Dives in Misericordiae 13a: Profess and Proclaim Mercy

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4“The Church Professes the Mercy of God and Proclaims It.” So we head into section 13 with this title. St John Paul begins a final summary, having cited a number of Scriptural references, especially the parable of the two sons. We also looked a good bit into the theology of justice and mercy. Then we took stock of the 1980 world situation, which seems to have no lessening of anxieties in the intervening years.

If Jesus preached mercy, it is part of our mandate as Church to take up that task:

The Church must profess and proclaim God’s mercy in all its truth, as it has been handed down to us by revelation. We have sought, in the foregoing pages of the present document, to give at least an outline of this truth, which finds such rich expression in the whole of Sacred Scripture and in Sacred Tradition.

Liturgy is part of this:

In the daily life of the Church the truth about the mercy of God, expressed in the Bible, resounds as a perennial echo through the many readings of the Sacred Liturgy.

As is popular piety:

The authentic sense of faith of the People of God perceives this truth, as is shown by various expressions of personal and community piety. It would of course be difficult to give a list or summary of them all, since most of them are vividly inscribed in the depths of people’s hearts and minds.

The intellectual tradition of the Church has not neglected mercy:

Some theologians affirm that mercy is the greatest of the attributes and perfections of God, and the Bible, Tradition and the whole faith life of the People of God provide particular proofs of this. It is not a question here of the perfection of the inscrutable essence of God in the mystery of the divinity itself, but of the perfection and attribute whereby (humankind), in the intimate truth of (our) existence, encounters the living God particularly closely and particularly often. In harmony with Christ’s words to Philip,(Cf. Jn. 14:9-10) the “vision of the Father”-a vision of God through faith finds precisely in the encounter with His mercy a unique moment of interior simplicity and truth, similar to that which we discover in the parable of the prodigal son.

I think we’ve touched on this before, but mercy is not simply a theological or theoretical quality far beyond us. It is also a singular outreach from the Lord to every person. John Paul’s own philosophy of Christian personalism would not let this pass without comment. We were invited deep into the story of the lost son, and or those moments when we find congruency to that tale, we have the opportunity to enter more deeply into the experience of mercy. That would be in contrast to the elder son, who stands aloof, and for whom mercy is unknown as a personal experience.

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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Montana

Only three US states cover a larger geographical area. While I’ve visited two of them, I’ve never driven across an expanse quite like the state of Montana.

We picked up US route 212 in South Dakota yesterday morning, then cut across a twenty-mile corner of Wyoming. From there, it was almost 600 miles of the Treasure State before calling it a day in Missoula last night. I also understand why the moniker “Big Sky” is associated with this land.

We looked at the US 212 route for cutting about sixty miles off the trip between Rapid City and Missoula. We were glad we went that way. Some of the drive was through the Custer National Forest, and even though the evidence of fire was frequent, the shape of Montana’s land was impressive. Iowa is definitely a greener state, but there’s a beautiful alternative in the vast eastern Montana countryside. It’s not the Badlands, but there are breathtaking moments, all under a sky that does indeed seem bigger than what one sees back east.

Once past Billings, our afternoon drive found us at higher altitudes and surrounded by the state’s various mountain ranges. The young miss and the cats may have been affected somewhat by altitude sickness. As we approached our destination, it got rather quiet in the back seat.

I mentioned to the family that it feels like we are now in the real West, and we’ve taken the first step to becoming real American westerners.

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Open Thread on Credibility

(Hint: this is a new open thread for Max, and others who would like to engage him or be entertained by him.)

I could ask a New York Yankee fan for info, input, and knowledge on the Boston Red Sox. I might find a number of such persons who would relish informing me about their team’s chief rival. It is likely I would receive an enthusiastic, obscenity-rich dialogue, full of interesting content. But I’m not sure I would get totally accurate information.

Likewise, if I wanted to take my life in my own hands, I could travel east instead of west and hunt down some member of the IS and ask him to wax eloquent on the West, on Judaism, Christianity, and the US. Like the Yankee fan, it is likely I would receive an enthusiastic and critical report. But not likely a full and accurate accounting.

If the Earth were visited by aliens, I might assume these beings were smart. They would ask Boston baseball fans about Boston baseball, Jews about Judaism, Christians about Christianity, and atheists about atheism. They would note antagonism, but it would be the fact of antagonism, and less reliable data.

It is my contention that “Atheist Max” is a misnomer. Our friend Max is an anti-religionist, like most Yankee fans are anti-Red Sox. To their credit, Yankee fans are knowledgeable of and enthusiastic for Yankee culture. Unlike them, Max consistently refers to Christians sources, including his singular (mis)interpretation of the Bible.

Despite repeated invitations to post positively on atheism, Max repeats his stock anti-religion arguments. He cites the Bible far more than Dawkins, Hitch, or the other limelight atheists of our day. He hasn’t to my knowledge quoted a single atheist philosopher, but he does know about some obscure Scripture scholar.

