by Fr Duncan McVicar on 20/02/2016 -
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.