Saturday, 30 January 2016

Crossing the Bridge of Mercy

There is an American saying that goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The opposite side of this saying would be, "It's broke, so fix it." 

We are celebrating a special Jubilee Year in the Church, called for by Pope Francis. The origin and character of Jubilee Years can be found in the book of Leviticus 25:8. 
“You shall count seven weeks of years—seven times seven years—such that the seven weeks of years amount to forty-nine years. Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month let the ram’s horn resound; on this, the Day of Atonement, the ram’s horn blast shall resound throughout your land. You shall treat this fiftieth year as sacred. You shall proclaim liberty in the land for all its inhabitants.”
It was to be a time to put everything back into right order - to rest the land and reestablish all relationship to right order - in other words, to fix it.

Pope Boniface VIII instituted the first Christian Jubilee in the year 1300. His focus was also on right relationship, mainly the relationship between Christians and there God. The penalty for sin is banishment, Adam and Eve were banished from paradise, the Christian banished from heaven. This banishment was reflected in one's banishment from the life of the Church and even one's place in society. But for those who would repent and confess their sin, forgiveness was given and their banishment lifted.

Those who have been banished find themselves left outside and facing, as it were, a locked door which barred them from entering. The unlocking and opening of a real door of forgiveness and reconciliation, became a symbol of the grace offered to banished sinners in a Jubilee Year. The symbolic act of opening a Holy Door remains with us to this day.

I think another symbol of the consequence of sin is a broken bridge. Bridges are meant to unite, but if they are broken they stand to divide the very ones they were meant to unite. Therefore, broken bridges must be fixed.

Engineers tell us that to build a bridge, work must be undertaken from both sides. It would follow that fixing a broken bridge would require the same approach. In the case of broken situations caused by sin, there is also two sides to be considered, one side has to do with the one who sins, and the other side with the One who is sinned against.

On the sinner's side, the repair work is called repentance, and from God's side, it is mercy and forgiveness. The motive that moves the sinner to have the brokenness fixed is sorrow for sin and a true desire to be united again with God. God's motive is love, manifested by mercy. 

On our side, what is needed is a master "Pontiff" (from the Latin word pontifex, meaning bridge-builder. Later it meant high priest and finally bishop.) And God has given us such a Pontiff in Pope Francis. By the inspiration of God's grace, he has called us into a special Jubilee Year, exhorting us to engage with the Father, in the work of reconstruction, the work of reconciliation through mercy. BE MERCIFUL LIKE THE FATHER!

It is now time for everyone to get to work. No doubt, we all have a stake in both sides. We need forgiveness and we need to forgive. 

The Holy days of Lent are soon to begin, a most appropriate time to engage in this work of Mercy. But first we need a plan, a blue to follow.

The observance of Lent has traditionally included the three penitential disciplines of Prayer, Fasting, and Works of Charity. Commentary on each is addressed in the gospel reading for Ash Wednesday. Each one may take on a variety of forms but all are essential for a complete and fruitful experience of Lent.

In Prayer, we set our hearts to listening for the Voice of the Spirit calling us out of the security of the world we have built for ourselves, into a place of discernment. Here we are helped to discover what is hindering us from advancing in our spiritual life, holding us back from crossing over into a deeper union with God.

From Prayer, we move on to embrace the challenge of Fasting; of letting go of the illusions that we believe make us happy and fulfilled. Self denial goes against all the satisfactions the world is offering. We find ourselves caught in the middle, attracted by the truth and goodness that awaits if we go forward, while still clinging to the comfort and security of the familiar.

Finally, if we persevere, we discover another side to a truly fulfilled and happy life. New values motivate us. It is no longer about me, rather it is about we.
"... and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Gal. 2:20

Time to get ready, a crossing lies ahead, there is more to come.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

A VOICE goes out - but are we listening?

The Jubilee horn has sounded, calling us into a special Holy Year, but is anyone listening?

Today's gospel reading is taken from the gospel of Mark 4:1-20, the parable of the Sower of Seed. In it, Jesus describes the various situations the messengers of the Good News must face. No doubt, these will apply to the proclamation of this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

In previous Posts, I provided meditations on this parable under the heading, The Problem With Weeds.

A second look at these might be helpful as we set off into these days of grace that lie before us. Here are the links.

Friday, 22 January 2016

A Year of the Lord's Favour

I hear the ram's horns calling out.
They disturb my slumber, demanding I awaken
They announce, Jubilee! Jubilee!
Wake up, it is the time of Jubilee!

My bible falls open to the books from ancient times
And there is that word, where it began, Jubilee.
It is now Fifty Years and much is broken,
Jubilee is calling, fix it, only you can fix it.

Do you not see, the bridge is broken and we are divided.
And whose fault is that? Not yours you say - certainly not mine.
Jubilee, why such loud demanding, disturbing my rest,
I am no pontiff, no builder of bridges.

