Friday, April 30, 2010

You Are Loved

To all who feel heartbroken, in despair, feel worthless, are at "the end of your rope", I offer this musical meditation.
Don't give up.
Hope is the theological virtue of hanging on, because God is everything, even when it looks and feels so dark...He is there; He is there. Don't give up.
His Sacred Heart embraces you; His Divine Mercy envelops you.
He is there.
Don't give up.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Divine Mercy

We celebrate the Divine Mercy Sunday on the eighth day of the Easter Octave.
Our Lord has promised many graces, among them, for those who receive Holy Communion, having confessed their sins (within the time of Lent) the full remission of temporal punishment due to sin and the assistance of His continual Mercy.
This is the First Conference I will be giving tomorrow at St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cadott, WI, for the celebration of Divine Mercy.
Divine Mercy Sunday 2010

Talk I: “O Blood and Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in Thee”—Living the Sacramental Life (Part 1)

From the Diary of St. Faustina:
In the evening [of February 22, 1931] when I was in my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand [was] raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touched the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside a the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale. In silence I kept my gaze fixed on the Lord; my soul was struck with aware, but also with great joy. After a while, Jesus said to me, “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world.”(47)

Later on in the Diary, she writes:
When, on one occasion, my confessor told me to ask the Lord Jesus the meaning of the two rays in the image, I answered, very well, I will ask the Lord.”

During prayer I heard these words within me: The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls…

These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized heart was opened by a lance on the Cross.

These rays shield souls from the wrath of My Father. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him. I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy.(299)

It is from these messages of our Lord to St. Faustina, acknowledged as worthy of belief by the Church, that our celebration today finds its origin, in recent times. Through the message of Divine Mercy, faithfully handed on the this beautiful Polish Sister, in the years between World Wars I and II, the world is offered hope in the time of immense darkness, suffering, fear, immorality, and despair. “Jesus, I trust in You,” the inscription that our Lord requested at the base of His Image, is a summary of all that Sister Faustina lived, experienced, received and passed on in her Diary and in her life of holiness.
“Jesus, I trust in You.” The message of the New Testament, the Gospels and Epistles all can be summarized in this phrase. For, Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Promised One Who has come to save us from our sins, the very meaning of His Name, Jesus. Trust in His blessed Resurrection, a true, historical event, not just some kind “religious experience” that could be interpreted as “mass hallucination” or an exaggerated claim based upon “a common experience”…no, as believers, Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead is the source of our hope, our trust.

“O Blood and Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in Thee!”

Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his book “Behold the Pierced One”: “Both Jn 7, 37-39 and 19, 34…are concerned with the opened side of Jesus, with the blood and water which flow from it. Both passages are an expression of the Paschal Mystery: from the Lord’s pierced Heart proceeds the life-giving stream of the sacraments; the grain of wheat, dying, becomes the new ear, carrying the fruit of the Church forward through the ages…the water of life which springs from the Lord’s side is the Holy Spirit, the spring of life which makes the desert bloom.”

In the Gospel of Saint John, Chapter 7, verses 37 to 39 we hear:

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out:
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me; let him drink who believes in me. Scripture has it: ‘From within him rivers of living water shall flow.’”
(Here he was referring to the Spirit, whom those that came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit as yet, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.)

Jesus is quoting a verse from the Prophet Isaiah, “With joy you will draw water at the foundation of salvation, and say on that day: Give thanks to the Lord, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name” (12,3).

In the 19th chapter of Saint John, the “glorification” of Jesus takes place; He is hanging upon the Cross, the life-giving Tree, that will offer salvation to all those who believe in Him. The 34th verse reads: “One of the soldiers thrust a lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.”

This is the origin of the red and white rays that issue forth from the Heart of Jesus in the image of Divine Mercy. The significance of this “wounding” and the “flowing of blood and water” is something that goes back into the prophecies of the Old Testament. The Promised One is to be the “Man of Sorrows”, the “wounded One”. Jesus calls His Body the Temple. From the prophet Ezekiel we hear this description of the Temple. It foreshadows the piercing of the Savior’s side, from which the life-giving sacramental graces will be given throughout time in the Church, His Body,

“Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east; the water flowed down from the southern side of the temple, south of the altar. He lead me outside by the north gate facing the east, where I saw water trickling from the southern side….there was noa river through which I could not wade; for the water had risen so high it had become a river that could not be crossed except by swimming…Along the bank of the river I saw very many trees on both sides. He said to me, “This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the seas, the salt waters, which makes it fresh. Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live,…Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine"(Chpt. 47).

The antiphon, “Vidi aquam”, or “I saw water flowing from the temple” is the traditional Easter chant for the sprinkling rite in both the Extraordinary Form (the Traditional Latin Mass) and the Ordinary Form (the Mass of Pope Paul VI). This verse, taken from the prophet Ezekiel, points to the realities mentioned previously. The new sacramental dispensation, promised in sign and symbol in the Old Testament, begins with the piercing of Jesus’ side; the “giving” of the Holy Spirit on Easter night…the Lord says to His disciples, “Peace be with you;”…Then he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound” (20, 21-23). This particular passage begins in this way: “On the evening of that first day of the week, even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them." The locked door is a part of the Divine Mercy image; Jesus stands before it with His wounds and the rays emanating from His pierced Heart.

The Gospel assigned for today, the eighth day of Easter, is the account of St. Thomas’ encounter with the wounds of Jesus. He insists upon placing his fingers into the pierced Christ. St. Thomas has often been called “the doubter”; and this may be so. But what this Scriptural encounter tells us even more is that Jesus is truly risen; that St. Thomas’ desire, even need, to touch the wounds of the living Lord is a ‘sacramental encounter’, the true encounter that each of us is given in receiving the Lord in Holy Communion, in being absolved of our sins in the Sacrament of Penance; and more fundamentally, of being immersed in the death and rising of the Lord in Baptism, the gateway to all of the sacraments.

