Thursday, 26 November 2015

Preparing for the Jubilee Year of Mercy

The solemn inauguration of the Holy Year of Mercy is marked by the opening of the Holy Door of Saint Peter's Basilica, December 8th. 2015. 

The local Ordinary will decide in which church of the diocese the Door of Mercy will be opened.  There should be a Door of Mercy opened in every diocese and eparchy of the world. Following the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s, all the particular Churches will open their own Doors of Mercy in communion with the Church of Rome as part of the Eucharistic celebration of the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday). [In the Diocese of Hamilton, the blessing and Opening of the Holy Door takes place at the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King, December 13, 2015 at 7:00pm ]

The Jubilee of Mercy was announced by Pope Francis as a year to be lived intensely in each particular Church, allowing every person to encounter the mercy of God the Father through diligent labor for the Church's mission there. The most evident sign of this pastoral care is the chance to open a Door of Mercy in every diocese. These doors, analogous to the Holy Doors of the Papal Basilicas in Rome, will permit even people who cannot travel to Rome to make a Jubilee pilgrimage.

The doors of the churches that will be formally opened are real and tangible. People will literally be able to walk through them. But it is important to understand the great reality that lies behind the symbolism of this act. Our purpose and destiny in this life is to ENTER - to enter in and be in the very presence of God - to personally encounter God the Father, face to face. 

Churches with their ornate entrance doors are a common sight. People see them and walk by them every day. But some people walk up to these doors and enter in. They do so because they belong, it is their privilege to do so. And how is it that they have come have this privilege? The God of MERCY has invited them to come in and they have excepted. They now belong to the household of God the Father. This is their home, they have the right to enter.

In Matthew's gospel, chapter 22: Jesus frames these mysteries in the form of a beautiful parable, the king's wedding banquet and the invited guests. The first group invited are too busy and don't come. Then the king instructs that any and all be invited. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find. And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 

But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.

Those hearing Jesus parable understood that it was required, as a sign of respect and honour, that everyone invited wear a wedding garment when attending a wedding celebration. But these underprivileged of the streets would have no means of obtaining one. Implied in Jesus parable, that the king had provided each one with a wedding garment, covering their wretchedness with dignity and honour. 
  • The wedding feast - the union of humanity with divinity - salvation.
  • The invited - everyone, good or bad, willing to accept.
  • The wedding garment - MERCY, a pure gift - clothing with holiness even the wretched and unworthy sinner.
  • The wearing of this garment - a testimony of acceptance and gratitude - faith - "... be merciful just as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:36.
The caption on the official logo for this Jubilee Year reads, "Merciful Like the Father." It sets out the agenda for the Jubilee - to show mercy to all as the Father has been merciful to us. 

The work that lies before us in our prayer and study is to acquire a deeper understanding of the Father's Mercy, and how we are to imitate it in our dealings with others. This sets the agenda for Voices in the weeks to come.

Prayer for the Year of Mercy

Almighty God,
you reveal your love for us
in your Son, Jesus Christ,
who is the face of your mercy.
Pour out your mercy upon us
that we may bring to every person
your goodness and tenderness —
signs of your Kingdom,
present among us.
May we become merciful
like you, Father, are merciful.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. 


Saturday, 21 November 2015

Temple Sacrifices and Mercy

Brothers and sisters:
Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins.

But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God;
now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.

For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.
 Heb 10:11-14, 18

"Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin."
Among ancient peoples, it was believed that the gods acted very much like any human ruler would when dealing with others. When they were offended, they reacted in anger, exacting revenge by causing all manner of chaos to befall any and all who had offended them.
And like it was with all human masters who had been offended, it was possible to be "redeemed" from the wrath of the gods if an exacting price was payed to appease them. This was done by sacrificing valuable things on altars which were dedicated to the various gods. All things of value could be sacrificed, but the most valuable thing of all was human life itself, and so human sacrifice, offered to the gods, became foremost among all possible sacrifices.
With Abraham, the understanding of God changes from polytheism to monotheism, from there being many gods to One God alone. But understanding just who God really is and what this means for mans relationship with God, will take time. One of the first things learned was that God did want human lives to be sacrificed to win back God's favour. The story of this lesson being learned is found in the book of Genesis ch. 22, the story of Abraham and Issac on Mount Moriah.

Here, among the decedents of Abraham, the practice of sacrificing human life ends, but the practice of offering other sacrifices continues until the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. God does want something from us when we offend by our sinful acts. God wants our hearts - our hearts to change, to give up (sacrifice) our attachment to wrong-doing, and to embrace what is TRUTH, what is pleasing to God. 

Jesus describes his mission in the world in this way: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Jo. 3:17 When the religious leaders are scandalized by his association with people whom they judged rejected by God, he responded:
When our action are in contradiction to God's Truth we sin, and this is a direct offence against the person of God. But God does not take revenge against us for our sins, rather He acts to change us - to bring about a conversion in us to reject our sinful practice and embrace God's truth. What God wants is for us to be holy as He is holy. Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1Pt. 1:13-16

We are about to enter an Extraordinary Jubilee Year that will focus on MERCY. This text lays out for us a clear agenda for our prayer in this coming year:
Go and learn what this means, 
‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ 
For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mtt. 9:13


Saturday, 7 November 2015


The month of November begins with two important liturgical celebrations. November first we have The Solemnity of All Saints, and November second we have the The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed or All Souls Day as we commonly refer to it. In the liturgy, the Church prays, 
Grant we pray, O Lord, that your departed servants,
for whom we have celebrated this paschal Sacrament,
may pass over to a dwelling place of light and peace.
Through Christ our Lord.
This prayer is rooted in one of the church's tenants of faith, that of Purgatory. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read;
1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:
The prayer above speaks of souls, "...passing over to a dwelling place of light and peace". So where exactly is Purgatory and how does it work?

We understand our reality in terms of place and time - here not there, and now not when. We speak of heaven as up and hell as down, so purgatory must be somewhere in between. But in the spiritual realm these do not apply. Place becomes state or condition that defines a soul - consolation flowing from seeing God - desolation from the soul's blindness to God's love. Time is the eternal now or the eternal presence of God.

During one's life on earth, a soul may be quite blind to the truth of God. Rather than learning of the holiness of God and the need to conform one's life in imitation of that holiness, a person may choose to fashion their life around any number of unholy ways of living, which they proudly call, "my own truth".

When that soul dies, this state of self delusion remains with them. Now, stripped of all the "things" that consoled them in life, they are left with only emptiness - grieving the loss of all they had, leaving that soul in the desolation of eternal regret. 

Now, being in this "state", this condition of soul, is it possible for such souls to learn of God's holiness and love for them and finally allow His love to embrace them? Yes, and this is Purgatory, the "purging", the "purification", of all that has blinded them and possessed them in their earthly life. Finally they see, and this Vision of Love, this Beatific Vision fills their empty souls with consolation and peace. 

It is also part of our understanding of Purgatory and its process of purgation, that we can, by our prayers of intercession, help them surrender to God's love, as we have done. Our voices of prayer and intercession are not meant to persuade God to show them mercy, rather that they will hear these many voices of encouragement from others who faced their sinful pride and surrendered to this process of healing - who renounced their prideful ways and turned back with only this to claim: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son."

A Meditation on Purgatory. 

Three men gather on the steps of the church, preparing to enter as the great doors are opened.

These doors that are as real as the doors through which we pass from this world into eternity - to enter the sanctuary where the God of mercy and love is present.

The choir voices, singing the praises of God, break forth from the church as the doors begin to open, filling the hearts of these faithful souls yet waiting with joyful anticipation. The first man enters like a son in his home.

But, the second man hesitates, waiting for all to enter ahead of him.

He does not count himself among the others nor does he share their joyful expectation. 

What awaits him inside he knows not, except that guilt and shame covers his heart and fear of rejection and condemnation defines his condition. 

Alone in his darkness, feeling no right to be here, his soul begins to hear the voices of praise, the words of the prayers, the scripture readings, the gospel story of Publican "... not even lifting up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" begins to penetrate his darkness. He sees at last what he denied himself in life because of his pride.
Consolation begins to fill his heart as forgiveness floods into his soul. At last he takes his place with the others as they are all carried up into the love of God.

So Purgatory is not a question of where but when. Even now it begins as the soul starts to experience the emptiness its foolish pride has produced. 

How often he has passed by these doors, these steps that are counted out like the days allotted to his life - passed by without a thought to their importance.

Now, haunted by regret and self condemnation, a Voice like none of the others breaks through - calling, inviting, to return to the steps so long ignored.

Purgatory happens in the heart where the healing gift of Mercy is administered. The soul is allowed to experience the darkness of hell its deeds have merited. Then as this prodigal son mounts the steps of the Fathers house, he see the great doors open, like arms of welcome and forgiveness.

Purgatory is working its healing - another son is coming home.

But there were three men, what of the third?

If heaven is up, then hell must be down, down the steps and into the night.

Will the Father lose his son forever? Who knows for sure but the Father alone.

He arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:11

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