Jubilee, what is that you say,
There is a Pontiff, hard at work,
And what is that you say - he is calling me.
Why me, I have no skills, I have no tools, no heart for this?

Jubilee, what is that you say,
Choose a side and get to work; one is “Sorry” one is “Forgive”.
The Spirit above is descending.
The Pontiff has your tool, the only one you will need.

Tell me Jubilee, what tool is that?

Leviticus 25 ... Isaiah 61 ... Luke 4:14

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Works of Mercy

A key component for understanding and participating in the Year of Mercy are the Works of Mercy. They are drawn up into two succinct lists from many different places in the scriptures. Reflecting on these passages will be necessary for our understanding of their importance for the Christian life. They serve as a checklist against which we can measure our fulfillment of the mandate, "Be Merciful Like the Father."

The Divine Mercy website has an excellent program that can be used by one person or as a study group program. I have links here for two of this 14 part series.

CORPORAL WORKS OF MERCY [ ... link ... ]


Thursday, 14 January 2016

Intercessors For the Year of Mercy

This burden is not heavy, for this is my brother/sister I carry.

Many people of faith will come to the Holy Doors, in this Year of Mercy, whether they be the officially appointed Holy Doors in their diocese or the doors of their own places of worship. They will come seeking God's mercy, healing and blessing for themselves.

Yet many will not enter. They will not enter because they are unable. The condition of their faith is grave, so badly wounded they may not even be aware that such doors even exist. Along the roadway leading to the Doors of Mercy, their faith lies dying, starving for lack of God's truth, blinded by the dist-storms of falsehood, limbs shattered and broken by the blows inflicted by their many sufferings and the suffering of others, beaten by the argument - where is your God now, who has abandoned you to suffer alone and die?

Their only hope is that someone will lift them up and carry them in their arms, through the Holy Doors and into the healing presence of the Father.

These are the THE INTERCESSORS OF THE YEAR OF MERCY. Who are they? Are you one? Would you be willing to become one?

We have already looked into the Prayer of Intercession in a previous Post [... LINK ...] 
This Post will look at the heart of an intercessor and the impact intercession has on them personally. People often ask us, "... to keep me in your prayers"; and we assure them that we will. 

But there is a dimension to being an intercessor that is deeply personal and very real, one that is felt on a deeply spiritual level. 

People who work in emergency services can tell us much about taking another up into their arms and carrying them to safety. They enter into the real pearl of another person, exposing themselves to real danger in order to save the life of another. Indeed, when you look closely at the Corporal Works of Mercy, it becomes evident that if you engage in them it will cost you in some corporal way. The question here is how does praying as an intercessor for another impact on you personally?

The Prayer of Intercession is a Spiritual Work of Mercy. It takes us deeply into the realm of the spiritual, where the struggle is spiritual. As St. Paul reminds us: 
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

Let me tell you of one person's real experience as an intercessor in prayer.
He has been asked to pray for another person who's faith has been crushed by much suffering, who with a broken heart no longer wants anything to do with God or religion. He willingly accepts.
First he asks for himself, that God call him personally into this spiritual struggle and grant him the graces he will need. He immediately knows that his request has been granted, for on his heart he feels a weight descending, a wounded heart being placed, as it were, in the arms of his own heart. Compassion enters him as he feels a measure of the darkness that fills that person's heart.
He passes through the doors of his parish church to join in the celebration of the Eucharist. But this time his experience is different. His sense of the spiritual is strong, that he is among the holy ones, that he is entering the presence of the God of Mercy.
All the voices of the liturgy spreads a comforting peace over his heart and surrounds the wounded heart of the one in his arms. 
He hears for the one who cannot hear, the hymns of glory, the prayers of confidence, the scriptures of truth. He feels the struggle the other has to let these enter - the darkness resisting, fighting to hold captive this child of God.
At the table of the Lord, he reaches out to receive the Bread of Life which he shares with the other who cannot feed themselves. They rest in the arms of the Father. 
In the O.T. in the book of Sirach 2:1-9 we read: 
My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.
Praying this way is REAL * EXPERIENCED * PERSONAL. We are enlisting ourselves in the ongoing struggle of the Cross of Christ. We face the same enemy that tried and failed to crush the Prince of Mercy. That victory, won on the Cross, continues and is available to all who are willing to take up the cross of another, the cross that is trying to destroy them.

If you feel called and are willing, ask the Lord of Mercy to place another in your arms, and begin the Spiritual Work of Mercy - Praying for Another.

St. Paul tells us how we are to suit up for this confrontation that we will face in the Prayer of Intercession.


Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 
  • Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, 
  • with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 
  • and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace
  • In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 
  • Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:12

Friday, 8 January 2016

Year of Mercy - Intensive Care for the World

Listening to Pope Francis speaking this year, it becomes quite evident how accurately he has diagnosed what ails our world today. We have a heart condition - heart failure - failure to love the way the world needs to be loved.  