To be sure, there’s nothing “wrong” about this approach as a personal choice. But it would be inaccurate to call Max an atheist.

Here are two questions for Max to start chewing on: What makes you different from a person of faith who is angry at God and denies God’s existence just like a spurned lover might attempt to totally erase a false love from life and memory? Do you have any atheist philosophers you would like to call upon to help make your argument against God’s existence stronger?

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Laudato Si 45: Where Do We Find Natural Beauty?

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

The privileged do appreciate natural beauty, but often wish for an exclusive space for enjoying it:

45. In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty. In others, “ecological” neighborhoods have been created which are closed to outsiders in order to ensure an artificial tranquillity. Frequently, we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called “safer” areas of cities, but not in the more hidden areas where the disposable of society live.

The challenge is that areas of society’s disposable persons are ravaged by interlopers, visitors, angry persons, and others. And we know that if there’s something to exploit for gain, it can be protected.

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Upper Plains Travelogue

As expected, our excitement was high for the drive out of Iowa yesterday. About an hour out from Sioux City, we hit the edge of a vicious thunderstorm. Amazing, but as we crossed the Missouri River into South Dakota, skies cleared and the speed limit jumped to 80mph.

Turning “left” at Sioux Falls, our family car continued to push the envelope: the previous farthest west I’ve ever driven in my own car was Lincoln, Nebraska. I didn’t find South Dakota to be boring at all. Its farms have a different quality. And the farther west we drove, the more ranches we saw.

A happy detour was the Badlands loop off I-90. The cats were having a difficult trip yesterday, as was my wife. But we added some miles and an hour to the travel, and except for the animals, we were glad we did. We didn’t stop but once, but the young miss took about a hundred image captures. No words can capture the whole of this geology.

The park brochure quoted Frank Lloyd Wright:

Let sculptors come to the Badlands. Let painters come. But first of all the true architect should come. (The one) who could interpret this vast gift of nature in terms of human habitation so that Americans on their own continent might glimpse a new and higher civilization certainly, and touch it and feel it as they lived in it and deserved to call it their own. Yes, I say the aspects of the Dakota Badlands have more spiritual quality to impart to the mind of America than anything else in it made by … God.

The only word I have is: astounding.

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Dives in Misericordiae VII: An Incarnate Mercy

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4St John Paul has an unnumbered heading to Chapter VII. Here we move to the topic of “The Mercy of God in the Mission of the Church.” This constitutes the penultimate theme as we approach two of the final three numbered sections of this document. Here we return from the care of the Blessed Mother and a look at justice in the modern world, and find ourselves confronted by mercy:

In connection with this picture of our generation, a picture which cannot fail to cause profound anxiety, there come to mind once more those words which, by reason of the Incarnation of the Son of God, resounded in Mary’s Magnificat, and which sing of “mercy from generation to generation.”

Anxieties plague us, but we recall the promise of God’s mercy.

The Church of our time, constantly pondering the eloquence of these inspired words, and applying them to the sufferings of the great human family, must become more particularly and profoundly conscious of the need to bear witness in her whole mission to God’s mercy, following in the footsteps of the tradition of the Old and the New Covenant, and above all of Jesus Christ Himself and His Apostles.

So we read the mission of mercy is apostolic, a continuation of the work of the Lord in his public ministry and of his disciples.

The Church must bear witness to the mercy of God revealed in Christ, in the whole of His mission as Messiah, professing it in the first place as a salvific truth of faith and as necessary for a life in harmony with faith, and then seeking to introduce it and to make it incarnate in the lives both of her faithful and as far as possible in the lives of all people of good will.

What is an incarnate mercy? I would interpret this as a real, embodied, and tangible mercy. Not just theory. Not just read out of a book or Psalter. But real and active.

Finally, the Church-professing mercy and remaining always faithful to it-has the right and the duty to call upon the mercy of God, imploring it in the face of all the manifestations of physical and moral evil, before all the threats that cloud the whole horizon of the life of humanity today.

An incarnate mercy makes more real the response we have to the various threats of modern existence.

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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Indifference and Desire

Indifference is not the same as apathy. Not at all. Section 23 of the Spiritual Exercises on the Principle and Foundation:

(O)ne must use other created things in so far as they help towards one’s end, and free oneself from them in so far as they are obstacles to one’s end. To do this we need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no prohibition. Thus as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.
– Saint Ignatius of Loyola: Personal Writings, translated by Joseph A. Munitiz and Philip Endean, Penguin Books, London 2004, p.289

And this is so difficult. At least it seems so to me.

I think St Ignatius is not counseling a lack of caring. On a basic level, what happens to us in life shouldn’t make a real difference in what we do, and how we serve God. Ignatius himself had a period of great rigor in the practice of the faith. But he got over it.

God also recognizes we have a lot to “get over” as we practice good spiritual life. God sees our hang-ups and loves us all the more. The line from Thomas Merton’s prayer comes to mind:

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

Desire … now there’s another topic.

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