Search
   
 
Header_Church
Reactions
to this post
0

Year of Mercy – Discovering God’s Mercy for ourselves


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 15/05/2016

Receiving mercy and giving mercy are the two essential sides of the same coin. Let’s look at the first of four aspects of receiving God’s mercy: Discovering God’s Mercy for ourselves. What is it mean to receive God’s mercy? First of all, we need to acknowledge that we need mercy and that we want God’s mercy in our lives.  The first and only step required to experience mercy, Pope Francis says, is to acknowledge that we are in need of mercy. “Jesus comes for us, when we recognize that we are sinners.” Then we can open our hearts to receive his mercy. Not unlike the prodigal son, we too must have a change of heart, and must get up and make our way back home to the Father. This requires a change of heart, making a decision, and then acting on that decision. It is so important for our own personal faith, that we really believe and live out of the conviction that God loves us – we want to experience that love and even feel that love. This encounter with God’s mercy cannot be taken for granted. We need to work at it and use our time and energy to discover the love of God in everything that is going on in our lives. Faith and a healthy spiritual life builds on the foundation, that we believe that we are loved and this conviction gives us an awareness and confidence of value and personal worth. We need to strengthen this feeling in ourselves in such a way that it offers healing and support in the many questions and problems of daily life. If we live from that knowledge that God loves us, then we don’t need the many distractions, sensations, and stimulations from outside or even constant attention. We live from the awareness and the experience: “God loves me as I am, and he accepts me as I am – with all my limitations, foibles and even wretchedness – God loves me and that will never ever change.” This conviction of being loved needs to be worked at often during our day. For example, we need to plan times in our day where we just stop for a moment and remind ourselves again how God is present in our lives, and how everything that happens to us has a purpose and is motivated by his love. Our real life will take on a new character and have a new feel about it, if we allow this reality to enter into our spiritual lives fully. Prayer starts to become a true “school of love”, where we consider and remember the many gifts of God that we receive during our day. Saint Ignatius of Loyola once wrote: “We want to search for God, discover God and then love God in everyone and in everything”. The people of Israel understood how to search for God and discover God in their journey and history, and for this reason, were able to celebrate God’s guidance and presence. This conviction grew stronger in them and they simply knew that God loved them passionately and that he had chosen them to be his special people.  Prayer in the evening, for instance, is a wonderful opportunity to stop for a moment and consider the day that we have shared – asking ourselves, where have we experienced the mercy and love of God. The Church’s tradition calls this the “examination of conscience”. It is an opportunity to look back at the day with everything that went on during that day, remembering the people that we met and also taking seriously how the day went, including our strengths and weaknesses, our fears and anxieties, our prejudices and our generosity. On the one hand, we need to celebrate what was good and give thanks; and on the other hand, we also need to acknowledge our guilt and our sinfulness in an honest and upright way. Let us use this Year of Mercy to discover again God’s mercy for ourselves.

Reactions
to this post
0

Year of Mercy – Becoming “Mediators” of God’s Mercy


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 11/05/2016

The Year of Mercy is an opportunity to translate our faith in the mercy and love of God into our daily lives. God’s mercy, and the teaching about God’s mercy, should motivate us to live well and to master daily life. Every Christian is called to receive the merciful love of God; i.e. to have an open heart for the workings of God’s mercy in his or her own life. And at the same time, every Christian is called to be a “mediator” of God’s mercy to others; i.e. to share God’s merciful and forgiving love with the people around them. When we speak about becoming “channels” or “mediators” of God’s love for others, then we are speaking, at the end of the day, about love for our neighbour. Love of neighbour should always be nourished and inspired by our love of God. We are called to look out for each other, and put the welfare of others before our own welfare. We are called to have a generous and open heart for each other and love each other mutually – and this love for each other also brings about a positive acceptance and esteem for each other. Love of neighbour, at the end of the day, is an act of service towards them: Everything that I am, and everything I have, is at the disposal of the people around me. In other words, following Christ means we give our hearts to each other – and the heart that we want to give to each other, is a heart which is full of mercy, and full of tenderness. The heart, has always been the symbol of the innermost core of someone’s personality. Whoever has our hearts, will have our entire self and everything that is important to us. To have a heart full of mercy means that we put each other first, and that we have a constant desire to look out for each other’s needs, and shows this by concrete acts of love. We look at each other in a personal way and we esteem each other, because we are all created “in the image and likeness of God”. Becoming “mediators” of God’s mercy, especially in this Year of Mercy, means that we also strive every day to let our love grow and mature – our natural love for each other and our supernatural love for God. If we want to grow in supernatural love, and take another step into the world of love, then we must pray and hope that the Holy Spirit – who is the “uncreated love” will take possession of our souls and be present in us. We have to feel more than more dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, otherwise it is impossible to grow in supernatural love. How do we grow natural love – the love for the people around us? We grow in natural love when we are willing to “swim” in the “ocean of God’s mercy” and also when we acknowledge our own personal misery and wretchedness. This Year of Mercy, can give us the gift to realise that we grow in our love of God through our own experience and acknowledgement of sinfulness and weakness. This is the great “masterpiece” of the spiritual life – something we know so little about. We have to learn again to accept our limitations and to use our sins and limitations as a “ladder” to reach God. They should never be an obstacle, but a means to “jump not the heart of God”, our Merciful Father.

