Mercy

‘Ah! My brother, how the goodness of Jesus, His merciful love, are so little known!’

‘It must be that you don’y know me at all well, if you are afraid that a detailed account of your faults could lessen the tenderness I feel for your soul! O my brother, believe me that I shall not need to “put my hand over the mouth of Jesus.” He has forgotten your infidelities long ago. Only your desires for perfection remain to make His heart rejoice. I implore you, don’t drag yourself to His feet ever again. Follow that “first impulse which draws you into His arms.” That is where you belong and I have decided, now more so than from your other letters, that you are forbidden to go to heaven by any other road than the one your poor little sister travels.

‘I completely agree with you that “the heart of God is saddened more by the thousand little indelicacies of His friends than it is by the faults, even the grave ones, which people of the world commit.” But my dear little brother, it seems to me that it is only when his friends, ignoring their continual indelicacies, make a habit out of them and don’t ask forgiveness for them, that Jesus can utter those touching words which the Church puts on his lips in Holy Week: “These wounds you see in the palms of my hands are the ones I received in the house of those who loved me.” For those who love Him, and after each fault come to ask pardon by throwing themselves into His arms, Jesus trembles with joy. He says to His angels what the father of the prodigal son said to his servants: “Put his best robe on him and put a ring on his finger, and let us rejoice.” Ah! My brother, how the goodness of Jesus, His merciful love, are so little known! It is true that to enjoy these riches we must be humbled and recognise our nothingness, and that is what so many are not will to do. But my little brother, that is not the way you behave, so the way of simple love and confidence is just made to order for you.`

-From a letter from St. Therese of Lisieux to Maurice Belliere, a young seminarian [Taken from Maurice & Therese: The Story of a Love]

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God bless you!

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Mercy requires courage

Mercy requires courage. Without courage, we can have pity, but not mercy. It takes the courage to open yourself to another’s wounds, and to be vulnerable yourself.

Without vulnerability, we may be a benefactor, but we can’t be a Christian. We must share our brothers and sisters’ wounds, all of their hurts and failings and sins, understanding them and uniting them with our own, and so with Jesus’. 

Jesus suffered, to give Himself to us. He is utterly vulnerable, so that we can approach Him with all of our weakness and wounds. His wounds speak to ours, and replace fear with love.

We killed Jesus because of His mercy. His heart was open to all, and so He suffered with all the suffering, and was oppressed with all the oppressed. He never took sides, not even–so it seemed–God’s.

Jesus knows you, with all of your pain, and He loves you. He feels your pain more than you yourself, especially the pain of sin,  and He loves you in it. We have no reason to hide from Him.

Jesus detests sin because it hurts Him when it hurts us, and above all because it separates us, His beloved, from Him. He can’t stand being apart from us. It drives Him crazy. 

That’s why He can’t stand us judging each other. He can’t take us pushing people away from Him. Especially when we claim to do so in God’s name. 

We must surrender to His merciful love. We must let Him love us in and through our wounds, our sins. Then these are transformed. Our wounds and sins become a holy place, the place where we find God. And then, with our vulnerability, our wounds, and the love of God in them, we can bring His merciful love to others. 

Mercy requires the courage to take up the cross. It will be painful. It may get you killed. You will be exposed and vulnerable and mocked and attacked, even by the very people you suffer with and for.

But mercy is true life. Mercy transforms the world. Jesus’ mercy conquers the grave, turning death to life.
God bless you! 

A mountain of mercy

This Sunday at mass, I was thanking God that by His grace, I have been given life in Him, so that at that very moment, I was blessed to be communing with Him, loving and being loved, genuinely touching my God. I was thanking God for every sin that by His grace I haven’t committed, and I realised I ought to thank Him for every sin I’ve ever committed being forgiven. I am with God at this moment, because every single sin, throughout my entire life, has been forgiven.

I saw that all the sins of my life would amass to a great mountain, made of all the filth, waste, and excrement of my soul. But where that mountain should have been, there was instead an even greater mountain of God’s mercy, and in my mind’s eye it was gold and precious.

I can’t just thank God for His recent mercy and forgiveness, because if He didn’t forgive my oldest sins, I’d be just as cut off as for my newest. This one moment with God, is thanks to a whole life of forgiveness.

God bless you.

Thank you Lord! 

