Tag Archives: Mercy

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Before the Flood, Gratefully

One habit to which I attribute any good that comes from me is abiding before the Crucified. Each morning I awake to a Franciscan cross from which the flood of God’s mercy–blood, water and Spirit—flows graciously into an otherwise dry and stingy vessel. I remind myself that ‘without Him I can do nothing’ (JN 14:4). True that–don’t even try. Almighty God became a humble gift so I could be a good gift to others…nothing better. I then savor His gift to me in the Eucharist.

It’s not because I am dutiful that I pray and partake of daily mass; it’s because I am desperate. People like me who almost died due to bad habits and who can still hear sin’s drumbeat on the door need the daily gift of God in Christ. He is so willing, so kind; Jesus delights in availing Himself yet again to the hungry who want to feed others but who know that divine bread must be acquired daily.

So here’s to good habits that bring His presence near. He loves to come because He loves it when my wife gets a husband composed by divine love. I can help secure her in love when I am not obsessed with other hungers. Before the flood, I am well-fed and watered, gratefully.

My four kids, three daughters-in-law, and one grandchild on the way (yeah, it’s true) need no primary parenting but they still need us. And that’s the rub. We may have concerns but need to pray more than say and do stuff that might encroach on the ground God has given them. So we live before the flood, trusting God with our desires for their good lives. We delight in giving ourselves to these charter members of our home church. Nothing better, thank You God.

And the Desert Stream staff–Annette and I have the privilege of serving daily alongside a committed group of wounded healers who share our ‘love of the flood’ but who possess backgrounds and brokenness different enough from ours to keep us before the flood. We unite in the belief that our weaknesses are the threshold for God’s almighty mercy in the workplace. So we show up with hungry hearts and open hands and ask for the waters to rise among us. We live before the flood, gratefully.

God can withhold the waters whenever He wants. That’s the truth. When He deems our non-profit org. unprofitable, DSM is done. In the meantime, we ask for the waters to rise and to water many. We live before the flood, gratefully.

Mercy: An urgent call for testimony

Mercy: An urgent call for testimony
Barbara Vittucci (a longstanding friend of DSM/LW, Barb resides in Vienna, Austria and has been a lifeline to hundreds in the church seeking wholeness)

Have you received mercy? Through the healing love of Jesus Christ, are you growing in restoration of soul, identity, relationships, and sexuality? In our days of titanic confusion in these very areas, the world needs your testimony as never before. It is a time for the flood gates of mercy to open and to draw many of the lost and least into the loving embrace of Jesus Christ.

But what is mercy? Is it political correctness? Is it playing ‘nice’ and remaining silent in the face of injustice? Does it enable destructive behavior? Not according to Scripture and Church tradition. Throughout the centuries, churches have taught on both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The works of mercy are not optional but are essential to living the Christian life of holiness and goodness. These are active, challenging expressions of mercy.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are based on Mt 25: “For I was hungry, thirsty, naked, in prison, a stranger, sick. What you did for the least of these, you did unto me…“ These works include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing and sheltering the homeless, and visiting the sick and imprisoned.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are taken from a variety of scriptures and include admonishing the sinner (LK 15:7), instructing the ignorant (Mk 16:1), counseling the doubtful (Jude 23), comforting the sorrowful (Gal. 6:2), bearing wrongs patiently (Col. 3:12), and forgiving our wound-ers (Mt. 6:12).

Mercy expresses love in very concrete ways for our neighbor’s physical or spiritual well-being. To admonish, instruct and counsel belongs to mercy. That means that truth and mercy are intimately connected. It is the Holy Spirit, the One who is called The Spirit of Truth and The Comforter, who leads us in how to love well.

Truth, when not in love, is legalistic. And love cut off from truth can lead to destruction.

Here is another classic and helpful list for our consideration. We can be an accessory to another’s sin through: counsel, command, provocation, praise and flattery, concealment and silence, and by defense of the ill done. In our desire to make peace and please people instead of God, many of us have been an accessory to sin. When we do this, we commit cruel, unmerciful acts. .

