Spiritual Life: May 2011 Archives
Continuing for just a moment on the reality of Divine Mercy --given yesterday's feast on the Second Sunday of Easter-- there are few thoughts of Blessed John Paul II's that I think are worth reflecting on when, in the canonization homily he delivered for Padre Pio's canonization (16 June 2002), he stated:
"I am the Lord who acts with mercy" (Jeremiah 9,23)
Padre Pio was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making himself available to all by welcoming them, by spiritual direction and, especially, by the administration of the sacrament of Penance. I also had the privilege, during my young years, of benefiting from his availability for penitents. The ministry of the confessional, which is one of the distinctive traits of his apostolate, attracted great crowds of the faithful to the monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo. Even when that unusual confessor treated pilgrims with apparent severity, the latter, becoming conscious of the gravity of sins and sincerely repentant, almost always came back for the peaceful embrace of sacramental forgiveness. May his example encourage priests to carry out with joy and zeal this ministry which is so important today, as I wished to confirm this year in the Letter to Priests on the occasion of Holy Thursday.
Perhaps priests --indeed, all of the faithful-- ought to review the Holy Father's Holy Thursday 2002 letter to priests. I once made a statement: Don't trust a priest who doesn't regularly sit in the confession box. I think it is reasonable advice.
When John Paul beatified Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 2003, he said of her, in part:
"As you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25: 40). This Gospel passage, so crucial in understanding Mother Teresa's service to the poor, was the basis of her faith-filled conviction that in touching the broken bodies of the poor she was touching the body of Christ. It was to Jesus himself, hidden under the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor, that her service was directed. Mother Teresa highlights the deepest meaning of service - an act of love done to the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, prisoners (cf. Mt 25: 34-36) is done to Jesus himself.
Recognizing him, she ministered to him with wholehearted devotion, expressing the delicacy of her spousal love. Thus, in total gift of herself to God and neighbor, Mother Teresa found her greatest fulfillment and lived the noblest qualities of her femininity. She wanted to be a sign of "God's love, God's presence and God's compassion," and so remind all of the value and dignity of each of God's children, "created to love and be loved." Thus was Mother Teresa "bringing souls to God and God to souls" and satiating Christ's thirst, especially for those most in need, those whose vision of God had been dimmed by suffering and pain.
Divine Mercy is a not a mere theological datum. It is another way of calling God, of meeting and loving God and living in relation to others. But is Divine Mercy? Blessed John Paul II spoke of Divine Mercy in his canonization homily for Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska. She became a modern mirror for God's tremendous love for all humanity. Saint Faustina reminds us that Mercy is crucial for everyone, just ask for the grace of Mercy. An excerpt:
What will the years ahead bring us? What will man's future on earth be like? We are not given to know. However, it is certain that in addition to new progress there will unfortunately be no lack of painful experiences. But the light of divine mercy, which the Lord in a way wished to return to the world through Sr Faustina's charism, will illumine the way for the men and women of the third millennium.
However, as the Apostles once did, today too humanity must welcome into the upper room of history the risen Christ, who shows the wounds of his Crucifixion and repeats: Peace be with you! Humanity must let itself be touched and pervaded by the Spirit given to it by the risen Christ. It is the Spirit who heals the wounds of the heart, pulls down the barriers that separate us from God and divide us from one another, and at the same time, restores the joy of the Father's love and of fraternal unity.