Sunday, April 12, 2015

Becoming Merciful

Jesus, I trust in You!
PRAISED BE Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday during the Year of the Poor, it would truly be beneficial for us to see the devotion to the Divine Mercy and its relationship with the poor. Many of us associate the devotion to the veneration of the now famous painting of the Divine Mercy. We should include in this devotion the sacrament of Confession and also of the Eucharist. And of course, the devotion would not be complete without the 3:00 prayer and the chaplet of the Divine Mercy. However, there is one aspect of the devotion that we usually neglect, and that is the performance of the works of mercy.

The Acts of the Apostles portrayed for us a picture of the infant Church wherein those who followed the Lord Jesus put their resources together: “The community of believers was of one heart and one mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.” Thus, “there was no needy person among them.” Their relationship with the Lord transformed them to the point that they placed even their financial resources at the service of each other. The mercy which they experienced from the Lord made the disciples themselves bearers of Divine Mercy. The works of mercy became a lifestyle: “In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this: that we keep his commandments.”  The Lord Jesus himself admonished us to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked and shelter the stranger, to visit the sick and the imprisoned for “whatever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me.” We must imitate the Father who is holy and merciful: “Be merciful for the Father is merciful.”

We glorify God’s mercy by being merciful ourselves. In her diary, St. Faustina wrote this prayer: “O Most Holy Trinity! As many times as I breathe, as many times as my heart beats, as many times as my blood pulsates through my body, so many thousand times do I want to glorify your mercy.

“I want to be completely transformed into your mercy and to be your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor. Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful , so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbor’s soul and come to their rescue. Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbor’s needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings. Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all. Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good for my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks. Help me that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor. Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own sufferings in silence. May your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me.

“You yourself command me to exercise the 3 degrees of mercy. The 1st: the act of mercy, of whatever kind. The 2nd: the word of mercy – if I cannot carry out a work of mercy, I will assist by my words. The 3rd: prayer – if I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically. O my Jesus, transform me into yourself, for you can do all things.” (Diary, 163.)

Jesus. I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Not Just an Empty Tomb

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

AS THEY WERE coming down the mountain of the transfiguration, the disciples were charged by the Lord not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. “So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.” Early in that Easter morning, Peter and John (2 of those who saw the transfiguration) ran to the tomb of Jesus when they heard of the Lord’s missing body. Both of them entered the tomb and saw the shroud or burial cloths rolled up. At last they were confronted by the reality they were questioning. They came to stand face to face with the reality of the rising of Jesus from the dead. This is what rising from the dead meant.

St. John saw and believed. People may see the evidence of an empty tomb and see nothing in its emptiness. John saw the empty tomb and realized that its emptiness was itself the evidence of the resurrection. John saw with his own eyes how the Lord died on the Cross. He himself stood beneath the Cross. He saw blood and water flowing from the Lord’s wounded side. He himself brought Jesus’ lifeless body to the tomb. Now, the Lord is simply not there in the tomb because he has risen from the dead. He saw and believed.

St. Peter would later on see something from the empty tomb. Not only would he see it as simply an evidence of the resurrection. He would see the resurrection as the evidence of the fact that Jesus is “the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” Having been the one who denied the Lord thrice, Peter himself experienced his sins being forgiven by the One who rose from the dead.  The Lord appeared to Simon. That is why Peter could testify “that God raised this man on the third day and granted that he be visible not to all the people but to us…who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

It was not just an empty tomb that they saw. They did not simply see the absence of a corpse. In that empty tomb, they saw life overcoming death. They saw mercy overcoming sin. The empty tomb was an invitation to believe in Jesus. It was an invitation to escape the condemnation that it ours on account of our sins. It was an invitation to receive forgiveness from him. It was an invitation to find in him eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him might not perish but might have everlasting life.”
The Lord Jesus once was slain for us but now, he lives forever. His love endures forever because he will never die again. His immortality makes him capable of loving us forever. “Life comes to us from being loved by him who is Life; it comes to us from living-with and loving-with him.” (Benedict XVI, Easter Vigil 2006.)
Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

The Grain of Wheat Falls alone

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

“Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you,” said St. Peter and all the apostles spoke similarly. And yet, as early as the agony in the garden, the disciples already abandoned the Lord. In spite of the fact that Jesus said, “My soul is sorrowful even to death,” the disciples even found the occasion to sleep and to leave Christ alone in his anguish. When the Lord was arrested, “they all left him and fled” including that mysterious young man who ran off naked. It did not take long for Peter to take his words back…he denied the Lord before the cock crowed. From then on, Jesus was alone. He was left alone to be surrounded by his enemies, mocked even by those sentenced to die with him. In the end, Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” His anguished cry tells us that even the Father whom he loved abandoned him? It was a very lonely way to die. He was in the middle of people and yet he was alone.

And yet, the moment he died, the voice of the centurion was heard: “Truly this man was the Son of God.” And then came forward Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger, and also Salome. Then Joseph of Arimathea asked for the Body of Jesus. Also let us not forget Simon the Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, who seemed to be known to the writer of the Gospel as believers. And the naked young man? Wait for him on Easter Sunday! When I look at all of these, I could not help but remember what the Lord Jesus said last Sunday: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain. But when it falls and dies, it bears much fruit.” Indeed, Jesus is that grain of wheat that falls alone and dies. He died alone, abandoned by his disciples, forsaken even by his Father. Alone he fell and died. And yet when he died, he bore abundant fruits. The centurion, the women, Joseph of Arimathea, Simon and his sons, the naked young man, the weeping Peter…these were his abundant fruits. 2 Sundays ago, the Lord Jesus said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself.” You and I are here in fulfillment of what the Lord said. You and I are here drawn towards him who was lifted upon the Cross. If it were not for his lifting up, if it were not for his suffering and death, none of us would be here.

And so, as we enter Holy Week, let us make firm our resolve to gather around Jesus. Let us accompany him in his abasement. Let us join him in his sorrow. Let us thank for his love and sacrifice. Let us thank him for calling us to himself. Let this week be unlike all other weeks. Let us keep this week not for ourselves but for him who died for us. Let us not be ashamed of him. Let us not deny him. Instead, let us proclaim to the glory of God the Father: “Jesus Christ is Lord.”   

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!