Amid the confusion surrounding mercy and sexual wholeness, a door of hope opens. Forbidden topics are now being addressed in church. What an opportunity to offer help to the strugglers who are everywhere!. Now we can speak more openly, without the shame that shrouds our struggles and keeps us bound. Let the light in. Open prison doors.

Go tell the world. Your struggles have more meaning than you know. Your testimonies of hope are the atomic power of the Gospel and are deeply needed in our day. People trust those who have been there. This is mercy. And no one can take away the power of your story. You were born for such a time as this.

November 21, 2014: Good Samaritan

‘The Samaritan woman is every one of us. She is every human being who has ever sinned and betrayed the God who loved and made us, by chasing after other gods, trying desperately to get creatures to give us what only the Creator can give. She is every human being who has ever made a complete mess of their lives with choices from which they just can’t seem to break loose. She is every person who has a sinful, broken past that they’d just rather not talk about.’ Brant Pitre

Like the Samaritan woman, the best healers start as a mixture–wheat and tares. Strongholds of sin and virtue grew up together in a typically sensitive, passionate soul that cries out for a long time: ‘Jesus, I am Yours; please, make me Yours!’

Deep divides take a long time to overcome. I concur with the ‘law of gradualism’ (13) noted by the recent report on the Synod of Family. Authentic repentance can take years and requires a lot of confessions, loads of truthful compassion from Christians who surround them, and of course, the ironclad commitment of Jesus who always fights for the free-will surrender of His bride.

In spite of the Samaritan woman’s instantaneous witness of Jesus (“Come see a man who told me everything…’), we could say that Samaritans actually take a long time to convert. So the Church needs two things. First she must uphold for all Christians her standard of union with Christ in the whole of one’s divided humanity. And secondly, she must mobilize a host of Samaritan converts who are willing to suffer long with fellow strugglers. The rhythm is: failure, forgiveness, more failure then deeper forgiveness, on and on, until pay dirt—‘Jesus, I surrender and am willing to do what You want…’

Such merciful struggle and surrender creates merciful healers. I think of my friend Gary who suffered nearly intolerable shame with same-sex struggles and sin in a variety of religious settings. After his wife left him, he surrendered to Jesus and a group of faithful ones who loved him into the man he is today. Or Diane who grew up thinking sexual abuse is the common love offered by older neighbors until she surrendered her broken adult relationships to Jesus and a supportive group of women. Or Kevin who as a pastor knew deeply his divided motives toward a series of women he served in his parish until he decided to come clean and get the help he needed.

Divided all, now united to Christ, these Samaritans are powerful dispensers of ‘living waters’ to others. They go the distance with fellow strugglers because of their deep gratitude to Jesus and His Church. Primed with mercy, they see and feel and act toward others out of that mercy.

Gary, Diane and Kevin help me to look with new eyes upon the story of the Good Samaritan (LK 10:25-37); I understand now why the Samaritan saw and acted heroically toward the oppressed man rather than holy Jews who perceived only an obstacle in their path. Divided, she had been united by mercy. Mercy transformed the Samaritan’s grid and goaded her to give herself away to another.

As a Pharisee scrutinized both, Jesus addressed an unclean woman weeping at His feet: ‘She who has been forgiven of much will love much.’ (Lk 7: 47) So do all Samaritans made good by the mercy of God. May Jesus make the Church a Good Samaritan for all broken ones who cry out for mercy.

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Conferences: For our 2015 conferences, scheduled in Reseda, CA, Virginia and proposed in Chicago and Ohio.
  2. Aguas Vivas: Bocono, Venezuela, Betsy – Coordinator: Grace and all they need to run their group in the midst of a highly unstable political climate.
  3. Courage: For the Lord to continue to strengthen and protect the leaders: Father Paul Check, Director and Angelo Sabella, Program Manager. For grace to equip and unify chapters of Courage around the country. Also for the new Courage documentary to impact many with the message of chastity; and for no more production problems with a current media project.

