How do we imagine God? If someone asked us to describe God, or describe God’s most basic characteristics, what would we say? Would we, for example, immediately declare that God for each one of us is a Father of love, a Father of mercy. Would we say, for example, that God’s greatest motivation for everything that he does in the world and in our lives has always been, and will always be his unconditional and boundless love for us. The universal law of love is the endless love of God. This is the reason for all reasons. At the end of the day, everything that God does and everything he intends for our lives is based on the power of love. Everything that comes from him, comes because of love, through love and for love. If this is true, if love is the ultimate motivation for God, then we have to see it as our special mission and our special task to also make this universal law of love into our ultimate motivation – not only in our personal lives, but in our spiritual growth and development. The Church has always believed that God is a merciful Father; the Church has always proclaimed that mercy and the love of God, in one way and another, is God’s most essential attribute. What perhaps is “new” in this Year of Mercy – or better said, what perhaps is revealing itself in a more powerful way – is how unconditional this merciful love is, and how boundless and all-embracing this mercy of God for each one of us is. Perhaps we have believed in God’s love for us up till now, but we’ve also combined it very strongly with the reality of justice. This often brings about the feeling and the personal experience, that if we wish to experience and share the love of God in our own lives, then we have to earn or merit that love. We cannot earn God’s mercy – it is freely given to us even when we don’t deserve it and, if we are honest, we don’t deserve it most of the time. Of course, every day we have to get up and start again and try to realise the will of God for us and try our best to connect ourselves to God for that day. But we have to be careful that we don’t over-emphasise our human contribution in our relationship to God – in other words, if anything is going to happen, it all depends on me. This Year of Mercy, is trying to emphasise how God, our merciful Father, and his merciful love, is active and present in our lives – he makes the biggest contribution. God does not love us because we have been good or because we have got everything right with not one, single mistake; he loves simply because he is our Father – he has always loved us and he will always love us, no matter what. He wants his merciful love to flow unhindered through our lives and our actions; he wants us to accept and say confidently our “yes” to our limitations, our sinfulness and our weaknesses, and to really believe that our inner poverty is not just an obstacle to getting close to God, but our weaknesses and our sinfulness can actually be the “open door” to sharing God’s merciful love more, and being able to receive his merciful love more. It is so important, in our own spirituality and in our daily lives to recognise and to remember and also to rediscover the universal law of love. What is the universal law of love? Everything that God does, everything that he says, everything that he allows to happen in our lives has a motivation and a reason. And if we search for this reason, if we look for this reason – for example, why did he create the world, why is the world a place where he wants to be present, why does he guide us, why does he want to save us? Why did he send Jesus Christ to be your Saviour and die to set us free? All these questions, and many more, all go back to the ultimate reason – the reason for all reasons – and that is because of love. That is God’s ultimate motivation, and that is why he allows certain things to happen in the way that they happen, he does it all out of love. That is, in essence, the universal law of love. It is the answer to the question what is the ultimate motivation of God – what is the reason for God’s actions and activity and presence in this world. And the answer is because he loves us – he’s only motivated by love, and his love inspires everything else that is in God – for example, his mercy, his justice, his wisdom, etc. This applies, not only in the great events or in the great questions of creation and the world around us. The universal law of love also applies to us personally. Why do we experience what we experience? Why does God allow this to happen in our lives? Why is our family going through this? At the end of the day, God’s motivation in our own personal lives is also the universal law of love. The universal law of love includes God’s endless love to each one of us, but also includes our response of love to God. These are the two essential sides of the universal law of love. It includes God’s Divine love and also includes our human love. God says to each one of us: “Everything because of love, everything through love, and everything for love”. And each one of us should also say in response to God: “I will try every day to do everything because of love, everything through love, and everything for love”. This has deep consequences would each one of us. This has implications for our spiritual life and our daily living. It basically means, that we too should try every day to do everything out of love. We are also called, through our Baptism and through the fact that we are sons and daughters of God, that we apply the universal law of love in our own lives. And when we do this the powerful stream of love that comes from God originally and flows through the hearts of every single human person and our world, will flow even more and will flow unhindered. That’s why we can speak about the massive stream of life and love that comes from God and then flows through every human heart, uniting as altogether and bringing us all in communion with each other – and then ultimately returning to its source, to God, our merciful Father.
