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Deacon Tony Talks - Year of Mercy Talk 1 September 15, 2015

Introduction to Misericordiae Vultus

Deacon Tony Conti

September 2015

Introduction to Misericordiae Vultus

  • This coming Liturgical Year… We’re going to present a series of Evenings of Reflection centered around Pope Francis’ declaration of a “Holy Year of Mercy”…
  • Tonight we’re going to look at Misericordiae Vultus – The Papal declaration for this Year of Mercy.
  •  Misericordiae Vultus literally translates as: “The Face of Mercy.”
  • I’m going to read some short excerpts from the document, and then provide some commentary to try to help us relate it to our daily lives…
  • Each month from now through May, we’ll delve into another aspect of God’s Mercy, culminating in the Solemnity of Our Lady of Fatima in May.
  • With that introduction, let’s begin our journey together through this Holy Year of Mercy…

1. 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… Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person[1] reveals the mercy of God.

  • Perhaps the first question we might ask ourselves is: What is mercy?
  • What does it look like… What does it mean to us… How have we each experienced mercy in our own lives?...
  • Mercy has been defined as: “Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.”
  • Doesn’t this describe the God we worship?… The Jesus that we follow?
  • A God of love and compassion, not a God of wrath and fear
  • This Holy Year is intended to remind us that as St. John clearly told us in 1st John… God is Love… and mercy is an integral part of Who and What God is

 

  • How we see God makes all the difference in our lives…
  • Marianne Williamson wrote in her book, The Gift of Change – “Until we make the switch from the notion of an angry, judgmental God to an all-merciful and forgiving one, we are bound to have an ambivalent relationship to Him.... We’ve created a God in our own image: angry and judgmental, because we are.  God Himself is merciful and all-loving, but we have projected onto Him our fear(s).  This separates us from His love, from His healing, and from each other.  When we change our perception from a God of wrath to a God of mercy, we will realize (that) God is a divine physician.” (Pg 92-93)
  • During our February Lenten Evening of Reflection – We’re going to delve deeper into our True and False Images of God…                         

2. We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy… 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 the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.

  • That last line is particularly profound… “opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”
  • Accepting God’s unconditional love and mercy for us, just as we, (not as we would like to be), can perhaps be one of the most difficult things we will ever be called to do in our lives…
  • Once we’re able to internalize God’s unconditional love for all of us, we no longer need to compete with others, or compete for things... Because with God’s love – We’ve found all that any human heart could ever desire...
  • The beauty of the Gospel, the Good News of the Gospel, is that this love is available to all human beings in endless abundance – All we need to do is have the humility and good sense to accept it...
  • Father Richard Rohr wrote the following about mercy (Radical Grace; July-Sept 2008): “You don’t know mercy until you’ve really needed it.  As Thomas Merton once said – ‘Mercy within mercy, within mercy.’  It’s as if we collapse into deeper nets of acceptance, deeper nets of being enclosed, and finally find we’re in a net we can’t fall out of.  We are captured by Grace.  Only after much mistrust and resting do we accept that we are accepted.”
    • To accept God’s love unconditionally, just as it is offered unconditionally - Not to persist in the false belief that we must first get our acts together, before we can be accepted by God...
    • To accept ourselves and others unconditionally in our collective “brokenness”... To accept our brokenness and the brokenness of others, as an integral part of our human condition, without judgment or scorn...
    • To accept the “messiness” of our lives on this earth unconditionally, as part of God’s plan for our sanctification... and not to persist in the need to achieve the false images of a “picture perfect life” often portrayed by the world...
    • To accept unconditionally that our lives are just as they should be at this very moment, and that we only need to be who God made us to be, and nothing more...
  • In essence, we need to learn to be at home and comfortable in our own skin, and to stop trying to be accepted and loved by others, including God...