“Courage for Reverend Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”


Judge Not (Part 4) Necessary Judgements

How lovely to see others through the eyes of mercy. And painful. At times it is necessary to see with those eyes the damage we do to one another when the faithful act unfaithfully through sexual sin. St. Paul gives us a powerful complement to Jesus’ command to ‘not judge’ when the Apostle implores us as church men and women to exercise wise judgments in regards to our fellows who have fallen into grievous sins. Why? St. Paul understood that unchecked sexual immorality had power in the believing community to impact the purity and holiness of others.

Paul’s Greco-Roman world differed significantly from the Hebrew community of Jesus in regards to sexuality and spirituality. The Apostle advanced the Gospel among citizens who worshipped many gods and goddesses and whose sexual practices reflected that diversity. Whereas Jesus liberated the poor from the legalistic shame of the Pharisee, St. Paul contended with the near shamelessness of new converts emerging out of an idolatrous, highly sensual world.

In I C 5, St. Paul describes a man in the Corinthian Church who was committing incest with his father’s wife. And the Church was proud of it! (1C 5:2) The severe nature of the sexual immorality at hand coupled with an arrogant tolerance of the sin inspired St. Paul to exhort the members of Christ’s body at Corinth: ‘What business is it of mine to judge those outside of the church? Are you not to judge those inside? Expel the wicked brother from among you.’(12, 13)

In other words, we must discern when the integrity of the Church is being violated. That matters to Jesus and it should matter to us: we must each do our part when members are violating each other.

St. Paul clearly is ‘passing judgment’ on this Corinthian man, and he does so without reservation. His reasons are clear: tolerating sexual immorality among believers has an especially pernicious impact on the whole: ‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.’ (v. 6) Such tolerance undermines the moral standards of the community overall.

Commenting on Paul’s judgment and discipline of this man, Pauline scholar Dr. Robert Gagnon writes: ‘If the Church refuses to take a firm stand against an obvious and severe violation of sexual immorality then its resistance to other types of sexual immorality will be weakened beyond repair.’

Unlike Jewish disciples who were subject to myriad regulations concerning sexual purity, the Corinthians boasted of their sexual liberties as a sign of their progressive, grace-filled faith. St. Paul reminded them in Chapters 6 and 7 of the power of the human body to bind them to intimate communion with God or to other gods and goddesses. He is simply applying Jesus’ mandate: serial, unrepentant immoral behavior puts one at risk from inheriting the Kingdom of God. (Matt. 5: 27-30: Jesus implores us to destroy what stumbles us so we can avoid hell!)

St. John the Apostle invokes the same principle in regards to ‘tolerating’ the prophetess Jezebel whose teaching ‘led the servants of God into sexual immorality’ at the church in Thyatira. The Apostle prophesies intense suffering for all in the church who fail to repent (Rev. 2: 20-23). Strong language: both St. John and St. Paul bring judgment, a sword intended to separate the holy from the defiled in order to preserve the integrity of the whole.

That integrity includes the invitation for the defiled to repent unto the mercy of God. In truth, mercy motivates both John and Paul in their judgments. St. John invites the Thyatirans to turn away from their deception and so avoid suffering; St. Paul implores the Corinthians to turn the immoral man out of the fellowship so that his sin might be destroyed, his soul saved (1 C 4:5). The purging of impurity from the fellowship is married to the hope of restoration for the fallen.

The excesses at Corinth and Thyatira demanded decisive, divisive judgment in order to preserve the dignity of the faithful.

What matters to Jesus, to St. Paul and St. John and I think Pope Francis is that we do not over-emphasize the threat of others’ sexual immorality. We run the risk of magnifying ‘specks’ and missing our own planks.

Two keys here: although we can and must judge certain acts as being a grave, we must entrust ultimate judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.’ (CCC 186)

The basis for such moral discernment is our personal reckoning with moral vulnerabilities. Scripture and Church teaching command us over and over to make wise moral judgments about ourselves. The horizon Jesus has opened for us frees us to make wise moral judgments. And we must, if we want to engender life in our fellows, not confusion or lust or fear.

Solomon implores us to ‘preserve sound judgment and discernment; they will be life for you’, an antidote to not getting entrapped in sin. (PR 3: 21) ‘A man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself,’ (PR 6:32) and I dare say, his marriage too. How blessed we are, when through God’s mercy we have removed the plank from our own eye and can help our brother remove the speck in his.

