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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Deep Wells of Mercy

Day 24 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Deep Wells of Mercy

‘He brought me into such close intimacy with Himself that my heart was espoused to His heart in a loving union; I could feel the faintest stir of His heart and He of mine. The fire of my created love was joined to the ardor of His eternal love.’ (1056)

Why are the sexually broken so often the recipients of Jesus’ Mercy in the Gospels?

To answer this, one must first consider the depth and power of human sexuality. God made each of us a deep well of desire for love—our very bodies, yearning to cast off their solitude, are inspired by the Creator to merge with others. Out of loving commitment to another, we then become creators of new life.

John Paul ll describes this as ‘the spousal meaning’ of our bodies; they are intended for the love of a good man or woman, and to be fruitful!

Sexuality has deep spiritual meaning as well. St. Paul likens the marital bond as the living witness on earth of Jesus’ spousal love for His bride, the Church. Each of us, single or married, compose His bride who awaits final consummation in union with Himself. Pointing to this greater spiritual goal to which our sexuality points, Christopher West writes, ‘Our bodies have theological meaning.’

Sexual love involves a necessary boundary that hides it from all but the bride and groom. Something so powerful and creative requires such protection; it is the only way we can experience nakedness without shame.

When sexuality is good, it is very, very good. And when it is bad, it is awful. Our sinful world breaks sacred boundaries and exposes sexuality to all manner of indignities. As fallen members of this world, we all perpetuate these crimes of passion and are victimized by them. Our shame is as deep as our sexuality is powerful. Yet deeper still is the longing for nakedness without shame, self-giving without blame.

Jesus knows the power of man for woman, woman for man, and the sinful oppression that hangs over this most powerful of unions. Such brokenness betrays His very image. So He acts quickly and decisively in Mercy to reclaim that image by restoring broken ones to His original intention for them.

He does so in the most tender, intimate ways possible: the generous father kissing his prodigal, gentle Jesus receiving the washing of the prostitute, the friend of the Samaritan, the just God who stands in solidarity with the adulteress.

He stoops down to the sexually broken and washes their feet. Perfect in love, He fears no contamination from the defiled. He hears those who cry out for Mercy from that deepest wellspring of desire. His intimate Presence converts them.

Jesus loves and cleanses these ones in the depths of their truest selves. No stone is unturned: every motive, affection, memory, lover is yielded to the One who has won their hearts. Desire is His domain! Thus the surrendered homosexual/prostitute/fornicator bears Life in his/her depths boundlessly. More are the children of the desolate woman (Is 54:1) than of a faithfully married Pharisee!

Amid all the sexual scandals in the Church today, we cannot lose sight of the quiet majority who has exchanged silent, cancerous sin for trustful surrender to Jesus. Just last week, I met with a group of Living Waters leaders who began the gathering by confessing sin. One admitted a disturbing erotic dream, another, the temptation of Internet porn, yet another, the need for limits in an overly dependent friendship, another still the over-identification with her children.

I felt proud to be among them; lovers of Jesus so inclined to His Mercy they cannot tolerate unspoken temptations! What may seem a threat to the integrity of the body of Christ becomes through Mercy the very antidote to the mess we are in. He is intent on transforming polluted wells into deep reservoirs of Mercy.

‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls, all Your waves and breakers have washed over me.’ (Ps. 42:1, 7)

‘Spring up, oh wells, and restore the Bride. Let not former sin prevent you from embracing your merciful call. Let Mercy strike down shame and raise you up gloriously in this hour. His Body needs the testimony of Mercy in yours.’

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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Mercy and Gratitude

Day 11 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘O Jesus, the more I have known You, the more ardently I have desired You.’ (591)

This woman loved Jesus from a distance; she had witnessed His healings, listened to His teachings and been converted by His powerful love for the lost and the least. She was among them, ‘a sinful woman’, probably a prostitute. We can assume her shame and also her despair, until God revealed Himself to her.

Before she met Jesus, the face of God for her was the Pharisee’s: exacting, decent, exclusive. Her face burned with shame when a religious man looked at her. Jesus’ eyes were different; they seemed to know all about her yet did not scorn her. In truth, He seemed to see her as more than just a ‘bad girl’, as if He were pleading for something better for her.

His Mercy won her over. When she saw Him eating with the Pharisee, she wanted to run right over and give herself to Him, to thank Him, yes, to devote herself to Him. (Lk. 7: 36-50) She knew what it meant to give herself to guys, but that’s not what motivated her this time. It was gratitude; His Mercy made her want to surrender to Him and follow Him, pure and simple.

Her problem? The Pharisee eating with Him! Her liberator and her captor together! Brave-hearted, she risked rejection from the one in order to worship the Other. She endured the Pharisee’s shame for the joy set before her. Silently, she washed His feet with perfume and with tears of gratitude for His love for her. The Pharisee looked on aghast. Was Jesus naïve? Unclean? Certainly not the Savior of the world!