 

 

 

 

  • Brennan Manning writes: “...either I escape into skepticism and intellectualism, or with radical amazement I surrender in faith to the truth of my belovedness.  At every moment of our existence God offers us this good news.  Sadly, many of us continue to cultivate such an artificial identity, that the liberating truth of our belovedness fails to break through.  So we become grim, fearful, and legalistic....  We huff and puff to impress God, scramble for brownie points, thrash about trying to fix ourselves, and live the gospel in such a joyless fashion; that it has little appeal to nominal Christians and unbelievers searching for truth... Fredrick Buechner wrote: ‘...Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved; is better than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news; to live out of it; and toward it; to be in love with that good news; is of all glad things in this world - the gladdest thing of all.’” (Abba’s Child, Pg. 60).
  • It’s only in learning to accept ourselves as we are, and to believe deeply in mystery of God’s unconditional love for us that we’re able to allow God’s mercy to fully bloom in our lives

4. We recall the poignant words of Saint John XXIII when, opening the (2nd Vatican) Council, he indicated the path to follow: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity… The Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at this Ecumenical Council, wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children”.

  • Pope Francis is reminding us of our roots as a Church…
  • He’s reminding us of what it means to be a true follower of Christ…
  • He’s reminding us to remember that our faith was never meant to be based upon the fear of punishment… It was always about love
  • And from love, flows mercy, and compassion, and forgiveness…
  • We all face two basic choices throughout our lives...
    • We can either choose fear, or we can choose love...
  • Every decision that we make always comes down to these two choices if we dig deeply enough...
  • And the choices we make each day, clearly form the fabric of our lives...
  • Love and fear can never coexist
  • We need to move from a faith based upon fear, to a faith based upon love
  • St John sums all of this up in a few profound sentences when he tells us in 1st John: (4:18-21) “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in loveWe love because He first loved us.  If anyone says, "I love God," but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  This is the commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
    • Catherine LaCugna wrote five very profound words: God only and always loves
    • If we take nothing away from this evening… We need to remember those five wordsGod only and always loves
    • In essence - God always chooses mercy…  

8. … The mission Jesus received from the Father was that of revealing the mystery of divine love in its fullness. “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16), John affirms for the first and only time in all of Holy Scripture. This love has now been made visible and tangible in Jesus’ entire life. His person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously… The signs he works, especially in favor of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion.

  • All of the theology that we’ll ever need to know is found in the three words given to us by St. John: God is love
  • Unconditional love is the essence of God, and love doesn’t operate on the principles of this world…

·         To believe fully in God’s love for us requires a leap of faith on our part…

·         It requires us to trust fully in God’s promises

·         It requires courage, and courage ultimately requires vulnerability

·         The ability to put ourselves out there, to overcome our fears, to accept criticism and ridicule, and disappointment… and perhaps even bodily harm; for something that we believe in our hearts to be right and true

·         Taking a leap of faith requires that we accept the mystery that is our God… That we learn to live without all the answers…

·         As someone recently noted – Faith without vulnerability and mystery isn’t faith at all

·         If we have God all figured out, then we have no faithand we have no God

·         The only power in this universe that can give us the courage to be vulnerable and to live our lives fully… is Love

·         And as St. John so aptly put it: “God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him
…”

·         Everything and everyone in the universe will eventually yield to the power of love

·         Nothing can escape it, and no one and nothing can ever overcome it…

·         Love cannot be created, it cannot be commanded, it cannot be faked, and it cannot be destroyed… Love can only be surrendered to

·         If we refuse to surrender our lives to God… How can we hope to have the love of God within us…and how can we ever hope to share it with others?

9. In the parables devoted to mercy, Jesus reveals the nature of God as that of a Father who never gives up until he has forgiven the wrong and overcome rejection with compassion and mercy. We know these parables well, three in particular: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the father with two sons (cf. Lk 15:1-32). In these parables, God is always presented as full of joy, especially when he pardons. In them we find the core of the Gospel and of our faith, because mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything, filling the heart with love and bringing consolation through pardon.

  • In our April Evening of Reflection – We’re going to look at the Parable of the Lost Son, commonly called the Parable of the Prodigal Son…
  • Those of you who are parents can readily identify with the deep love a parent has for a child…
  • We are all sons and daughters of a loving and compassionate God…
  • We need to remind ourselves that God has no favorites
  • We are each called to a Prodigal Son Faith...
  • This one parable is the central theme of Jesus’ mission on earth...
  • This parable, and its lessons must become the bedrock of our Christian Faith...
  • If we fail to learn its lessons, Christianity can easily be distorted into a “worthiness contest”... and Jesus’ message of God’s unconditional love, can become lost in the noise of a faith fabricated in the image of man, instead of the image of God.

9. … Jesus affirms that mercy is not only an action of the Father, it becomes a criterion for ascertaining who his true children are. In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us. Pardoning offences becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves. At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully...

  • For some strange reason, we often refuse to let go of our anger and resentments…
  • Instead, we prefer to continue to replay the tapes over and over in our heads…
  • We seem to “savor” them as if they were a fine wine, when in fact… they’re poison
  • We know they’re poison, but for some reason, that doesn’t seem to stop us
  • As long as we continue to wallow in our anger, in our resentments, in our self righteousness… We block God’s Grace in our lives
  • And we cease to grow in the Spiritual life…
  • You see, God can’t heal us, if we won’t let Him... or if we don’t want Him to heal us
  • Jesus is our example here… As He is in all aspects of our lives
  • Jesus had every right to be angry and resentful for the way He was treated and abused… But because He was in constant communion with the Father… He was able to hear and learn from the Father… to let it all go
  • He wasn’t tempted to fight fire with fire, but instead used a greater power – The power of Love
  • Through prayer and through God’s Grace, we can do the same… when we choose to be merciful

13. … In order to be capable of mercy, therefore, we must first of all dispose ourselves to listen to the Word of God. This means rediscovering the value of silence in order to meditate on the Word that comes to us.

  • God doesn’t shout… God whispers…
  • We all need to quiet ourselves to hear God’s voice – We need to make some time for silence in our lives to hear God’s voice...
  • We need to quiet both our bodies and our minds...
  • In our 21st Century world – Countless distractions vie for our attention...
  • Our senses are saturated with sights and sounds, while our minds race to keep track of the limitless demands and commitments of modern life.
  • These distractions deaden our connection with our Source of Strength & Power… with our Source of Life... Our God.
  • One way to renew this connection with our Source of Life, is through the practice of Silence and Stillness in our lives – To learn “Be Still”
  • Practicing our faith is just the baseline for a life in Christ... If we truly want to deepen our Faith, we must seek God in silence on a regular basis...
  • We must make some quiet time each day in our busy lives, (even for a few short minutes a day), to speak to God, and even more importantly, to allow God to speak to us...
  • God speaks to us in numerous ways in our lives... but we must learn to recognize His voice through the regular practice of silence.
  • It’s in the practice of silence that we will begin to recognize God’s mercy in our daily lives…
  • And when we begin to recognize His mercy… We’ll begin to manifest that mercy in the lives we touch…
  • In our December Advent Evening of Reflection, we’re going to talk more about the importance of incorporating silence and stillness into our lives…

 

14. …Merciful like the Father, therefore, is the “motto” of this Holy Year. In mercy, we find proof of how God loves us. He gives his entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return.

  • To fully embrace the Good News that Christ came to bring us... to fully embrace our vocations as Baptized Christians - We need to internalize Jesus’ teachings and return again to the Gospel of Luke (6:35-36): “But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for He himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wickedBe merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful.
  • The whole of Christ’s teachings, the true nature of God, and our vocations as Baptized Christians are all encapsulated in this one line from the Gospel of Luke...
    • Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful...
  • In our October Evening of Reflection – We’re going to talk more about the distinction between being perfect, and being merciful…

 

15. …It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy... Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.

  • The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are love put into action…
  • They’re simply loved lived out in our daily lives…
  • And if we look deeply at our lives…. We’ll find that we’re already performing many of these works of mercy…
  • In our families, in our workplaces, and in our communities, though we may not recognize it…
  • Any act of kindness from the heart is a work of mercy… and an act of mercy is an act of love…
  • Jesus shows us that God asks only one thing of us - That we love... Because Love in its purest, most selfless form, in our acts of mercy, is the closest that we as human beings can come, to imitating God...