We want our churches to be safe and clean sanctuaries. But still earthy and honest enough to welcome dirty sheep so they can have a fighting chance to become clean! Perhaps this is among Pope Francis’ main points: Rather than a Church which clings to its own security, He wants a church that is bruised and hurting because it has been out on the streets…‘ If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is because so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the light, strength, and consolation born of friendship with Jesus, and without a community of faith to support them…’ (EG 49)

Might we be empowered by a renewed Gospel that has power to open the horizon of others and grant them a new vision and a new hope for their lives? These men and women surround us in our daily lives: persons with SSA who are blinded by both homosexual fatalism and the stigmatism of the Pharisee.

Might we trust the truth that has set us free, divine love that surpasses our weaknesses and compels us to build bridges rather than walls with others? Let us not be content with being a tidy truthful church but a messy fruitful one. Let’s manifest the mercy that has power to open for all a whole new horizon.

Resurrection: The Wrong Side of History?

‘I could strengthen you with talk, or shake my head with silent lips.’ (Jb 16:5)

I spoke to him plainly of the dangers of ‘gay marriage,’ and the power of Jesus and His church to raise the ‘homosexual’ to wholeness. The earnest bishop implored me: ‘But we don’t want to be on the wrong side of history!’

I understand his dilemma. Last night while channel surfing for 15 minutes, I witnessed two same-gendered couples smooching to celebrate ‘gay marriage’ victories in PA and OR, a piece on skater Johnny Weir who alongside his male partner wore a full face of make-up and bouffant hair, followed by the ‘testimony’ of a former Navy SEAL who was in the process of undergoing a sex-change.

The wrong seems right. To some, we are finally coming to our senses concerning ‘gender diversity.’ In truth, we are witnessing a mix of moral blindness and personal brokenness that scrambles humanity’s most basic foundation: what it means to be male and female. I say ‘moral’ because the decisions we make concerning what we do with our tendencies (be they to merge with a same-gender friend, to look like the opposite-sex, or to cut off one’s genitals in an effort ‘to become’ the other gender) involves choices as to what is right and wrong.

We take these cues substantially from what our culture says it right and wrong. The new normal, gender-wise? Anything goes. In the name of justice, invoking racial equality, western culture has nearly deconstructed gender identity and rendered its formation null and void, with the added warning that if you disagree with another’s gender choices you are a ‘hater.’

My kids know better. You know why? They were raised among dozens of men and women whom Jesus raised from the dead of homosexual and transgender decisions, including their father. Of course they can discern like any honest person that a Navy SEAL in drag needs healing, not more hormones, and that the last thing Johnny Weir needs is more camera-time. Beyond that, my kids know that persons who are inclined toward their own gender or toward identifying with the other gender need the God who stoops down to meet us in our gender. The Resurrected God gives us what we need; He frees us to resume the journey toward realizing what it means to be made in His image, male and female.

His Resurrection changes the conversation from dead-end decisions to hope. When Jesus rose from the dead, He redefined hope and history itself. The Jewish religious leaders and Roman political leaders converged on the ‘right’ side of history; they seemed to create a formidable block to the future influence of this ‘Jesus.’ Yet death could not hold Him, any more than the gay or transgender ‘self’ needs to define persons who welcome Him into their gender conflicts. His legacy emerged from the tomb, as will ours.

What we need today are bold witnesses of persons raised from the dead of such conflicts. How else will we counter witnesses to the contrary? If there ever was a time for us who have received healing in our gender identities to say so, it is now. Our silence is deadly to a generation which no longer believes that Resurrection applies to gender distortions.

We of the Resurrection may have to endure more scorn than we might like for such a witness–for upholding life-giving choices for the gender broken. At least we will be in good company. True Christians usually seem to be on the ‘wrong’ side of history. And to suffer for it. How precious this opportunity to declare what is right and to endure the opposition of mere men. The living God is on our side!

‘Take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.’ (Deut. 4:9)


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