Reactions
to this post
0

Year of Mercy – “I will never forget you” Part V


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 01/05/2016

Without doubt, one of the most powerful images of God’s mercy is the parable of the Lost Son – sometimes called, the parable of the Merciful Father. We see here how God’s love and mercy is something that you cannot earn or deserve. And even if we haven’t merited mercy, God still pours out his love in our lives anyway. We see this in how the merciful Father deals with his son. He doesn’t turn him away, he doesn’t even scold him. He waits for him, he hopes for him and when his son finally returns, he celebrates with his son. We have here the most tremendous example of God’s amazing and endless mercy. We have here the faithful love of a father for his lost son. The son did not only leave his father’s house, he also left his father’s heart. However, the father never gives up. In the parable of the merciful Father, we see–in such a powerful way–the essential attribute of God–mercy. This parable is like a “pearl” amongst all the various parables that Jesus taught. It is often called the “gospel within the gospel”, because it is the most beautiful parable of the love of Jesus to the sinner. The love of God and the mercy of God, which is already proclaimed in the Old Testament – for example in the Prophet Hosea – becomes real and concrete again in this parable of Jesus. The parable of the merciful Father is preceded by two other stories, which express the joy of finding what was lost: we can read about the parable of the lost sheep and also the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:1-10). God rejoices when the lost are found. This theme, and this important message, goes through all these parables. The two sons, that are presented to us in the parable, represent two different types of people. The youngest son runs away from the house of his father, and he goes to a strange land – without the father. The older son remains at home, outwardly with the father, but his heart is not with his father –  his heart has another agenda, namely, how can you get the most out of his father for his own life and his own enjoyment. Jesus directs our gaze firstly towards the younger son. He asked his father for his inheritance. It is interesting, that the younger son excepts the inheritance as something self-understood, and at least in the telling of the parable, the younger son never expresses any gratitude towards his father.  He takes the generosity of his father for granted. The father, at the beginning of the story, says absolutely nothing. He remains silent and offers no comment. The son finds refuge with the pagans, and after a time of pleasure and plenty, he is forced to look after the impure animals, the pigs, in order to survive. These two details of the younger son’s predicament represent symptoms of his distancing from faith, and the religion of his ancestors. However, his misery brings him to a new realization, that he discovers in a kind of conversation with himself. In verse 17, it says that the younger son “came to himself” and realized that even the servants of his father were having a much better life than he was. It is interesting that the son does not complain or point the finger at his friends, or the owner of the pigs, or even his own father; he points the finger at himself and he gives himself the blame. Behind the outward sign of misery and need lies hidden the drama of the lost dignity of the younger son, and how he has allowed his relationship to his father to wither away, because of his own search for independence and pleasure. The lost son experiences in himself remorse for what he has done, however, the remorse is not because of the boundless and forgiving love of his father. It is much more remorse based on his own advantage, and how he can get out of this terrible predicament – in other words, it is a means to survive. However, at the same time this “conversion” is a healing one because one word is said that makes all the difference. This word is “father”. In the short conversation with himself, the son expresses how he wants to declare before his father and before heaven that he has sinned. He makes a distinction here between God – in heaven – and his earthly father. In other words, the lost son wants to make it right with his earthly father, but also wants to make it right with God, and renounce his sin. (more…)