WYD 2016: The Time of My Life (so far)

Opening mass

(The Opening Mass)

I really don’t know what to tell you about WYD 2016 in Krakow, except that it was the best time of my life. Please bear with me as I ramble a bit, about just part of what it meant to me.

Welcome

Before going to Poland, me and my friends from uni joined with a group of about 300 pilgrims from around the World for a “pre-encounter” in Hungary, organised by Verbum Dei. We listened, we talked, we prayed, we had mass, we joked and sang and danced. But in the most incredible atmosphere of love and friendship I’ve encountered. Everyone was a friend. Everyone smiled and said hello to everyone. And I felt embraced by an inexplicable love. I really experienced the joy of the gospel, and the Kingdom of Heaven.

A good example, is when in the evening, we all learned Hungarian folk dance, and had three hundred of us dancing around the hall in these great circles and lines, soaked in sweat, jumping about, and smiling like madmen. It’s an image of Heaven.

Adoration

My highlight of the pre-encounter came at adoration. Even amongst such love, I was somehow able to start feeling alone and unlovable again. It wasn’t too strong a feeling, but I did feel cut off…

Then, some of my friends began a beautiful piece of theatre/prayer, centred around mercy and removing masks to be loved. At the end of this, the Eucharist was brought out for a time of adoration. A screen blocked me from seeing Jesus as He began proceeding from the tabernacle, and as I tried to prepare myself to see and adore Him, I didn’t feel any closeness to Him. I didn’t feel like He was really present at all, and I worried what this meant.

Then He came past the screen, I saw Him, and I knew it was Him, right there, in love for me. I felt His loving gaze, and it broke me apart. I cried a lot, and didn’t wipe away the tears, because I didn’t want to lose a thing. I kept repeating ‘Jesus, you love me` and ‘Jesus, I love you`. I desired nothing but to belong entirely to Jesus, to love Him and be loved by Him, at any and all cost.

God loved Rudolf Höss

Rudolf Höss

The first thing we did in Poland was to visit Auschwitz. The above sign really struck me. The idea that there was any more blood spilled at Auschwitz after the war, filled me with sadness. The thought of any more hatred, and killing, and saying that people aren’t worthy of life; or of the blood of the innocent and the wicked being mingled, horrified me. The war was won, but where was the peace?

I remembered that God loved Rudolf Höss, and even went to the cross for him. He was incredibly inhuman to his prisoners, because he didn’t believe they were truly human. But the response to this was to see his evil deeds, and say that he wasn’t truly human, that he didn’t deserve life. But God loved and created Rudolf Höss, not for the monster he made himself, but for the human being, capable of love, that he simply was.

It was humans that perpetrated the holocaust. It was humans like you and me. It was us.

As I continued around Auschwitz II- Birkenau, the horror kept growing within me. I felt the need for us all to repent for what the Nazis, and many others, have done throughout history. I felt terrible anger, followed by sorrow and pity, for the perpetrators of all our atrocities.

The more I saw of Auschwitz and human evil, the more clearly I saw that the world desperately needs mercy. There is no other solution.

Welcome pt 2

The People of Krakow (and Wadowice, where we were staying) gave us an incredible welcome. Our host families made us feel truly at home, despite every barrier of language and culture. And our fellow pilgrims too, were all incredibly friendly and welcoming.

I didn’t understand before this trip, just how crucial being welcoming is to being merciful. But how can we ever be merciful if we don’t welcome others? And how could we welcome those who most need it, if not for mercy?

On our long march (about 14km in the heat) to Campus Misericordiae, families who lived along the way came out of the their homes, and out of the sheer kindness of their hearts, gave us cold water. And on the long way back, in the pouring rain, one family came out offering us hot coffee. It was pure grace.

Friendships

So many friends, old and new! And the new, are so close, that they really feel like old friends already. I feel incredibly close to them, because we shared our lives, and our deepest life (Jesus) for this two weeks. In each of them, I discovered incredible depths and beauty I couldn’t have imagined, and each of them showed me Jesus that much more.

I really can’t express my gratitude enough. They’re in the depths of my heart forever now.

Papa Francesco!

Seeing and hearing Papa Francesco was amazing. I think he exudes the love and mercy of God in a very special way.

His speeches and homily were very powerful, and made clear to me how greatly God loves us, and how God wants to use us. How God wants you and me to go out and change the whole world, to build a world of love, mercy, and fraternity. How God dreams of our true happiness, which is not “a good couch”, but a life of love and action!

Holy Communion

As I queued for Holy Communion at the final mass, I was overcome with God’s love for me again, and I began crying once more, desiring for every part of me, from the biggest to the very smallest, to be given to Jesus in love. I didn’t want anything held back. I wanted his light in every last crevice in the depths of my heart. I realised I’d rather God’s love and nothing, than everything except God’s love. And then I realised, that since everything is each moment created out of God’s love, apart from God’s love there is nothing, and within God’s love there is everything, and so I found myself surrounded by God’s love on every side.

The entire World Youth Day was one big Holy Communion, in which I found Jesus over and over and over again. We were all there together, being made one, by the one body, the one love, of our one Lord.

Catholicity

The Church is the unity of humanity :)

Now, the real challenge begins: to take God’s mercy home with us and out to the world…

 

God bless you and pray for us!

The Fear of Repenting

That terrible fear. When you know you have done something awful. And you know you must repent; that it’s the only way out. But you’re scared to. You consider if you could do it later… Or maybe never. Perhaps you could just live with what you’ve done…

Why is repentance so terrifying? Because it involves two terrifying things: judgment, and death. It involves judgment, because it requires revealing ourselves, with all our injustices, and acknowledging God as the just judge. He is the one with the right to judge all transgressions against Him.

It involves death, because it is our lives that we place before Him, and whatever He might do, we are acknowledging our life as being His to deal with, however He chooses. We are giving up our lives.

Why? For Jesus’ sake. We repent, laying our lives at Jesus’ feet, for love of him. Why do we love Jesus? Because he is merciful, because he is loving, and he has taught us love. We go like St. Mary Magdalene to cry on Jesus’ feet [Lk 7:36-50], because we are unworthy, but we love him, and hope that he will show us love too.

The most remarkable thing about our fear of repenting, is that afterwards it seems so absurd. To be so afraid, of what has brought such great liberty! But that is simply how death looks from the perspective of the resurrected. To repent is no less than to lay down our whole lives before Jesus and with Jesus, and so be raised to true life in him.

We must always remember what Pope Francis says:

“The Lord never tires of forgiving, it is we who tire of asking for forgiveness.”

God bless you

God’s mercy and hell

Once, when I was mired deep in guilt and shame at my sins, I realised how merciful God is, as I thought, if it would please or satisfy God for me to go to hell, I would, rather than repent and sin again, insulting His grace and surely displeasing and dissatisfying Him further. I considered it perhaps preferable to be tortured as the wretched sinner I am, rather than live a disgraceful inconsistency between good and evil, constantly offending things so holy. But it couldn’t please God for the worst sinners to go to hell, because I wasn’t in hell, and the Son of God lived and died and lived again to save us sinners from hell, apparently with no regard to “justice”.

Realising God’s mercy was always there, regardless of my sin, even caressing my sin, greatly deepened my feeling of guilt against such a kind God, but made it healthy and hopeful, and showed me that repentance/penance is a great duty to merciful God, rather than a selfish opportunity to escape God’s justice. His love is inescapable and terrible, revealing all the darkness of sin by His light, and inviting us in, to be bathed in His light. It is God’s unbelievable goodness that makes evil so terrible, and His unending mercy that makes guilt truly unbearable.

God bless you

I am the lost sock

So I found a sock just now (a really cool Spiderman sock), and putting it in my drawer, I saw it’s partner. I don’t think I need to tell you how happy this made me. My sock was lost, and now is found!

This reminded me of the three parables of Luke 15: the lost sheep; the lost drachma (coin); and the prodigal son. I’ll tell you the truth: I’m happier about finding my lost sock than about all the socks I didn’t lose. Like how the shepherd put the lost sheep on his shoulder and carried it home, I picked my sock off the floor, and did that folding thing to pair the pair, and put them in my drawer. Like how the woman who lost her coin phoned or texted (I assume) her friends to celebrate with her, I’m writing this to you. Rejoice with me!

Image

I am my lost sock! I was lost, and now am found. I lay useless on the bedroom floor, until I was returned to the drawer, and reunited with my partner, and so brought home and made whole. And I tell you the truth again: One day not so far away, I will wear this sock upon my foot (and I believe God will act likewise to me).

All this because, as the Pharisees and the scribes said so well, “Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

God bless you.