Jesus asked him: if one man owed a banker a hundred dollars and another man owed him a thousand, who would be more grateful for the release of the loan? This woman gave me everything in grateful response to My Mercy; you sit there detached, heady, asking me theological questions with no intention of worshipping Me. ‘Her many sins have been forgiven, and as a result, she loves Me much. But He who has been forgiven of a little will love little.’ (Lk. 7: 47)

Those of us blessed with the duo knowledge of our many sins and the Mercy that is our only Hope become true worshippers. We devote ourselves to Him gratefully because He alone has set us free. No-one or nothing else will do. Only He has the keys to life: the forgiveness of sin, the fighting chance to be reconciled to the better, truer self of His design.

Maybe that’s why Jesus commissioned the Samaritan woman to be one of the true worshippers who would devote herself to Him in Spirit and in Truth (Jn. 4: 23). An unclean woman also, exposed by the all-seeing eye of Jesus, she realized that He alone was God and could set her free. Mercy received in the form of ‘Living Water’ primed her to gratefully worship Him, thus leading the way for millions like us to do the same.

‘Thank You for Mercy, O God. Grant us courage to bypass the Pharisee (in our own hearts and in our churches) in order to worship You with gratitude. You have made Your Mercy known to us. We worship You, O God. Rescue those locked up in fear of the Pharisee. Make Your kind and all-powerful vision for their good evident to them. Use us as Your agents of Mercy in this way, we pray. May many be reunited to the Lord of Mercy through our grateful witness of Mercy.’

 

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Jesus: A Fountain of Living Water

Day 9 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘O inexhaustible spring of Divine Mercy, pour Yourself out upon us! Your goodness knows no limits. Confirm , O Lord, the power of Your mercy over the abyss of our misery, for You have no limits to Your mercies.’ (819)

The Old Testament streams of mercy converge in the New Testament and well up into a fountain of ‘living water’. Jesus is that fountain. From Him flow rivers of Life that make the unclean pure, the weak strong, and the broken whole. Jesus embodies Mercy. He releases Mercy to sinners, manifesting the truth that ‘those who were far away from God have been brought near’ to Him (Eph. 2: 13).

One barrier for sinners in relation to a Holy God is shame. The emotion of separation and inferiority, shame reminds the soul of its sinful distance from Him. It functions like a ‘shame-coat’, repelling even good expressions of ‘living water.’

Jesus offers this ‘liquid love’ for the first time early in John’s Gospel (Chapter 4). He encounters a woman steeped in shame. Her shame was two-fold. First, she had experienced much ‘social shame’ due to her ethnicity. Samaritans were scorned in that day, especially by Jews. Originally an ethnic hybrid of Jewish and Canaanite blood, Samaritans reminded Jews of the shame they incurred by intermingling with a forbidden culture.

Jews looked down on Samaritans with squinting eyes. Such social shame is evil–it has its source in the fallen traditions of men, not in God’s heart. But it can be just as powerful. That woman would have thought Jesus had nothing but scorn for her, just as a man or woman struggling with same-sex attraction might fear the bullying of an angry peer or preacher.

But the Samaritan had a second type of shame as well, the shame we feel when we go outside of God’s will. This woman had many sexual partners in her past and one in her present. She knew that Jesus was a holy man; she knew also that she was not holy, sexually-speaking. Such shame may have tempted her or us to turn away from holy ones for fear of incurring rejection, condemnation, etc.

In John 4, Jesus turns to the Samaritan woman, and to us, in our shameful state. Each of us is a mixture of both good and bad shame. We have sinned, and we have been sinned against by those motivated by ungodly traditions of shame.

Jesus makes it clear in John 4 that the cure for both types of shame is in His ‘living water.’ Only Mercy can dissolve the ‘shame coat’ that tempts us to resist Love. He says to us all: ‘The water I give you will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ (Jn. 4: 13)

Here Jesus is prophesying two future events: the flood of Blood and Water released at Calvary, and the Holy Spirit released at His Resurrection. (Jn. 19: 34; Jn. 20: 22)

He releases to this woman a foretaste of this flood of Mercy. What matters here is how tender His Mercy is toward this shameful one, and how powerful is His Mercy to dissolve that shame and enter into her depths. Shame is no match for Almighty Mercy!

He is not content with us just knowing cerebrally about His Love; He wants us to partake of Mercy at the most deeply personal level until it springs up within us a Fountain of Life.

‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ (Jn.7: 37, 8)

‘Jesus, remind us of how You stoop down to sinners in order to raise us up. Remove the shame that bars us from Your Presence. We pray for all who still hide from You in shame; let ‘Living Water’ flow to them. Use Your servants to make known to the shamed how You draw near to them in order to set them free.’

 

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