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Mercy Rising (on trembling legs …)

Day 22 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Mercy Rising (on trembling legs…)

‘I know that the grain of wheat must be ground between millstones in order to become food. In the same way, I must be crushed in order to be useful to the Church and to souls.’ (641)

Jesus is crushed to become for us the Meal of Mercy; death precedes life, first for Christ then for Christians. Only our death is not fatal. The Risen Lord invites us to die to our props and illusions; He grants us Mercy then resurrects what in us pleases Him.

St. Peter illustrates well these necessary losses. I love that man. He embodies the zealous, unrefined, and teachable soul better than any other. Jesus loved Him dearly, in light of his blindness—‘You shall never die, Jesus!’ his fear and unbelief—‘Jesus, I will follow You on the water; help, I am drowning here!’, and his arrogance—‘Jesus, you shall never wash my feet!’

Jesus loved Peter in all of his stumblings, and set him aright each time.

Jesus entrusted Peter with the keys of the Kingdom—forgiveness, the binding and loosing of sin. Does that not make sense in light of the Rock’s many failures?

To whom would you be more apt to entrust your sin—a seamless saint or a sinner made holy through Mercy alone? Through failure and repentance unto Jesus and His forgiveness, Peter earned his place as the first to be entrusted to forgive sins in Jesus’ Name and power.

Consider Peter’s last great failure, his three-fold denial of Jesus prior to Calvary. Almighty Mercy turned the Apostle’s worst humiliation inside out; He made it the basis of His three-fold call for Peter to love and feed His sheep.

The Resurrected Christ elevated the humbled Peter as the Church father of forgiveness, His man of Mercy for sinners like you and me. On trembling legs, with extended hand, we the members of the one body are wise to follow Peter’s lead. Let Mercy overflow from the depths of vacated sin.

‘The Church is founded on forgiveness. Peter is a personal embodiment of this truth, for he is permitted to be the bearer of the keys, after having stumbled, confessed, and received the grace of pardon. Behind the talk of authority, God’s power appears as Mercy and thus is the foundation stone of the Church.’

Pope Benedict, Called to Communion

‘Simon Peter, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ (Lk.22:31, 32)

‘Jesus, we agree with You that sin crushes us. Thank You for not crushing us as a penalty for our sin; thank You for granting us Mercy. Only in Mercy can we repent and come to a full knowledge of the Truth. You are that Truth, Jesus. In the words of Peter, where else will we go? You are the key to our lives, the antidote to our sin and the secret of a future lived in union with You. Make us Merciful, as You were merciful to Peter and to us. Like Peter, may we represent well the truth that ‘Mercy is the foundation stone of the Church.’ ‘

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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The Gaze From The Cross, Part 1

Day 16 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

The Gaze from the Cross, Part 1 ( Please also read Part 2Part 3 and Part 4)

‘I want to live beneath Your divine gaze, for You alone are enough for me. When I am with You, Jesus, I fear nothing, for nothing can do me harm.’ (306)

Christ Crucified is God’s greatest expression of Mercy for us. His death is the Source of our life. During these 40 days, we are asking God to show us His Mercy so that Mercy might alter our perspective on everything. We are thus wise to fix our gaze on the Merciful Cross!

Some of us struggle here. We see the cross and we see only death—God ambushed and vanquished by evil. In that we might feel His solidarity with our defeats and losses but not His sustenance.

To help us, God gave St. Faustina a powerful vision of Himself upon the Cross. She writes: ‘I saw the Lord clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in a gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at His breast. From beneath the garment was emanating two large rays, one red [His life-giving blood], the other pale [His waters that cleanse].’ (47)

A key aspect of this vision is Jesus’ strong and steady gaze looking down slightly at the viewer. His eyes hold ours; they convey tenderness and strength in a way that nourishes the soul. Truly this is the gaze of the salient parent, Heaven’s embodiment of Mercy to hungry children everywhere.

And yet one cannot dismiss the intensity of His gaze—the all-seeing Love that exposes in order to extend Mercy. As the beloved says to her lover: ‘Turn Your eyes from me; they overwhelm me,’ (S of S 6: 5) so I struggle to stay present to the gaze of the Crucified. And that is what Jesus told St. Faustina about this vision: ‘My gaze from this image is like My gaze from the Cross.’ (326)

Oh for the grace to gaze unflinchingly in Love’s Merciful face! Surely He delights in our practicing with an imperfect image as we prepare for face-to-face Perfection!

St. Faustina did us a remarkable service in tending to the ‘capture’ of this vision on canvas: what we now have is a pretty good glimpse of the Mercy that flows from the Crucified Christ.

Many believers might struggle with such representation, fearing the idolatry which worships an image and not the Real. Like any good symbol, the Divine Mercy is powerful only to the degree that it points us to the Unseen Reality of Mercy. So we worship Jesus, not its imperfect representation. As St. Faustina herself said: ‘Not in the beauty of the color nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in Jesus’ grace…’ (313)

Christ Crucified is the ultimate conduit of Christ’s Mercy; it distills the essence of what God gave us in Christ to make us His own. The Divine Mercy is but a humble representation of that Mercy. Jesus uses it to help us fix our gaze upon Himself.

In a day when our eyes are distracted, dulled, even defiled by everyday idols, let us fix our gaze on the One who looks upon us with Mercy.

‘O Blood and Water that gushes forth from the heart of the Savior as a Fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You!’ (309)

‘If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.’ (Matt. 6:22)

‘My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.’ (Ps. 25:15)

‘Jesus, help us to keep our eyes fixed on Mercy. May Your gaze hold ours. May we look Mercy in the eyes each morning; may Mercy be our last glance at night. Thank You that Your eyes of Mercy ever watch over us. Grant us the grace to return and sustain Your gaze from the Cross. Change us with 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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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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