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Patience and Mercy

Day 29 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Patience and Mercy

‘The greatest power is hidden in patience. I see that patience always leads to victory, although not immediately; but that victory will become manifest after many years.’ (1514)

During this fast, we are crying out for many ‘fruitless’ ones who have wandered far from their home in Christ. We beg God to manifest His Mercy to them. At the same time, we know that God is priming us to be merciful, an answer to our own prayers. He intends to fertilize and break up the fallow ground of all involved!

Yet we struggle. Loved ones possess the dignity of their will. Especially with family members, we understand that our best intentions can be motivated by our impatience and desire to control them. My will be done, O God, now…

So we die daily to our divinity; we entrust the beloved to God. We surrender our native control and anxiety. Safe in Jesus’ care and timing, the beloved then becomes one whom we can pray for in the specifics of his/her need. That is where listening for the healing word can help.

(S)he is unlike any other. The Father knows him/her even better than you do. Parents, remember you are only the co-creators of your child. The Father is the Parent, capital P, both his/her Creator and Redeemer. So listen for the Father’s voice on behalf of your beloved. And pray accordingly. You may begin praying according to his/her need, not your own, a great preparation for the face-to-face time you may have at some point.

St. Faustina writes:

‘We should pray and ask for light in order to know how to deal with each one, for each soul is a world of its own.’ (568)

So God employs the vast expanses of time between our will and His for the beloved to change us. We learn how to surrender the other and to pray; we learn how to pray with a more attentive ear for the other, and a more merciful heart.

We discover something essential about Christianity–patience. Edith Stein writes: ‘Waiting in patient expectation is the essence of the spiritual life.’

How terrible is that! I hate to wait for anything, especially when a loved one’s future and well-being is in peril. So we pray harder; God always hears the cry for Mercy as we surrender a loved one (yet again) to His care.

That frees you from an intolerable burden. And it frees you for an inspired expectancy. God will act! Through prayerful surrender, we can wait patiently with undiminished expectation.

We are becoming like Abraham, who ‘did not waver through unbelief concerning the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.’ (Rom. 4:20, 21)

Patient prayer changes us, and makes a merciful way for loved ones. My entire family prayed for decades for our dear, unbelieving father, without any sign of a crack in his armor. In the last 48 hours of life, he was quietly asked by my brother (for the 549th time, I reckon) if he wanted to receive Jesus. Dad clearly agreed and was welcomed by Jesus face-to-face a few hours later. Our grief at his passing was superseded by gratitude. Our God saves!

‘I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word, I put my hope.’ (Ps. 130:5)

‘I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong, and take heart, and wait for the Lord.’ (Ps. 27:13, 14)

‘Patience, hard thing! Father, grant us Mercy, that we would be changed by the time gap between our will and Yours. Show us how You are changing us. Please teach us to pray in ways that please you. Incline our ear to Your stirrings on behalf of the beloved. Teach us to wait with expectation, not despair. You are God, You are good, and You want all to know Your Mercy.’

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote or simply a page number in parenthesis. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com.

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Abundance for a Lonely Son

Day 14 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Abundance for a Lonely Son

‘Jesus, Friend of a lonely heart, You are my haven, You are my peace. You are my salvation, You are my sovereignty in moments of struggle and amidst an ocean of doubt…You are everything to a lonely soul.’ (247)

‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son’ could just as well have been called ‘The Loneliness of His Older Brother.’ This story describes brilliantly two very different personalities with two very different responses to their generous father.

The prodigal bolted in search of a sexier inheritance; probably brash and impulsive, he rebelled against the mundane duties required of him ‘down on the farm’. Sin left him destitute until Mercy called him home, back to the house of his father.

In the meantime, his elder brother never left the father’s house and its affairs; he dutifully served his dad. A disciplined and steady worker, he was ‘in the fields’ of the father (Lk. 15: 25) when the party started for his brother’s homecoming.

My hunch is that the elder was religious and compliant, possessing an achingly clear sense of right and wrong. Readily shamed, he experienced his sin as internal and managed it by suppressing unacceptable feelings like lust, envy and self-righteousness. Perfectionism and guilt combined with a weak grasp of Mercy—here was a ‘good boy’ ready to combust!

God used the return of his brother to reveal his heart—the truth that the elder, for all his goodness, needed Mercy too. He could no longer manage his heart; it erupted in rage and envy against his brother. We might ask ourselves the same question: where is the justice in celebrating one who had been unfaithful when the other had never strayed? It’s as if the elder is demanding: “Honor my sacrifice, Father, not the Mercy!”

Perhaps deeper than the elder’s sin is his loneliness. That applies to many faithful ones who work hard in the Church and who stay virgins, who care deeply about their parents and wish not to dishonor them. What an excellent commitment to righteousness!

And yet one that needs care from the Father, lest such faithfulness lose its center and devolve into self-reliance and self-righteousness.

I have known many who struggle deeply with sexual conflicts and yet who remain faithful to God and the Church. Their biggest temptation is not to gross acts of immorality but to a kind of simmering envy toward the ‘prodigal’ as well as a sense of entitlement for their virginal ‘goodness.’ Unless tended to carefully with Mercy, these ones can ultimately be lost to the idols of this world, certain that the Father cares little about their quieter needs.

We need to hear the words of the generous father toward His resentful elder son: ‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’ (Lk. 15: 31) The Father would remind us similarly: My Mercies are new daily for your quiet ‘elder brother’ sins and needs.

We have never ceased to be the apple of His eye. May this parable give us pause to slow down and reflect upon the Mercy that is ours. Close the gap in our lonely hearts with the Presence of Your loving attentiveness, Merciful Father.

‘Who is weak and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin and I do not inwardly burn?’ St. Paul (2 Cor.11: 29)

‘Father, we too are weak. At times we are subject to desires that deride us, and a loneliness that only You fully understand. Would You draw near to us as we seek and serve You today? We have become dutiful in our gratitude to You. Remind us of Your Mercy for us. And for all the elder sons and daughters who have wandered, bring them back into the Heart of Your Mercy. Give us new sight into their suffering. Grant us Your heart for them today.’

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com

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Trusting in Our Fighting Father

Day 4 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘I Myself am fighting for them!’ (1516)

Two streams of mercy converge in our God: His masculine, steadfast love which keeps covenant with us (hesed), and the deeply felt and tenderly expressed love that issues from His depths, as from the womb of a mother (rachamim). Truly we have a merciful Father whose love surpasses that of the most devoted parents!

And like good parents, our Father expresses His mercy by battling for our best; He wars for our well-being. Knit in the womb of His best intentions for us, and empowered by the very force that gave form to all creation, we are the blessed subjects of the God who fights for the dignity of His children.

Moses declared to the embattled Israelites: ‘Don’t be afraid of the enemy; the Lord Your God will fight for you. He fought for you in Egypt, He fought for you in the desert. Remember how He carried you, like a father carries a child, all the way until now…’ (Deut. 1: 29-31) Here we catch a glimpse of the God, both tender and strong (PS 62: 11, 12), who carries us in one arm, and wields the sword against our enemies in the other!

Our Father is essentially ‘salient’, a psychological term referring to the parent whose care is a fusion of tenderness that earns the child’s trust, and authority that commands its respect.

Good parents are wise to aspire to such ‘salience’: Annette and I have certainly tried. I marvel at her bond with the kids; in the course of casual conversation with them, she imparts wisdom and grace to them seamlessly. My strength tends to be in seeing and reminding them of their best qualities and the goals they have established to develop those qualities. When they have stalled on the way or gotten sidetracked, I fight for them mercifully by reminding them of who they are.

And whose they are. Annette and I try hard to not contradict the essence of their fighting Father. But our efforts are only a pale and imperfect glimpse of the One who loves them wholly. In that way, we seek as parents to model authentic reliance upon Himself, in the hope that their hope may expand heaven-ward.

Stalled and stubborn children grant parents myriad chances to trust the Father who fights for them. I recall one child who got into legal trouble and was to be sentenced in court. Crowded and shoved about by a throng of anxious, harassed lawbreakers like us, my son and I lost each other in the crowd.

We sat on either ends of the courtroom. From my view, he looked like a frightened orphan. I realized then that he was an adult, and that I no longer could determine his punishment, or his liberty. He did, other forces did, God especially did. That day in court, I released him to the fighting Father. I prayed for Divine Mercy as my son walked alone to the judge for sentencing.

‘I do not understand how it is possible not to trust Him who can do all things. With Him everything; without Him, nothing. He is Lord. He will not allow those who place their trust in Him to be put to shame.’ (358)

‘Father, we trust You as the One who fights for our dignity and for the dignity of all. You meet us in the desert and carry us; You know our enemies and You battle them. Show us how You fight for us, tenderly and courageously. Train us to fight in mercy for those we love. May we not be so proud as to shame ourselves for not saving them. You alone can do this. Show us how to do our part, that all might be rescued from the grip of evil and set free unto Your best for their lives.’

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