances you from it – and Love is my Son. Therefore, my children, if you desire to walk with me towards the peace of God’s love, you must learn to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Thank you.”

The message was apparently given in the day of “nonbelievers,” but it certainly could apply to all of us.

This also reminds us why Mercy is so necessary for our times and why Jesus have chosen to reveal Himself in such manner:
474 In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw an Angel, the executor of divine wrath. He was clothed in a dazzling robe, his face gloriously bright, a cloud beneath his feet. From the cloud, bolts of thunder and flashes of lightning were springing into his hands; and from his hand they were going forth, and only then were they striking the earth. When I saw this sign of divine wrath which was about to strike the earth, and in particular a certain place, which for good reasons I cannot name, I began to implore the
AngelAngel to hold off for a few moments, and the world would do penance. But my plea was a mere nothing in the face of the divine anger. Just then I saw the Most Holy Trinity. The greatness of Its majesty pierced me deeply, and I did not dare to repeat my entreaties. At that very moment I felt in my soul the power of Jesus’ grace, which dwells in my soul. When I became conscious of this grace, I was instantly snatched up before the Throne of God. Oh, how great is our Lord and God and how incomprehensible His holiness! I will make no attempt to describe this greatness, because before long we shall all see Him as He is. I found myself pleading with God for the world with words heard interiorly. As I was praying in this manner, I saw the Angel’s helplessness: he could not carry out the just punishment which was rightly due for sins. Never before had I prayed with such inner power as I did then.

475 The words with which I entreated God are these: Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us.
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476 The next morning, when I entered chapel, I heard these words interiorly: Every time you enter the chapel, immediately recite the prayer which I taught you yesterday. When I had said the prayer, in my soul I heard these words: This prayer will serve to appease My wrath. You will recite it for nine days, on the beads of the rosary, in the following manner: First of all, you will say one OUR FATHER and HAIL MARY and the I BELIEVE IN GOD. 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.” [100]

If you are feeling inundated with Sin today (or negative feelings), I invite you to recognize three things:

1) God has given you an amazing Grace in recognizing your sinfulness. Accept it.
2) God has given you an amazing Grace in offering you His forgiveness. Accept it.
3) God is calling you by name meaning that He Loves you, He protects you, and He wants you to talk with Him. Accept this as well.

God bless you,


Mercy Reflection


We are quite complex beings, often rather maddeningly so, yet it is often difficult for us to refrain from judging others merely by appearances instead of seeking the deeper reasons why they speak or behave in the ways they do. But Tugwell situates our psychological dynamics in a spiritual reality. We play all our silly and destructive games ultimately because of original sin, because we are fallen people living in a fallen world, and we somehow feel the need desperately to cover up that inescapable fact.

But it’s not enough, evidently, simply to recognize the fact that we try to put on false faces before others and even before God. It’s a long and difficult road honestly to open ourselves both to God’s love for ourselves and to his invitation to share it with others. We are something like abused children who do not easily trust the loving advances of another, even if they are pure and sincere. So we probe and test and make it as difficult as possible for another (or Another) to love us. The following lines from Tugwell go a long way toward understanding why some people react as they do, and it rings true in my own experience in dealing with “problematic” people: “The ingrained habit of suspicion can test love only by hurting it. And deep distrust may have to inflict deep hurt before it can rest content.” I have seen this played out before my eyes, and it is extremely difficult to endure, and more difficult still to help the person see what he is really doing.

But what is most important, I think, for our own spiritual lives is not so much understanding the psychological dynamics of wounded people, but understanding how God’s love deals with us in our own woundedness. I will quote a couple paragraphs here from the excerpt so you don’t have to scroll back:

“But here also is the ultimate test of God’s love. In Christ, God provokes man to do his very worst; and he continues to love. Here, then, is a love which has demonstrated that it does not flinch even when we do our worst. It is a love which can absorb our pathological drive to probe and wound. ‘He has borne our diseases’ (Matt. 8:17); and that means both that he has carried them away and disposed of them, and that he has endured them, loving ‘to the end’ (John 13:1).

