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Among Women 217: The Final Lap in the Year of Mercy

Among Women 217: The Final Lap in the Year of Mercy

 

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Colette Higgins

In this episode of Among Women, we chart a course for finishing strong in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. If you’ve put off acting on the merciful suggestions of this holy year, here’s your chance to change that! Don’t miss this stop on our pilgrim journey to heaven!  Speaking of pilgrimage and travel, my guest today is a longtime AW listener, Colette Higgins, who shares her sabbatical journey in the footsteps of Queen Kapiolani. Who’s that? You gotta listen to find out!

I’ll also be discussing Mary, our Mother of Mercy, as we look at motherhood, mercy, and the Memorare. I hope you’ll download this episode of Among Women, and listen!

This makes me think… about Mercy as a bridge that connects us to God and others…

Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him. The Father, “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), after having revealed his name to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6), has never ceased to show, in various ways throughout history, his divine nature. In the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), when everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, he sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love for us in a definitive way. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God.

We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.

Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. The Church “has an endless desire to show mercy.” [Evangelii Gaudium, 24.] Perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy. The temptation, on the one hand, to focus exclusively on justice made us forget that this is only the first, albeit necessary and indispensable step. But the Church needs to go beyond and strive for a higher and more important goal. On the other hand, sad to say, we must admit that the practice of mercy is waning in the wider culture. It some cases the word seems to have dropped out of use. However, without a witness to mercy, life becomes fruitless and sterile, as if sequestered in a barren desert. The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.

Pope Francis
Misericordiae Vultus, Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy 

This makes me think… a merciful heart is not a weak heart…

Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each communities and every believer. Above all it is a “time of grace” (2 Cor6:2). God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us. “We love because he first has loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart. He knows us by name, he cares for us and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him. He is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us. Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure… Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.

I would invite everyone to live this Lent as an opportunity for engaging in what Benedict XVI called a formation of the heart (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 31). A merciful heart does not mean a weak heart. Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to the tempter but open to God. A heart which lets itself be pierced by the Spirit so as to bring love along the roads that lead to our brothers and sisters. And, ultimately, a poor heart, one which realizes its own poverty and gives itself freely for others.

During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: “Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum”Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.

-Pope Francis-
Message for Lent

This makes me think… about the divine face, the incarnation…

The Divine Image

by William Blake (1757-1827)

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

 

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

 

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

 

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

 

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

#2PopeSaints and Divine Mercy Sunday

Today we celebrate, as a global church, the elevation of two new saints — two recent popes — Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. What an exciting day for the church — and to have it coincide with Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast added to the liturgical calendar by John Paul , is especially meaningful. Find coverage here and here.  Don’t forget to check out the  Vatican resource for the canonizations of St John XXIII and St John Paul II.

A few quotes from John Paul II that are dear to me…

God has chosen our own times for this purpose… The message of merciful love needs to resound forcefully anew. The world needs this love. The hour has come to bring Christ’s message to everyone… The hour has come when the message of Divine Mercy is able to fill hearts with hope and to become the spark of the new civilization: the civilization of love.

John Paul II
Beatification Homily of the four Poles
in Poland on August, 18. 2002.

Here’s a few more thoughts on mercy from St John Paul II’s 1980 encyclical on mercy, Dives in Misericordia, on God’s “most stupendous attribute”… and his infinite mercy.

“He who has seen me has seen the Father.” [Jn. 14:9.]

 The Church professes the mercy of God, the Church lives by it in her wide experience of faith and also in her teaching, constantly contemplating Christ, concentrating on Him, on His life and on His Gospel, on His cross and resurrection, on His whole mystery. Everything that forms the “vision” of Christ in the Church’s living faith and teaching brings us nearer to the “vision of the Father” in the holiness of His mercy. The Church seems in a particular way to profess the mercy of God and to venerate it when she directs herself to the Heart of Christ. In fact, it is precisely this drawing close to Christ in the mystery of His Heart which enables us to dwell on this point-a point in a sense central and also most accessible on the human level-of the revelation of the merciful love of the Father, a revelation which constituted the central content of the messianic mission of the Son of Man.

The Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy-the most stupendous attribute of the Creator and of the Redeemer-and when she brings people close to the sources of the Savior’s mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser. Of great significance in this area is constant meditation on the Word of God, and above all conscious and mature participation in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. The Eucharist brings us ever nearer to that love which is more powerful than death: “For as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup,” we proclaim not only the death of the Redeemer but also His resurrection, “until he comes” in glory. [Cf. 1 Cor. 11:26; acclamation in the Roman Missal.]

It is precisely because sin exists in the world, which “God so loved…that he gave his only Son,”  [Jn. 3:16.] that God, who “is love,” [1 Jn. 4:8.] cannot reveal Himself otherwise than as mercy. This corresponds not only to the most profound truth of that love which God is, but also to the whole interior truth of man and of the world which is man’s temporary homeland.

Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father’s readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to His home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ.

Therefore, the Church professes and proclaims conversion. Conversion to God always consists in discovering His mercy, that is, in discovering that love which is patient and kind [Cf. 1 Cor. 13:4.] as only the Creator and Father can be; the love to which the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” [2 Cor. 1:3.] is faithful to the uttermost consequences in the history of His covenant with man; even to the cross and to the death and resurrection of the Son. Conversion to God is always the fruit of the”rediscovery of this Father, who is rich in mercy.

Authentic knowledge of the God of mercy, the God of tender love, is a constant and inexhaustible source of conversion, not only as a momentary interior act but also as a permanent attitude, as a state of mind.

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This makes me think… about mercy

‘Blessed are the merciful, for God shall have mercy on them [Mt 5:7].’ Remember, Christian, the surpassing worth of the wisdom that is yours. Bear in mind the kind of school in which you are to learn your skills, the rewards to which you are called. Mercy itself wishes you to be merciful, righteousness itself wishes you to be righteous, so that the Creator may shine forth in his creature, and the image of God be reflected in the mirror of the human heart as it imitates his qualities. The faith of those who live their faith is a serene faith. What you long for will be given you; what you love will be yours for ever.

-Pope St Leo the Great-
Excerpt from Homily 95 on The Beatitudes, 

Mercy times infinity

Mercy times infinity

There’s always a reason to be on our knees. The bad-news-o-meter seems to be on overload lately.

On the heels of another sad September 11th anniversary, we now experience a mass shooting taking innocent lives at the Navy Yard in DC, and all of it against an unsettled backdrop as our nation and others wonders about a military intervention in Syria, and unrest exploding in other regions… indeed, it can be exhausting and intimidating and depressing when we see evil all around.

I’ve written about this before…

Jesus is the answer. Period. Intuitively, I know that now. I did not always. We might know that intellectually, yet we may still wrestle with that knowledge in our heart.

Why? Each of us has been scandalized by the bad stuff we have experienced in life. In fact, some of the bad stuff we’ve lived through is downright evil.

We’ve all been victims of pain, hurts, other people’s sins, and our own. And yes, we are victims of evil.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls it “the scandal of evil” since it derails the providence of God that we are meant to know. In fact, the Catechism boldly states:

There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par 309)

And so take to our knees so that we can be open to the actions we need to take to keep us free from selfishness, free from fear, free from actions adding to the violence and unrest at home, abroad, or in our own hearts.

Francis’ recent Prayer Vigil called us to prayer and peace-making…

When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the center, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict…

At this point I ask myself: Is it possible to change direction? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace? Invoking the help of God, under the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace, I say: Yes, it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world tonight, I would like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for everyone! Or even better, I would like for each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to respond: Yes, we want it! My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken.

We must look to the Cross. Let us bring our deepest prayers, concerns, and worries there. It is there we find mercy times infinity.

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On the latest episode of Among Women, I begin the program with intercessory prayer. To join in that prayer, listen here. 

Here’s one of the prayers we pray, from Pope St Clement of Rome, who the fourth pope and a bishop who knew St Peter and St Paul before their martyrdoms in Rome.  (This prayer is circa 95AD):

We beg you, Lord, to help and defend us.

Deliver the oppressed.

Pity the insignificant.

Raise the fallen.

Show yourself to the needy.

Heal the sick.

Bring back those of your people who have gone astray.

Feed the hungry.

Lift up the weak.

Take off the prisoners’ chains.

May every nation come to know that you alone are God,

that Jesus is your Child,

that we are your people, the sheep that you pasture. 

Amen.

 

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