Dives in Misericordiae 8c: Eschatological Mercy

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4The last paragraph of this section began to look at the conclusion of human need, the “end of time,” if you will. We are not yet at that point. St John Paul reminds us of the importance of mercy as a necessary impulse. Mercy reveals God and acts of mercy demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way. We live in a physical universe, after all. God made us to communicate through actions. Jesus demonstrated this in his public ministry as recorded in the Gospels. He also presents himself on the Cross.

In the eschatological fulfillment mercy will be revealed as love, while in the temporal phase, in human history, which is at the same time the history of sin and death, love must be revealed above all as mercy and must also be actualized as mercy. Christ’s messianic program, the program of mercy, becomes the program of His people, the program of the Church. At its very center there is always the cross, for it is in the cross that the revelation of merciful love attains its culmination. Until “the former things pass away,”(Cf. Rv. 21:4) the cross will remain the point of reference for other words too of the Revelation of John: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.”(Rv. 3:20) In a special way, God also reveals His mercy when He invites (us) to have “mercy” on His only Son, the crucified one.

Jesus beckons us into a companionship. We know from the Gospels that he invites us to take up our cross and follow him. To what limit will this imitation take us? What do you think it means to have mercy on Jesus?

Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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PS 106: Popular Piety During the Easter Season

Jesus arms outstretchedRemember, you can check the full document Paschale Solemnitatis on this site, among many on the internet. We discussed something of today’s topic in our examination of the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy. There is the principle that devotions should never overshadow the Mass:

106. According to the differing circumstances of places and peoples, there are found a number of popular practices linked to celebrations of the Easter season, which in some instances attract greater numbers of the people than the sacred liturgy itself; these are not in any way to be undervalued, for they are often well adapted to the religious mentality of the faithful. Let episcopal conferences and local ordinaries therefore see to it that practices of this kind which seem to nourish popular piety, be harmonized in the best way possible with the sacred liturgy, be imbued more distinctly with the spirit of the liturgy, in some way derived from it, and lead the people to it. (Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 13. Cf, CCD Orientamenti e proposte per la celebrazione dell’anno mariano, (3 Apr. 1987), nn. 3, 51-56)

My sense would be to carefully examine the celebration of Mass: do pastors and ministers put everything they can into it. especially during the Easter season?

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Laudato Si 19: Heading Into The Review

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website.

Along with paragraphs 17-18, this section serves as an introduction to Chapter One. I doubt one can find much dissent, especially among Christians, with the analysis that the hope we place in technological progress is not always well-placed.

19. Following a period of irrational confidence in progress and human abilities, some sectors of society are now adopting a more critical approach. We see increasing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet.

Likewise, there has been over the past fifty years, more of a concern for the state of the environment. Perhaps there has been a coming together of the concerns of the 50’s and 60’s for safe conditions for people, the threat of nuclear devastation, the concerns that led to the observance of Earth Day, and even today, people who have a favorite cause, as well as those who promote awareness for the greater good.

Let us review, however cursorily, those questions which are troubling us today and which we can no longer sweep under the carpet. Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.

Those questions will be addressed in paragraphs 20-61: pollution, climate change, water, biodiversity, the impact on human beings, inequalities in the world, and weak responses from leaders.

Meanwhile, any comments?

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The Physician

My morning lectio continued to take me through Sirach, a book which has been partly fruitful, partly routine. I was struck by a section in chapter 38 today:

My child, when you are ill, do not delay,
but pray to the Lord, and he will heal you.
Give up your faults and direct your hands rightly,
and cleanse your heart from all sin.
Offer a sweet-smelling sacrifice,
and a memorial portion of choice flour,
and pour oil on your offering,
as much as you can afford. (9-11)

The writer’s narrative is about physicians, but we Christians recognize Jesus Christ as Healer, don’t we? What is that sacrifice, meaning something more than the Temple ritual? Is it the letting go of need? Of want? How much vulnerability can one soul afford before the Lord?

Then I found my friend John’s blog yesterday. He’s been reading one of my favorite spiritual writers, the Trappist monk Michael Casey. From his essay, quoting his source:

I thought back to the Cistercian monk Michael Casey’s Fully Human, Fully Divine: An Interactive Christology which I recently read. Speaking of prayer in the midst of crisis he noted

We begin to find peace in the very act of owning our interior malaise, in opening up our woundedness before the Lord and, in a wondrous way, feeling ourselves welcomed and loved.

