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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 Running (an army of Magdalenes)

Day 23 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Mercy Running (an army of Magdalenes)

‘I found my destiny at the moment when my soul lost itself in You, the only object of my love.’ (57)

Why was Mary Magdalene the first disciple Jesus entrusted with His Resurrection? According to John’s Gospel, Peter and John raced to the empty tomb but could not comprehend Christ Resurrected.

Jesus entrusted this sight to Mary Magdalene. After Peter and John had left the tomb, having sifted through evidence of the Resurrection without sight, Mary lingered at the tomb, weeping.

These tears were familiar. Many believe that Mary was the prostitute in Luke 7 who washed Jesus’ feet with tears, in gratitude for His Mercy, while the Pharisee looked on aghast. She had been forgiven of much and so she loved Him much (v.47). Perhaps she wept after He cast out seven demons from her (Lk. 8:2) or after she witnessed His Almighty Mercy restore hundreds of lives while travelling with him. Certainly these were the tears she shed as she watched Him suffer and die on the Cross. (Jn. 19:25)

She was a woman uniquely attuned to Christ. Her gender and her brokenness forged a dependency upon Him qualitatively different from the male disciples. While ‘customers’ had shamed and fractured her, Jesus’ nearness set her free. Her wholeness was bound up in His life, her holiness a result of their intimacy.

Jesus entrusted her with His Resurrection. Clarity of sight corresponds with purity of heart (Matt. 6:22, 23). Her heart sought only His. So He, the Resurrected Christ chose to appear to her first, for her eyes alone.

He entrusted an ex-prostitute with the most pivotal event in human history.

On the eve of another Living Waters training, many ex-prostitutes will gather to help ensure their churches are safe and powerful places for the broken. Having washed Jesus’ feet with their tears, they are now intent on washing others.

Like Mary, they will run back to their homes, with pure hearts and clear eyes: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (Jn 20: 18) God is raising up an army of Magdalenes. To these He can entrust the Mercy that makes all things new.

‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; from the one entrusted with much, much more will be asked.’ (Lk. 12:48)

‘Jesus, You pour out abundant Mercies upon those in need, surpassing the depth of sin with the power of Your love. We trust in You, the Mercy that makes all things new. Set us free in the spirit of Mary Magdalene to make known Your glorious Life. Free us from sin’s winter and free us for the season of singing. Make us bold and joyful stewards of the Mercy that sets captives free.’

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 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 4

Day 19 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

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

‘When I was dying on the cross, I was not thinking about Myself but about sinners, and I prayed for them to the Father.’ (324)

Prayer for sinners to enter into God’s Mercy must become action: intercession primes our hearts with God’s intentions for them. What a privilege to steep loved ones in God’s merciful heart for them! Prayer then looses merciful words and actions toward each one.

I love that rhythm: we live out of God’s pure Blood and Water, sourced at Calvary. We live from those ‘waters’, longing for loved ones to find their place in the pool. We cry out to God to open their eyes and hearts to their need for that Mercy. In that process we become ambassadors of Mercy, an answer to our own prayers.

That requires good hard work, in prayer and deeds. Jesus describes it best in the Parable of the Fruitless Fig Tree. A man owned a vineyard with a tree that failed to bear fruit; he thus ordered the gardener to destroy it. The gardener pleaded with the owner: ‘Leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ (Lk. 13:8, 9)

We too look at the lives of ‘fruitless’ loved ones. No longer ‘abiding in the vine’, they thus fail to bear fruit. (Jn. 15:4, 5) We cry out to God: ‘Spare them as we make every effort to fertilize their lives in prayer and action.’ We then seek the Lord, asking for divine wisdom as we seek to be timely, inspired ambassadors of Mercy for them.

My son Sam had an extended season of hurt and disappointment in his life. He wandered in the wilderness, far from home. He knew the ‘house rules’, that we would not support his addictions; at the same time, he wanted freedom from the shame of our scrutiny and freedom for his autonomy.

We ached for our beloved son. When we saw him, we ached more because we could see the impact of his wandering: an afflicted, progressively sterile soul. Because we knew him well and loved him so, it was not difficult to bear with him. We asked God to inspire little acts of kindness and choice words that might break up hard ground and mirror his fruitful potential.

We prayed for Sam to behold his own fruitlessness; we asked for incidents that might shake him and cause him to yearn for something deeper and truer within.

Jesus’ Mercy prevailed. Sam lost his job and began to lose patience with his empty way of life. He returned home. Humbled, he began to cooperate with Jesus. Hail the Merciful One who mercifully prunes and fortifies the afflicted, helping them to bear lasting fruit.

‘As God has made us sharers in His Mercy, and even more than that, dispensers of that Mercy, we should therefore have great love for each soul…’ (539)

‘If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.’ (Jn. 15:7, 8)

‘Sow for yourselves righteousness, and reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers righteousness on you.’ (Hos. 10:12)

‘Jesus, we cry out for our fruitless ones. Give us time to prepare the ground of their hearts to welcome You afresh. We ask for the rain of Your Mercy in their lives; use whatever You must to break up the fallow ground. Help us to grant each what (s)he really needs. We set these ones apart for Your purposes, O God. Make them fruitful once more, in Your Name and by 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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