Each month the Apostleship of Prayer, will provide a video with Pope Francis prayer intention for that month. This months intention is Interreligious Dialogue. Bigger guns and higher fences will not heal the world. But remedies will be found in a wisdom that comes from God. That is why people of faith must put on the white coasts of healers and get to work. But first, Pope Francis points out, they must enter into dialogue with each other to discover what healing wisdom God is revealing.

In France the publication, Charlie Hebdo, as well as many other secular voices blames religion for the world's problems, and terrorism in the name of religion clearly reinforces their thinking. 

Terrorism is no wisdom from God, but it is the strategy of God's enemy, and the enemy of all faiths. Pope Francis is calling all people of faith to unite in dialogue, in a common struggle with the disease of falsehood that can infect the heart of all religions.

Each one of us needs take a (C.T.) scan, Contamination of Truth - prayerfully scanning, by the Prayer of Discernment, for any falsehood that may be infecting God's truth in our hearts. Thus we will be ready and fit to engage with the Holy Father in the Works of Mercy, in this Year of Mercy.

The following is a link to the Apostleship of Prayer site where you will find additional resources. [... LINK ...]

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Mary Mother of Mercy

Holy Doors of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome
On January 1, 2016, the feast of Mary Mother of God, Pope Francis opened the Holy Door of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. In his homily, Pope Francis referred to Mary as the Mother of Mercy.

"It is most fitting that on this day we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary above all as Mother of mercy. The door we have opened is, in fact, a Door of Mercy. Those who cross its threshold are called to enter into the merciful love of the Father with complete trust and freedom from fear; they can leave this Basilica knowing – truly knowing – that Mary is ever at their side." 

When we think of mercy, two considerations are before us, the state of the heart of the one who has been offended, the state of the heart of the one who is guilty of the offence. Who could imagine the grief that overwhelmed Mary's heart as she held her son taken down from the cross. The prophesy of Simeon is fulfilled, "... a sword of sorrow will pierce your heart too." Two hearts pierced, Jesus and Mary.

But from the cross and the heart of Jesus, we hear these words, "... Father forgive them ..." As the life-blood of Jesus flows out of his heart, these words flow with them, and flow strait into the heart of Mary, making her the first of the instruments the Father chooses to carry these words into the world.

As Mary was the "Theotocos", the womb that held and gave birth to God, she is now the "Eleostocos" the heart that gave birth to Mercy.

When we suffer a grave injustice, our spirit is wounded, a lance pierces our heart, draining from it the capacity to love. Bitterness, resentment, retaliation floods in. Will we be able to love again? Can we forgive?

At the foot of the Cross, Mary sees her Son offer himself totally, showing us what it means to love as God loves. At that moment she heard Jesus utter words which probably reflected what he had learned from her as a child: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:24). 

At that moment, Mary became for all of us the Mother of forgiveness. Following Jesus’ example and by his grace, she herself could forgive those who killed her innocent Son.

Why forgiveness? There is no other choice. Nothing else will heal our hearts, nothing else can restore unity and peace. When repentance meets forgiveness, there is new life. It is God's remedy for sin, and so it must be ours as well.

Mary is the 
Mother of God, she is the Mother of God who forgives, who bestows forgiveness, and so we can rightly call her Mother of forgiveness. Continue reading Pope Francis homily .... link.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Follow the Voice - 2016

Bishop Robert Barron has an interesting and informative video on listening to the Voice of Providence guiding us through our life. (I might add that it compliments well the purpose that motivated the establishing this blog, Voices

Before we put forth a single step into a new day, a destination, as well as a plan for getting to this destination already exists for us. What we need is a strategy for hearing and following the "Voice", as it lays out this plan before us.

Providence speaks to us through many different voices, but the art of listening is taught through prayer - especially the Prayer of Discernment which I have explored many times in this blog. (Insert the word "discernment" in [ Search This Blog ] for a list of links.)

PSALM 139 

LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.

You sift through my travels and my rest;
with all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
LORD, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me
and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
far too lofty for me to reach.

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.
If I take the wings of dawn
and dwell beyond the sea,
Even there your hand guides me,
your right hand holds me fast.

If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me,
and night shall be my light”
Darkness is not dark for you,
and night shines as the day.
Darkness and light are but one.

You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!

My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you,

When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.

How precious to me are your designs, O God;
how vast the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the sands;
when I complete them, still you are with me.

When you would destroy the wicked, O God,
the bloodthirsty depart from me!
Your foes who conspire a plot against you
are exalted in vain.

Do I not hate, LORD, those who hate you?
Those who rise against you, do I not loathe?
With fierce hatred I hate them,
enemies I count as my own.

Probe me, God, know my heart;
try me, know my thoughts.
See if there is a wicked path in me;
lead me along an ancient path.


Friday, 1 January 2016

January 1, 2016 Pope Francis Message

1 JANUARY 2016
Overcome Indifference and Win Peace

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