If we have received God’s mercy, and we believe in God’s mercy, then the desire will be alive in us to make that mercy available to others so that they too can experience it. We do this by becoming a “transparency” of God – in other words, people see the love of God alive in us and working in us. We become like a “window” to God. People look at us, and in fact they don’t see us alone, they also see God in us. This is the aim and ultimate destination of every Christian. This is what the first and greatest commandment actually means – to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbour as ourselves. The Year of Mercy highlights the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy as the “blueprint” for the life of faith. Pope Francis writes in his Book “The Name of God is Mercy”: Jesus sends forth his disciples not as holders of power or as masters of a law. He sends them forth into the world asking them to live in the logic of love and selflessness. What are the most important things that a believer should do during the Holy Year of Mercy? He should open up to the mercy of God, open up his heart and himself, and allow Jesus to come toward him by approaching the confessional with faith. And he should try and be merciful with others. Let us examine the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the traveller, comfort the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead. I do not think there is much to explain. And if we look at our situation, our society, it seems to me that there is no lack of circumstances or opportunities all around us. We touch the flesh of Christ in he who is outcast, hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, ill, unemployed, persecuted, in search of refuge. That is where we find our God, that is where we touch the Lord. Christ himself told us, explaining the protocol for which we will all be judged: “Whatever you did to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). After the Corporal Works of Mercy come the Spiritual Works of Mercy: advise those in doubt; teach the ignorant; admonish the sinners; console the afflicted; forgive offences; be patient with annoying people; pray to God for both the living and the dead. Let us look at the first four Spiritual Works of Mercy: Don’t they have to do with what we have already defined as “the apostolate of the ear?” Reach out, know how to listen, advise them, and teach them through our own experience. By welcoming a marginalised person whose body is wounded and by welcoming the sinner whose soul is wounded, we put our credibility as Christians on the line. Let us always remember the words of Saint John of the Cross: “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” It seems today, in the light of so many needs and so much woundedness in modern-day people and in modern-day society, this merciful love of God is so painfully needed and so urgently necessary. The first “profession” and the first vocation of every Christian is love: to do everything because of love, through love and for love. Every Christian should be “a place” where people can discover and encounter God and where God and his merciful love are made present and evident. Love has to permeate everything, and love should be at the heart of every Christian life. We are referring here to a love that is personal, that is warm and from the heart, that is willing to sacrifice and that perseveres for the welfare of others, putting them always first. The greatest power in heaven and on earth is the power of love, and love is also the best and most creative way to educate and form the human heart. In other words, we have to become “geniuses” of love, and we do this by allowing love not to remain some kind of theory, but to be the greatest motivator for what we say and do in our own personal lives.
Mary, our Blessed Mother, has a special mission in the Church to help us discover the mercy of God in our own lives. God revealed his mercy in such a powerful way in her life. She became the “mirror” of God’s mercy and love. When we get close to Mary and try to love her and imitate her, then we can better understand what it means that God is merciful. For centuries, the Church has honoured her and trusted her as “the Mother of mercy”. In her life and experiences, God revealed – in the most special way – his merciful love and his fatherly care. For this reason, Mary now has a special task and mission in the Church today to help each one of us discover God’s mercy for ourselves. Cardinal Faulhaber, in the Marian Year 1954, famously commented: “The merciful Father didn’t place his grace in the stars, or in the depths of the ocean, or hidden in fine pearls; he put his grace into the hands of a Mother, because only a mother is always willing to give and keep on giving”. Mary becomes for the disciples of Jesus an example of faith and an educator in the spiritual life. Love is a reality that unites us to someone else and even makes us alike. If we learn to love our Blessed Mother in heaven then we unite ourselves to her and we become like her: We become someone who experiences God’s mercy, and we desire to be mediators or agents of that mercy to others. Matthew Kelly wrote about the “biggest lie” and he said the following: There is plenty of evidence that the joy we seek can be found by applying the teachings of Jesus to our lives. So, what is it that holds us back from fully embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ? Our fear and brokenness can be an obstacle. God invites us to a total surrender and we had afraid to let go. The culture in all its distractions can prevent us from seeing the beauty of the life