Casey opens up a facet of Bernard’s mysticism that can open us to the healing love of the wounded Christ if we open ourselves:

Uncover the wound so that you may receive the physician’s attention.

It is so tempting to cover over our wounds – and let them fester. It is so tempting to try to look healthy and powerful.

As my own fatigue continues with the preparations to take my leave of the campus parish, getting a house ready to sell, and preparing to move, even my spiritual director was taking this theme the other week. Bring the wounds to the Physician. We can’t heal by ourselves.

Jesus knew well the wounded human condition. He was a heart of God’s compassion for us, and he experienced the wounds of the Passion. So naturally, he is prepared to know our needs and address them, if we are willing.

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Lionesses Third

lionessThe English World Cup team has salvaged third place in the competition north of my border. Good for the Lionesses.

It was a rather meaningful game, for a third-place match. The NCAA Final Four did away with the third place game decades ago. This one seemed to show the English women had unfinished business from their first six matches.

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Group Decisions in Freedom

Parish meetings get bogged down this past year? Consider inviting Saint Ignatius to the deliberations. Considering the day, perhaps a note on freedom, since we Americans are somewhat mindful of that on the 4th:

Central to this method is the isolation of pros from cons, and the uninhibited expression of arguments, both pro and con, by each participant. Each is expected to disclose how he or she thinks (judges) the situation to be. An inclination “pro” will not hold up if it rests on inaccurate data. Is it true or false? is a question of intelligence or understanding.

Clearly our national political climate is insufficient. Sadly. I might also suggest that national attitudes work against freedom, this freedom to disclose. Is there a freedom to express differences? And I don’t mean among one’s cohort, or online. Most often these “discussions” are about who can yell the loudest and lob the most bombs.

Turning to the local scene, consider the importance of giving all people a voice in a group discernment. I think it’s the Benedictine tradition that monks will speak from the youngest to the oldest (and abbot) and thus the whole range of experience is given.

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Dives in Misericordiae 8b: Fulfillment

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4Is the Cross difficult to behold? Do we question the why of it? St John Paul invites us to consider our worst moments. God invites us to compare these to the sacrifice of the Son on Calvary. The invitation is to a more profound belief after havng confronted the worst that could happen to a person: betrayal, torture, and death alone.

The cross is the most profound condescension of God to (humankind) and to what (humankind)-especially in difficult and painful moments-looks on as (an) unhappy destiny. The cross is like a touch of eternal love upon the most painful wounds of (human) earthly existence; it is the total fulfillment of the messianic program that Christ once formulated in the synagogue at Nazareth (Cf. Lk. 4:18-21) and then repeated to the messengers sent by John the Baptist.(Cf. Lk. 7:20-23)

People who experience suffering, who deem themselves bereft of mercy can consider the prophet Isaiah, and the promise Jesus made as the fulfillment of God’s concern for the needy.

According to the words once written in the prophecy of Isaiah,(Cf. Is. 35:5; 61:1-3) this program consisted in the revelation of merciful love for the poor, the suffering and prisoners, for the blind, the oppressed and sinners.

Jesus on the Cross goes far beyond what was expected in the Messiah, and well past what would be expected of the Son of God:

In the paschal mystery the limits of the many sided evil in which (humankind) becomes a sharer during (our) earthly existence are surpassed: the cross of Christ, in fact, makes us understand the deepest roots of evil, which are fixed in sin and death; thus the cross becomes an eschatological sign. Only in the eschatological fulfillment and definitive renewal of the world will love conquer, in all the elect, the deepest sources of evil, bringing as its fully mature fruit the kingdom of life and holiness and glorious immortality. The foundation of this eschatological fulfillment is already contained in the cross of Christ and in His death. The fact that Christ “was raised the third day”(1 Cor. 15:4) constitutes the final sign of the messianic mission, a sign that perfects the entire revelation of merciful love in a world that is subject to evil. At the same time it constitutes the sign that foretells “a new heaven and a new earth,”(Rv. 21:1) when God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there will be no more death, or mourning no crying, nor pain, for the former things have passed away.”(Rv. 21:4)

Christian eschatology points to the end things. At the end mercy will be fully experienced and all will realize the final result of the love of God.

Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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