Reactions
to this post
0

Year of Mercy – “I will never forget you” Part III


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 17/04/2016

The understanding and significance of mercy in the New Testament flows from the witness of the Old Testament – there is a powerful continuity at work. Some parts of the Old Testament are even quoted in the New Testament, regarding the reality and power of mercy. There are many texts in the New Testament that speak about the merciful love of God to his people: for example, we have the different parables that Jesus told to reveal to us how powerful the merciful love of God is: The parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32), the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7) and also the parable of the loss coin (Luke 15:8-10) are all wonderful examples. In all these parables the merciful love of God, our Father, becomes so clear and comforting. The Gospel of Luke, without doubt, is where the theme and the witness of mercy is expressed in a special way. For this reason St Luke’s Gospel is also known as the “Gospel of mercy”. In this Gospel, we have, for example, the wonderful song of Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:50), and the three Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son (Chapter 15). Jesus does not only speak about the merciful love of God. His proclamation of God’s mercy is intimately connected with all that he does and says, and his own personal life. Because he wants to proclaim mercy everywhere and at all times, Christ heals the sick, he comforts the sad and he goes out of his way to encounter in love the sinner, and even goes out of his way to find the lost at every turn. At the same time, Jesus calls his followers to follow his example and be inspired and motivated by love and mercy. They should allow their own lives and actions to be guided by the gift of mercy. Jesus asks us to be merciful to each other. And he praises those and calls them blessed who are willing to give this kind of love to others: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7). Jesus challenges us to be truly merciful to each other and also to forgive each other. Naturally, the request to forgive each other in generosity does not cancel out the demands of justice. When we forgive, when we show mercy, it never means that we capitulate before evil, or before suffering or insults. Each time in the Gospels, for example, when forgiveness is talked about or explained, it always includes the message to put things right and to alleviate suffering, and even to perform atonement for the many hurts or insults that have been endured. For this reason, justice will always belong to the basic structure of mercy. However, mercy gives justice and much deeper and much more healing content. This expresses itself in the fullest way when we forgive each other. (more…)

Reactions
to this post
0

Year of Mercy – “I will never forget you” Part II


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 04/04/2016

In Part I, we looked at the mercy of God through the yes of the prophet Hosea. In Part II, we will continue the message of mercy from the Prophet Isaiah. The second prophet that reveals God’s mercy in a special way is the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah is the prophet during the Babylonian exile of the people of Israel. Israel experienced the Exile as very difficult time of punishment and loss, where they felt that God had left them altogether and had abandoned them. The people felt completely without hope and their misery and exile comes from the fact that God had turned his back on them. In the middle of this dire situation, a new and unexpected prophetic message comes to the people in exile – this is the second and third generation of Israel living in Babylon. The message is a message of love, comfort and hope: God is returning to his people and has never forgotten them. God is still faithful. There is a new hope. The prophet Isaiah uses a very human and very powerful image to express God’s love and mercy for his people:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15).

In this message of the prophet Isaiah, we see again God’s mercy and love towards his people. God compares himself to a mother and reaches out to his chosen people with a mother’s heart and tenderness. Isaiah also says to the people you should rejoice and you should be happy now and you should break into song because God has come back to his people and those who have been broken and humiliated will receive his mercy again:

Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel. (see Isaiah 44:23).

He tells his people that he’s never forgotten them, and to prove that he has never forgotten them, he reveals to the people a unique symbol of mercy, that will be completely understood by by any people at any time; and that is the image of the love of a mother towards her child. God, however, even goes further than this. He tells the people that even if a mother should forget her child – which is practically impossible –then God still will never forget his people even though they have sinned against him and even though they have broken the covenant with him. He tells his people: “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16). This is a symbol of a faithfulness and a mercy that can never be broken. Isaiah is also the prophet who will later prophesy about the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, who will bring the boundless mercy of the Father in the greatest and most powerful way. It is this Son of God who will take away the sins of the world.

Reactions
to this post
0

Year of Mercy – Why does God allow Sin to happen?


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 12/03/2016

There has always been a question why does God allow sin to happen? St Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, gives a beautiful answer when he says: “So that God can show us even more mercy” (Romans 11:32). St Paul even boasts about his weaknesses and his limitations because, in his experience, the power of Christ and the love of Christ can be even more powerfully felt and experienced. That’s why we have to encourage each other that we don’t suppress our weaknesses and our sins, but that we acknowledge them and we allow them to draw us closer to God and to nudge us gently into the arms of the merciful Father. The temptations we experience and the sins that we all commit, in the eyes of God, should draw us closer to him, and should even be a means to be close to God. That’s why he allows sin to happen in our lives, that’s why he allows us to experience our own weaknesses and limitations. When this happens to us, we have no reason, therefore, to wonder why, or to be confused, or to be discouraged in any way. The opposite should be true in our lives: when we sin and when we experience temptation and when we experience how fragile we all are then something should happen in our souls that pushes us upwards towards God. That is how we can explain how St Paul comes to this remarkable conclusion: “I boast about my weaknesses with joy, because through them the power of Christ can be even more manifest in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we are tempted and when we sin then, naturally, we should be aware of our inner poverty and how fragile we are – and for that reason, we should become more humble in the healthy and true sense of the word. True humility, actually, pushes us closer to God and also helps us to trust God more, and to trust in his limitless mercy in our lives. When we experience our own weaknesses and sinfulness, then we can have a lot more patience, not only with ourselves, but with the mistakes and the weaknesses of the people around us. Through the experience of our own weaknesses and sinfulness, we can learn to understand and deal with the weaknesses and sinfulness of others in a much better and in a much healthier way. God knows how to use everything in our lives to turn that into something good. That’s why St Augustine wrote about and used a quote from St Paul so often: “God will make sure that everything turns out for the best for those who love him”. He quoted this so often in his writings but then he always added: “And he also uses our sins so that everything will work out for the best!” It is so significant for us, in our spiritual lives, to rediscover how Jesus revealed to us how much of a Father God is. God doesn’t just act like a father or has the attitudes or approach of a father, but he is truly our merciful Father. In his love and in his care for each one of us, he is interested in the smallest and most insignificant details of our lives. And that’s why, in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, it is so important to see the biggest attribute of God’s love for us, God’s fatherhood, and his boundless mercy for each one of us.

Reactions
to this post
0

Year of Mercy – Accepting our Sins and Weaknesses


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 06/03/2016

These are the realities of faith, which we can base our lives and our personal spirituality on. And this Jubilee Year of Mercy, is the opportunity to allow these realities to take hold of our lives perhaps more than they have in the past: The first reality is to really believe in God’s endless mercy for each one of us; and the second reality is to understand – in a healthy way – our own misery and sinfulness. We should not go through life, thinking that we have to earn or merit God’s love or mercy, but we should build our life on the foundation of the merciful love of God and that our own misery and our own inner poverty – if we except them, understand them correctly, and say “yes” to them – will be the way that we can draw closer to God in our lives. If we recognise our own sinfulness and weakness, and if we are able to see our “yes” to our own sinfulness and weakness, then we actually put God in the position that he “cannot do anything” else but pour out his love and his mercy into our lives. When a child comes before the loving Father, and simply says I am weak, I am sinful, I am helpless, I can’t do on my own – then God, our merciful Father, can do nothing else but give us his mercy and his healing love in abundance. It is as if, the child becomes in effect “all-powerful” and God has simply “no resistance”. He can only respond to our acknowledged weaknesses with love. He can’t do anything else. He doesn’t want to to do anything else. It is so important for us, over and over again, to rediscover what it means that we are all children of one merciful Father. And this Father – who is “an eternal exchange of love” – wishes to draw us into the most intimate communion with him, and share his Divine life with us, so that each one of us can truly say that we are children of God. How little do we really know about this great truths of our faith! How little do the people of today take in this truth, that could change everything in people’s lives! We are all sons and daughters of God. This is our core identity! Does a child not go immediately to its father or mother when it has a hurt, or a need, or a worry and fear? And when the child comes and asks for help from the parents, does not the love of the parents find a new awakening at the request of their own children? It is even more so with our merciful Father in heaven – he wants to give himself completely to us in love, because he is love itself. Because he is love in his essence he wants to share himself and give himself completely. God is an eternal “exchange of love”. True love always goes beyond itself and wishes to grow and extend its borders. God wants to love us and he wants to unite himself to those who try and love others in the way that he loves. That’s why we can speak about this unusual and original “weakness” of God: he cannot withstand the moment when you and I recognise our own weaknesses and our own sinfulness and acknowledge them wholeheartedly. In the moment that we do this, he can do nothing else but pour his love and his boundless mercy into our hearts.

« older posts newer posts »