God invites us to live. Self-loathing, unwillingness to forgive ourselves and others, biases and prejudices that have been born from past experiences, complacency toward others in need, selfishness – these are all real obstacles in our quest to authentically live the teachings of Jesus. There are also the lies that are always swirling around Christianity. These lies can sow doubt in our hearts and minds, and erode our faith. There are so many lies in circulation about Christians and Christianity. Most are the result of ignorance. Some are the result of intentional misinformation. A handful are a malicious personal attack upon Jesus in an attempt to discredit the Christian faith. Some of these lies are aimed at our theology and beliefs, and others are aimed at the Christian way of life. But one lie is having a diabolical impact on the lives of modern Christians. It is the biggest lie in the history of Christianity. It is worth noting that this lie is not one that non-Christians tell. It is a lie we tell ourselves as Christians. This is the lie: Holiness is not possible.The great majority of modern Christians don’t actually believe that holiness is possible. Sure, we believe it is possible for our grandmothers or some mediaeval saint –just not for us. We don’t actually believe that holiness is possible for us. It is astounding that just one lie can neutralise the majority of Christians. That’s right, neutralise. This lie takes is out of the game and turns us into mere spectators in the epic story of Christianity. It may be the devil’s biggest triumph in modern history. It is the holocaust of Christian spirituality. In thousands of ways every day we tell ourselves and each other: holiness is not possible. But it is a lie. And we cannot experience the complete joy that God wants for us and that we want for ourselves until we get beyond it. When did you stop believing holiness was possible for you? Here is a beautiful Prayer for the coming days: Jesus, protect me from all the lies that seek to build a barrier between you and me, and remind me of my great destiny. Amen.
One of the “masterpieces” of the spiritual life is how to deal with our own weaknesses, our sinfulness and personal misery before God. If we don’t find a good and healthy way to do this, we always run the risk that our spiritual lives never seem to grow and mature and that, in actual fact, they no longer do us any good, do not bring us closer to God, but even start to become a kind of obstacle. There are four simple answers to how do we can deal with our weaknesses and are limitations: i. Don’t be surprised! This means, don’t be surprised that we are weak, don’t be surprised that we make mistakes, don’t be surprised that we sin – we do all this because we are human, because we are “creation”. Don’t be surprised that we are tempted, don’t be surprised that we encounter difficulties, anxieties, fears and doubts – we experience all these things, because we are human, and we are fragile. If we want to be surprised at anything at all, then we should be surprised that we are not actually worse than we are. However, we should never be surprised that we are as we are. ii. Don’t get disappointed! We have to take seriously that we are people influenced by Original Sin. We are limited and we have problems, and we carry a lot of “baggage” around with us. Sometimes, if we try to do our best and try to be closer to God, we often get disappointed, or feel we have let ourselves down, or get confused if any hope of improvement is really possible. We realise that we have been given so many opportunities and received so many graces from God to change things and make things better, and we didn’t use them or profit from them, when we could have done. However, precisely in such situations, we must watch and be vigilant that we don’t allow ourselves to get disappointed or confused. If we allow ourselves to be disappointed, we often take away the necessary energy and resources that we need to “walk again” with the Lord. iii. Don’t get discouraged! If we allow ourselves to become discouraged, we actually put up the greatest obstacle to a new beginning. Discouragement drains our spiritual life completely, and can be even more dangerous than more serious sins and temptations. The experience of joy in the Christian life is essential to us. The person who knows that God loves them and accepts them as they are, has many reasons to celebrate and rejoice. This positive, happy and optimistic feeling about life and attitude towards life gives energy and courage in our daily Christian living. For this reason, it is so important that we never allow discouragement to find a home in us, or find a foothold in our souls. And then iv. Don’t give up! We give up and we start to become indifferent when we say something like: “This is the way I was made, nothing works, so I won’t even try any more”. Self-pity or constantly capitulating before our mistakes or limitations is no solution. By not giving up, we include in our spiritual lives, the element of perseverance – which was so important to Jesus. We should always remember this liberating message: No one needs to be perfect before God. We should and may bring all our failings and limitations to him. God also is very aware of who we are and he already reckons with our sins and mistakes before we even make them. Therefore, when they do happen in our lives, it is not a tragedy. What is important, is a positive way in dealing with sins and limitations. The experience of our own weaknesses and misery, the experience that we are all sinners, is the greatest means to open the “floodgates” of God’s mercy in our lives.