We have the opportunity, in this Year of Mercy, to make the message of the merciful love of God, the central truths of our spiritual lives. It means rediscovering who God is according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and trying every day to live out this truth, deepen our knowledge of mercy and give mercy to the people around us in a much more intentional way. There are mainly two “closed doors” that always arises when we try to draw draw close to God as a merciful Father – here are the two: Firstly, when we can’t really believe that God loves us personally, and secondly, when we can’t find God in personal suffering. Let’s look at the first “closed door”: The mercy of God only really works in a transformative way, when people feel and experience that God looks on them and accepts and cares for them. We are dealing here with one of the central problems of faith, do we really believe that God loves each one of us personally? For so many–even religious people–God is seen and experienced as a too distant figure; he is not vibrant enough, he remains vague, and becomes more and more not a real person, but an idea. Everyone needs to find their “anchor” in God, otherwise our personality is not rooted anywhere, or completely secure anywhere. This “anchor” consists in the moment when the individual feels and experiences themselves loved by God, and allows this one experience to become the greatest truth of their personal life and faith. Do we feel that we are personally loved by God – even when we sin, even when we are weak and limited? The second “closed door” to people recognizing God as a loving Father is the experience of personal suffering. Suffering belongs to human life; suffering is part of all of our lives. It is not within our power or ability to avoid suffering, and even if we should try, it would mean that we are always running away from something, and suffering – sooner or later – will eventually catch up with us anyway. Every person, including the most spiritual or religious, has to discover the means to deal with suffering in their own lives. How often do we make the experience, that we suddenly become sick or something serious happens to us, or someone you love is sick, or something unexpected has happened to the children. Whatever it is, we often ask ourselves the question: “What have I done wrong? What I done to deserve this?” Here we have a basic attitude to God that actually closes the door to him. It is the attitude that if God sends us something that is difficult, i.e. a cross, a challenge or suffering, then this must be some kind of punishment. We would never consider, in the first instance, that this is an act of love, or an act of mercy. It is practically always in our first thoughts that suffering is God’s punishment on us.We start to retrain our minds and our hearts, when we teach ourselves how to discover the merciful love of God even in the experience of suffering. This means that we don’t see him, first of all, as the “just God”, or the “vengeful God” who punishes us by sending us crosses and suffering. Jesus Christ revealed God to be a merciful Father who will do anything and open every door to win our hearts and conquer us through love. At the end of the day, to discover the merciful love of God and suffering, we have to persevere with God, and we have to be willing to struggle with God – even fight with him if that is what it takes. The experience of suffering can make us feel that God has abandoned us entirely, or that he doesn’t love us any more. We become vulnerable and we begin to doubt many truths of our faith. Suffering will always demand from us a “leap of faith”, or “a leap into the dark” – but this leap of faith actually brings about a deep experience of God’s love and mercy. These two “closed doors” which can become more and more prominent in our modern life – the lack of faith that we are really loved by God, and the experience of suffering – have to be taken seriously in our journey to rediscover the merciful Father.
Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy. This is an opportunity for us to rediscover the mercy of a loving Father-God. The Holy Father is inviting each of us to make mercy a focal point of our spirituality and our lives. Are we open for mercy? Have we been the hands and feet of God, the living embodiment of his mercy to those around us? Pope Francis has called for this special Year of Mercy because he wants us to connect on a personal level with the merciful Father in our own lives. The Holy Father says in his new book “The Name of God is Mercy”: “The message of Jesus is mercy. For me, and I say this with humility, it is the Lord’s strongest message.” The Year of Mercy, is an opportunity to rediscover who God is – the image of God that Jesus brought home to us. We have the opportunity, to opening wide our horizons about how we see our loving “Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:45). Now is the time, to rediscover God as a loving father, who knows us, cares for us and will always be faithful to us, no matter what. At the same time as we search for this new image of God that truly liberates us and fills us with confidence and inner peace, the media confront us constantly with present-day discussions and news about human rights, the rights and wrongs of abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, the importance of gender, how do we care for the elderly, the vulnerable or the disabled in our society. In all these questions, however individual they are and unique they are, there is always the one question in the background: “What is human dignity, and on what is human dignity based?” For us, as Christians, the Year of Mercy also poses other challenges, and invites us also to open our horizons, and try and see the world around us, the people around us and ourselves in a new and more accurate light. For instance, for many believers, it is very hard today to understand, acknowledge, and except our own limitations, weaknesses and sinfulness. In our personal spiritual lives, we too have challenging questions: “Is there someone who knows me inside out, is there someone who knows my name, who loves me, accepts me and is always willing to forgive me when I come to him? And if I discover this “Someone”, can a draw close to this person with no “masks”, acknowledging and fully accepting my weaknesses and my sins? For all these reasons, taking seriously the background of the challenges of today, it is more than worthwhile to let this Year of Mercy become the “open door” to rediscover for ourselves the Christian message of the mercy of God in our own lives. If we only consider the deepest needs of the present-day human soul, then the truths about God’s mercy and what his mercy can mean for us is the definitive answer to so many burning questions and hopes of our times. In answer to the question: Why is humanity so in need of mercy, Pope Francis writes in his book: “Because humanity is wounded, deeply wounded. Either it does not know how to cure its wounds or it believes that it’s not possible to cure them. And it’s not just a question of social ills or people wounded by poverty, social exclusion, or one of the many slaveries of the third millennium. Relativism wounds people too: all things seem equal, all things appear the same. Humanity needs mercy and compassion. Pius XII, more than half a century ago, said that the tragedy of our age was that it had lost its sense of sin, the awareness of sin. Today we add further to the tragedy by considering our illness, our sins, to be incurable, things that cannot be healed or forgiven.”
Our Covenant Mass is on Thursday 18th February at 7.30pm at the Shrine. The Mass will be prepared by the Mount Carmel Group with the St Edmund’s Music Group and Fr Duncan will be main celebrant. The heart of Catholicism is practised through the works of mercy. Throughout this Jubilee Year we consider the Works of Mercy so that we too in the Covenant of Love may become Ambassadors of Mercy. The kindness and concern of the Good Samaritan shows how we can do this. In January we looked at feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty.
In this Covenant Mass we consider:
Clothe the naked and Shelter the Homeless.
Please bring donations for our food and clothing bank.
We look forward to welcoming you.
You are invited at the beginning of the Lenten Season to join us for the Family Mass at the Shrine on Sunday 14th February at 3.30pm. Our theme for this Mass is two of the Corporal works of Mercy: Clothe the Naked & Shelter the Homeless. We will start at 3.30pm with holy Mass and afterward share supper with one another. Please also remember to bring donations for our foodbank. Look forward to seeing you. On the one hand it is Valentine’s Day and we hope that you have the chance to share signs of love for one and other in your family. It is the First Sunday in Lent and each of us is invited to join in the Lenten Pilgrimage to Easter. “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Eph 2:4f)