“The cross of Christ confronts us with both God’s supreme consolation—‘Whatever you are, I can love you’—and with his supreme reproach—‘This is what you do to love, this is what you are really like.’ In accepting God’s love for ourselves, we must also accept the judgment of that reproach. Love, in our broken world of sin, can never be other than forgiveness.”

So God in Christ has, in effect, challenged us to do the worst we can to Him. Go ahead, probe, test, push Him to the limit. The Cross testifies that He can take it and still go on loving. For divine love “is a love which can absorb our pathological drive to probe and wound.” God’s two-fold response to our stubborn insistence on testing his love to the limit gives us an insight into the nature and the ways of God. It is both consolation and reproach. He assures us that nothing we can do to Him can make Him cease loving us, but at the same time He places a mirror before us so we can see the horror of what we have made of ourselves, and what we in our sin have done to the One who loves us so much. That is why the call to salvation—the call to eternal happiness with the One who loved us first—always begins with a call to repentance.

So he concludes: “Love, in our broken world of sin, can never be other than forgiveness.” This is why I placed as title of this post the equation of divine love and mercy. Divine mercy is divine love, as applied to our sinfulness. Despite what some forms of modern, superficial “me & Jesus” spirituality may suggest, we cannot engage as equals in a loving relationship with God. We are not on a par with Him, nor does He owe us anything. He will always and forever be Creator, Lord, Father, Judge, and Savior, even if He has, in his incomprehensible compassion and humility, invited us to friendship and intimacy with Him. What He loves in us primarily is his own image and our efforts to choose his will under the influence of his grace. “His love is the ultimate source of our very existence; there is no antecedent beauty on our part.” We have to realize that his love can only (at least in this life) take the form of mercy—and there are many forms of mercy—because we daily sin against Him and are forever in need of his saving grace to keep us from falling away to the place our sins would send us.

Therefore we are always “in arrears,” owing a debt we cannot repay, dependent upon Him who never ceases to forgive as long as we never cease to repent. We stand in awe and gratitude at the way his love has silently disarmed every missile we could hurl at Him, yet we stand in shame at what we cruelly made Him suffer to manifest that love. When we constantly pray in the Liturgy “Lord, have mercy,” we are, in a sense, asking Him to love us in the way we most need to be loved; we are asking Him to love us as only He can.

Finally, if we begin to “get it” at all, if we grasp even a little of the boundlessness of God’s love-turned-mercy in the face of our sin, we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit: “Go thou and do likewise.” Now, through the mercy that has been shown us—a mercy that is not a mere legal pardon but an overflowing of personal love—we have to start bearing the infirmities of others, absorbing what they hurl at us, and responding with the love-turned-mercy that comes from the presence of God within us. “Love one another as I have loved you,” said the Lord Jesus. To take up our cross is not just to carry it but to be crucified upon it, for love’s sake. As Christians worthy of the name we must, as Tugwell concludes, “be prepared to be wounded, and wounded precisely because we have become carriers of God’s love.”

So the whole process begins with our awareness of our hiding from God and our hypocrisy toward others, then to our first faltering acceptance of God’s love—mixed with testing and distrust—to a fuller awareness of the horror of our sin and the magnitude of God’s loving mercy, to a share in communicating that same divine love/mercy to others, while sharing also in its price, the mystery of the Cross. The final step is to experience love bearing its eternally sweet and wondrous fruit in the Kingdom of Heaven.

You know, whenever I learn something more about true Christianity, I’m always amazed at the depth and the richness of it, and also at its uncompromising character. This is the real thing. Nothing expresses the truth, depth, power, and love of God like his definitive revelation in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. (And He reveals not only Himself but He also shows us who we really are—for better and for worse!) Yet it’s not enough simply to read the Scriptures to understand this revelation and to let it deeply penetrate your soul. Its drama has to be played out in your own life, your own heart, your own suffering, your own relationships, your own prayer. We must always go deeper, for there are always more unexplored depths to the mystery of God. He won’t rest until He has brought us to perfection. When his mercy has finally accomplished its task, there will be nothing left in us in which He cannot delight, and we will be taken up forever into that
everlasting and unimaginable exchange of love that is the All-holy Trinity.


Divine Mercy Talk for Youth

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