Sunday, April 19, 2020

Divine Mercy Reflection

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. I attended mass with Fr. Mike Schmitz who gave a wonderful homily. I encourage you to watch the video, but for those who don't, let me add my own reflection, which was stated much more eloquently by Fr. Schmitz.

In Luke 10:27, Jesus gives the two greatest commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” These are actually taken from the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 6:5 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might" and Leviticus 19:17 "you shall love your neighbor as yourself."

It strikes me that these two commandments echo God's principle attributes, justice and mercy. To love God is to love His laws, and to seek justice.  According to justice each should be treated according to what is due. In today's post-Christian world, karma. However, love of neighbor enables us to show mercy, that is, forgiving our neighbor even when he does not deserve it by justice. This, to me, is a great mystery - how God is both mercy and justice.

On Divine Mercy Sunday we are called to contemplate not just how we, through sin, deserve punishment, but rather to trust in God's mercy and forgiveness. Psalm 136 is a good read for today "Praise the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endures forever..."

It is said that nobody is condemned to hell for sin, but rather for refusing God's mercy and forgiveness. But who in their right mind would do such a thing, and why? God's mercy and forgiveness is offered to us through the sacrament of Confession. John 20:21-23:
 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
I know many people who say "Jesus died for my sins, past present or future. I am saved no matter what." But that's not what Jesus says, that's a tradition of men. Others, "I can take my sins directly to God and He forgives me." But that's not what Jesus said, that too is a tradition of men. How do you know you are forgiven? There is one simple way. When a priest, ordained by Jesus, and acting in His name, using the power expressly delegated to him by Jesus, says those words to you "I absolve you from your sin" then, and only then, are you assured that you are indeed forgiven. This is not something the church made up - it is in black and white in the Scriptures.

Are you too embarrassed to go to Confession? Don't believe it is effective, or that it applies to you personally? Don't believe you will be forgiven? Then you are refusing God's mercy, which is being freely offered to you. Please think about this, and I beg you - make an act of contrition today and a firm resolution to go to Confession as soon as you can, and accept the mercy that is being extended to you by God.

"My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.   Amen."

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?

According to Matthew 27:45-46:
From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This year, given the state of my life, I am reflecting on these words more and more. We are in a time of darkness, disease and quarantine, physically and spiritually, and I am tempted to cry out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Every day I read that more people have become ill and more people have died, more and more people are losing their jobs, their hope and their faith. Today 196 people died in New Jersey. Has God forsaken us? Did God forsake Jesus on the cross?

Yet the words spoken by Jesus were not His moment of despair, but a teaching moment. Even in His agony Jesus thinks only of us. In fact, there is not one word or action of Jesus that was not for the good of others. This is an amazing revelation to me. These words, that sound like a cry of despair, are actually meant to recall Psalm 22:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
    and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel. 
In you our ancestors trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them. 
To you they cried, and were saved;
    in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
Go ahead and follow the link above and read the whole thing. It alternates between what the psalmist feels at the moment and what he knows to be true of God. The psalm ends in firm trust that God has, in fact, not forsaken him
Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord 
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
    saying that he has done it.
At no time did God forsake His people, at no time did God forsake His Son, nor does He forsake us. In Genesis, God says "Let there be light" and there was, and man is created. At the Crucifixion, there are three hours of darkness until God brings back light, and brings forth the righteous dead from their graves - man recreated anew.

We are in Lent, but Easter is coming. I don't just mean this week, but in our lives. Now is a time for sackcloth and ashes, but I know and believe that after these days of comparative darkness, God will restore the light and bring forth something new and wonderful. And those who died in His love will rise again, for nothing is ever lost with God.

Join me in reading Isaiah 40. This is usually read during Advent, but I think it is particularly appropriate to meditate on the consolation of God.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
from the Litany for the Church in Our Time:
Jesus our God, in these dark hours when Thy Mystical Body is undergoing its own crucifixion, and when it would almost seem to be abandoned by God the Father, have mercy, we beg of Thee, on Thy suffering Church. Send down upon us the Divine Consoler, to enlighten our minds and strengthen our wills.

Thou, O Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived, Who hast promised to be with Thy Church until the End of Time, grant us a mighty faith, that we may not falter; help us to do Thy Holy Will at all times, especially during these hours of grief and uncertainty. May Thy Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Thy Holy Mother be our sure refuge in time and in eternity.