17.  … Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the centre once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace

  • Words matter… So what does it mean to be “reconciled?”
  • The dictionary defines it as “…a means to bring two or more people back into a friendly relationship with each other…”
  • Reconciliation is first and foremost a Sacrament of Healing
  • To sin in the ancient Hebrew tradition meant literally: “To miss the mark…”
  • We’re all human… None of us is perfect… Why then are we often embarrassed to admit to ourselves and to God where we’ve missed the mark in our lives?
  • The only way that we can internalize God’s merciful, compassionate, and loving nature is to experience it first hand... and the only way that can happen, is to let down our guards in trust, and share our real selves with God...
  • It’s through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we can experience God’s mercy and compassion... and it’s our “Experience” that makes it real for us...
  • In our January Evening of Reflection we’re going to talk more about the Sacrament of Reconciliation… And what a gift of God’s mercy it is intended to be in our lives…

20. It would not be out of place at this point to recall the relationship between justice and mercy. These are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love.

  • St. James tells us in Chapter 2: “…mercy triumphs over judgment.”
  • God’s justice is inextricably linked to God’s mercy
  • For God… Justice and mercy are one and the same
  • Our God is a God of Justice – But when we think of justice – We most often think of retributive justice – Based upon the concept of retribution, or punishment - “An eye for an eye justice…”
  • Our world often equates justice with punishment… These two words have almost become synonymous…
  • But we need to constantly remind ourselves that God’s ways are not our ways
  • God’s justice is not retributive, it’s restorative... It restores the good that was lost… To use an old saying – “God writes straight with crooked lines…”
  • Only God can bring good from tragedy… Only God can make right something that has gone terribly wrong – This is restorative justice – A justice that does not inflict pain and punishment, but instead; restores the grace and the good that was lost through sin and tragedy…
  • In our November Evening of Reflection, we’re going to talk more about the relationship between Mercy and Justice… In essence we’ll explore the distinction between love and fear…

24. My thoughts now turn to the Mother of MercyNo one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary. Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh. The Mother of the Crucified and Risen One has entered the sanctuary of divine mercy because she participated intimately in the mystery of His love…

  • In our March Evening of Reflection we’re going to delve into Divine Mercy in My Soul – The Diary of St. Maria Kowalska who through various revelations from Jesus established the Chaplet of Divine Mercy which has become a mainstay devotional of the Church…
  • Jesus proclaimed to St. Maria Kowalska that He was the Divine Mercy
  • St. John Paul II declared the first Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday…
  • In May, we will celebrate our Parish’s Feast Day of May 13th, ‘Our Lady of Fatima’ with an Evening of Reflection devoted to an examination/reflection of “The Canticle of Mary,” also known as the “Magnificat” from the Gospel of Luke, (Lk 1:46-55)…
  • We proclaim Mary as the Mother of Mercy, when we pray the Hail Holy Queen at the end of the Rosary… and so she is

25. I present, therefore, this Extraordinary Jubilee Year dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us. In this Jubilee Year, let us allow God to surprise us… The Church feels the urgent need to proclaim God’s mercy. Her life is authentic and credible only when she becomes a convincing herald of mercy.

  • I’ll close with a quote from the authors of a book entitled: Compassion – A Reflection on the Christian Life, in which they wrote: “This is the mystery of the Christian life: to receive a new self, a new identity, which depends not on what we can achieve, but on what we are willing to receive... Jesus wants us to belong to God as He belongs to God; He wants us to be children of God as He is a child of God; He wants us to let go of the old life, which is so full of fears and doubts, and to receive the new life, the life of God Himself.  In and through Christ we receive a new identity that enables us to say: I am not the esteem I can collect through competition, but the love I have freely received from God.”... Through union with Him, we are lifted out of our competitiveness with each other, into Divine Wholeness.” (Donald P. McNeill, Douglas A. Morrison, Henri J.M. Nouwen: Pgs. 20-21).

 

 

Reflection Question for Adoration: How has God shown me His mercy this past year?

 

 
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