Holy Baptism is our initiation into the death of the Lord. We are marked by an indelible character that “christens” us, makes us “other Christs” that can never be altered. Baptism is not merely the taking away of original sin. It is the change from mere natural life to supernatural life; the promise of eternal life, as those who belong to the Lord Jesus forever. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1265). The water flowing from the side of the Crucified Lord is the means of making Christians; not only do we belong to God, in Christ Jesus, but we are united to all of those “reborn in water and the Spirit”, we are made “living stones” to be “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood” (CCC 1268). By Baptism we “no longer belong to ourself, but to him who died and rose for us. From now on, [we] are called to be subject to others, to serve them in the communion of the Church, and to ‘obey and submit’ to the Church’s leaders, holding them in respect and affection” (1269).

Our Baptism initiates us into the death and risen life of the Lord and places us within the communion of the Church. From the graces received, we are to live in righteousness and holiness. As the life of grace develops, the Lord calls each one of us to a particular mission. Through out baptismal calling, we grow in the likeness of Christ and open our hearts to His summons: to the priesthood, consecrated life, married life, dedicated single life in the world. The profound love of the Savior for each one of us is manifested in this ray of light, the life=giving waters of Baptism that make us children of God and orient our entire existence to Him, to be fulfilled in eternal life.

The baptismal life requires us to be faithful to God in His Laws and Commandments. But, since we have the effects of original sin, we are still frail in our humanity and require further assistance in growing in His grace and responding to His call. This is where the Sacrament of Penance becomes such an important part of the authentic life of Catholics. We cannot simply depend upon our own efforts. The Sacrament of Penance is not only a means of the forgiveness of mortal sin; it is the “tribunal of mercy” which St. Faustina so faithfully records our Lord’s words and puts it into practice in her own life.
It is sometimes thought that if one is not conscious of mortal sin, confession is not necessary. But this is not the teaching of the Church. It is true that venial sins may be expiated in many ways: reception of Holy Communion, a perfect act of contrition, the devout use of Holy Water, the Lord’s Prayer, and other prayers. But the Sacrament of Penance is not only for those in mortal sin. It is the means of perfection, by which those who desire to grow in union with the Lord, receive many graces, blessing, healing and strengthening to respond to the Lord. It is unfortunate that in the last forty or so years, the Sacrament of Penance has not been encouraged for those who desire to make what is called “devotional confession”. The most important factor in receiving the Sacrament of Penance for those who are not conscious of mortal sin is to make it an opportunity to enkindle within their hearts true sorrow for all sin and a desire to grow in union with our Lord. It is not necessary for one who is conscious of venial sin only, to enumerate each and every venial sin; the importance of this reception of the Sacrament of Penance is to be sorry for each and every venial sin and to confess the particular sins that are in most need of correction. If you are sorry for every sin and do not want to offend the Lord, you receive full absolution and forgiveness; you also receive an increase of grace, healing, and a full or partial remission of temporal punishment due to sin.

Love the Sacrament of Penance! Receive it often with faith, hope and love! Have great confidence in the love, mercy and help our Lord gives in this great manifestation of His Peace and forgiveness. We all are in need of it; our spiritual lives cannot grow and be fruitful unless we encounter Jesus often in this wonderful expression of His Love.

Returning to the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, we hear from the prophet Zechariah:
"I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition; and they shall look on him whom they have thrust through and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieve over a first-born.(12,10)…On that day there shall be open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness. On that day, says the Lord of hosts, I will destroy the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be mentioned no more; I will also take away the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness from the land” (13, 1-2).

What is clear from these prophecies, in both Zechariah and Isaiah, as well as from the prophet Ezekiel, is that the Promised One would be pierced; the waters flowing from the Temple (the Body of Christ) would give everlasting life to those who believe in Him. This foreshadows the piercing of our Lord’s Sacred Heart upon the Cross where the streams of water, the “New Covenant” would be the transformative means of making children of God, heirs of heaven, temples of the Holy Spirit.

St. Faustina received from the Lord Jesus a message of hope that is most certainly the message of the Gospels, of the apostolic preaching, of the promises and foreshadowing of the Old Testament prophets. It is a message that is both a consolation and a challenge; the pierced Heart of the Savior is the very means of our salvation, but we must respond with faith and trust. “Jesus, I trust in You,” is no mere pious phrase. It is the summation of all of salvation history.

Our baptismal consecration has destined us for the life that never ends. Are we being faithful to this grace? Do we take seriously our call to “be in the world, but not of the world”? Do we see beyond the devotional aspects, important as they may be, into the real essence of what it means to be devoted to Divine Mercy? Is the great gift of the Sacrament of Penance, meant to be a means of renewal, restoration, healing and rejuvenation in the life of God something we take for granted?

In the next meditation, I will give some points for reflection upon the Most Holy Eucharist, the very Presence of God-with-us, Jesus Christ, our Savior, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Eucharistic life, so very central to St. Faustina’s mystical life of love and surrender, is the very source of our own growth in holiness, reparation and intercession.

“May the Heart of Jesus, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, loved and adored at every moment, in all the tabernacles throughout the world, even now and until the end of time.” Amen.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A blessed Easter to all of you from the Nazareth Community of the Institute of Saint Joseph!

Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia!

May the joy and hope of this day fill your hearts with the PEACE He gives in His Presence in our midst, especially in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar!