“Shout with joy for Jacob …. The Lord has delivered His people, the remnant of Israel. Behold I bring them back from the land of the north…they departed in tears, but I will console and guide them.” The prophet Jeremiah wrote these words, prophesying that God would deliver His people from their enemies and lead them out of exile. (Jer. 31:7-9) What got the nation into exile in the first place was that they failed to realize that they were in God’s presence. They had stopped seeking God and instead sought their own pleasure, lost their sense of justice, and in so doing, stopped being able to recognize the blessings God had given His people throughout the ages. They tried to ‘go it alone’ mostly because they had fallen prey to the allure of the false gods of pleasure, power, greed, and complacency. But in the end they realized that God had never left them and they turned their hearts back to Him.
The fall of the Israelites was avoidable and God did everything He could to try to prevent it. In becoming self-centered, however, they forgot how to recognize God’s presence. They rejected Him, but what made it so complete was that they replaced their ability to recognize God by assigning their faith to that which was not God. In short, they did not see or hear what had previously been plain to them. That did not keep God from trying to break through to them by speaking through numerous prophets. After much travail they eventually responded in sorrow, accepting their responsibility for what had happened. They learned to recognize His presence even in exile, and rejoiced in gratitude when they were freed. They had finally learned to see.
The Gospel tells us of a man, Bartimaeus, who also learned to recognize Jesus in the midst of adversity. This is not to say that his adversity was due to his sinfulness; we know that this man was faith-filled despite his infirmity. In the passage, Jesus was making His way through a sizable crowd when the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, heard that He was passing by. He cried out “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” When he was invited to approach Him, Bartimaeus “sprang up” and rushed to Jesus with obvious energy and desire. When asked what he wanted Jesus to do for him, he said he wanted to see. Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Jesus said nothing about physically healing the man, though the man did receive the gift of eyesight. Mark, the writer of this gospel account, underscored the man’s faith rather than the healing because the real message here is that this man already saw that in being with Jesus he was in the presence of God.
Part of what ails our world today is that many do not recognize the presence of God within it. People claim that God does not show Himself anymore. On the contrary we have more direct access to Him insofar as Jesus left us His presence in the Eucharist and through the sacraments: we have personal, face-to-face, intimate encounters offered to us on a daily basis. We also have the presence of Jesus every time we pray, every time we share in a loving encounter with another person, and any time we open ourselves to beauty. Miracles abound if we have the eyes to see. We cannot say that God does not reveal Himself, or that the presence of evil in the world shows that God does not care, or that we simply do not know where God is. God is ever present, but maybe like Bartimaeus we need to ask for the gift of sight. This is important because as His disciples it is our mission to bring His presence visibly into the world through our love, mercy, and work for justice. He relies on us to make His presence known, especially in the darkest places of suffering, loneliness, and brokenness. But first we have to let Him into those places in ourselves.
To be eternally present to us in this way is the reason Jesus came into the world. This is why the prophets proclaimed the message of God about a coming messiah, and this was the meaning in the words of Gabriel who told Mary that her son would be Emmanuel, God-with-us. He revealed that God was doing something never before done, an act of love so great that it would be enduring for the rest of time and beyond. God’s own Son was leaving Heaven in order to truly enter into our human condition so that we could know His love for us with firsthand experience. God wanted us to know Him intimately and so the Son became fully human, while still fully God, to live, teach, suffer, die, rise, and ultimately save us from ourselves and our sinful nature, and then remain forever present to us. To be unable to recognize the presence of Jesus is a terrible tragedy, given all of that.
Perhaps what keeps us from seeing is that we distract ourselves by focusing only on what is negative in our imperfect world or within the church or government, thinking problems are too big to be fixed. Perhaps we limit our sight to our own imperfections, or get caught up in the daily grind to such an extent that our concerns blind us to the reality that we are not alone in them. Perhaps we are too busy to see the beauty in the world around us, the people with whom we come into contact, the written word, a moving piece of music, or the lovely gesture of some artwork. Perhaps we have lost our vision due to the pain of suffering or our distress in seeing the suffering of others.
We must never give up or let the world take over. If we give in to the temptation to believe that it is futile to try to have faith we will find ourselves as lost as the Israelites were in the time of exile. If we give in to the ways of the world, putting our trust in material things, cutting ourselves off from our family of faith, giving up on the power of prayer and that which is given to us in the sacraments, we will have little chance of opening ourselves up to the gifts God has given us. But if we are patient, like Bartimaeus, we can learn to recognize Jesus in the midst of it all. We can learn the sound of His voice in order to respond when He is near. By spending time with Him in studying the gospels and through our prayer, we can come to know His loving presence and open ourselves to the wisdom He gives so we know how to proceed. Even in our pain we can become aware that He is there since Jesus is no stranger to excruciating pain and the aloneness of suffering. Especially where it feels darkest and almost hopeless, when we feel Him the least, is when He is actually the closest, deeply within our hearts saying, “I am here!”
If you have trouble knowing where to begin, try asking specifically for what it is you need. Sometimes having a more visual, tangible experience helps, so you can imagine you are present in a Scripture passage, letting Jesus speak directly to you, such as imagining you are Bartimaeus, or that you were there in the crowd. Also you can let your faith lead you as you receive the Eucharist, trusting He is truly present there. Sometimes we forget that we need to become present to Him in the Eucharist. It is not a one-way street: we are present to each other. Also, remember that Jesus does not stay in the church when we walk out the door. We receive communion so that we take Him with us into the whole of our lives, asking Him to bless everything we experience. Our communion helps us do that which He taught, which means to be generous with everything: to give unselfishly, to offer forgiveness as we have been forgiven, to be compassionate rather than judgmental, to welcome the stranger, to work for justice by being just, and to give our care to the suffering. He has been lavish in His gifts to us and so He wants us to share of what we have received with those around us. In sharing, what He has given is multiplied within and around us. And in so doing His presence opens the eyes of the blind to see that He is indeed here... with us.
May we allow our spiritual and physical sight to be awakened to the presence of Jesus! May we be beacons of hope for others, showing them the presence of God through our love and actions! May we have faith that when we feel Jesus the least that He is indeed closest to us! May we continue to be open to all the ways Jesus is present in our world! May we strive to be Christ for others and to let others bring Christ to us also! And may we have the faith and hope of Bartimaeus, responding joyfully at being in the presence of Jesus who brings healing and peace! Let us continue to meet in the heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
The top photo is mine. It was taken in Big Bend National Park, TX. I chose this because it reminded me of the people's return to Israel from exile when looking through the pass into the land in the distance.
Next is a painting called Jesus Opens the Eyes of the Man Born Blind (detail) by Duccio di Buoninsegna (14th century)
An icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols is next. It is called Cristo Pantocrator. To find it click on this link: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cristo-pantocrator-175-william-hart-mcnichols.html if you are interested in purchasing a copy as a print, card, plaque or in many other mediums.
(Check out Fr. Bill's entire site at Fine Art America. You can click here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/william-hart-mcnichols.html?tab=artworkgalleries
Remember I do not get any remuneration for this promotion. I simply love his work and enjoy sharing it!)
The remaining two photos are mine. A sunset in Driftwood, TX, and then the Atlantic Ocean taken at Westhampton Beach, Long Island, NY. I chose the last photo because of the footprints, which seem to speak of presence.
Something quite remarkable took place in the Church on October 18. A married couple was canonized together. Even more amazing is that one of their five daughters is also a canonized saint. The daughter is Thérèse Martin, otherwise known as St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and the couple is Zélie and Louis Martin. What is most incredible is that this is the first time in history that both parents of a saint have been canonized. There are a lot of saint siblings (Sts. Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Macrina, as one example) and there are saint mothers and children (such as Sts. Monica and Augustine), but this is the first time ever for both parents of a saint to be canonized. A clarification is in order here: another of Zélie and Louis’ daughters, Léonie, also has a cause for canonization in process. That the Martins had two daughters who were exceedingly holy is an amazing thing. And of the others, I would not be surprised if they were found to be heroic in their Christianity, too. What a family!
Marie-Azélie Guérin, called Zélie, was born in 1831. She had wanted to enter religious life, but was dissuaded. Instead she married Louis Martin in 1858 and eventually gave birth to nine children, but four died in infancy. The heartache from this must have been terrible though she was a woman of great inner strength and faith. She died in 1877 at the age of 45 from breast cancer; her youngest child, Thérèse, was only four years of age at the time. Prior to her death Zélie had travelled to Lourdes seeking a cure from her cancer. Although she did not receive the cure, she accepted this, saying that her time was up and that God wanted her to be “somewhere else other than on this earth.” She was deeply devoted to God, and the faith she shared with Louis was the center of their marriage.
Louis Martin was born in 1823 and died in 1894 at the age of 70. When he was young he had wanted to become a monk, but could not master the Latin he was required to learn. So he left the monastery and became a watchmaker and family man, exhibiting great love for his wife and children. Because of his earlier desire for the religious life, he maintained a disciplined prayer life, seeking times of solitude and prayer as part of his daily routine. He had a strong love for nature and therefore he liked to travel, making a number of pilgrimages during his life. He had a close relationship with all his daughters, and doted on Thérèse in particular after his wife died. When he had a series of strokes in the last years of his life, Thérèse, already in the convent, took it very hard.
The example that Zélie and Louis set for their daughters was that being close to God was natural. For them it was the only way to live. They were not perfect, but they very deeply loved each other, their children, and their God. They attended Mass daily; prayer and spiritual practices were as much part of their lives as eating and sleeping. As much as they were extraordinarily close-knit, they all accepted the grace to let go of one another in order for each one to follow the call of Jesus. As mentioned earlier, every one of their daughters left home to enter religious life; all into the Carmelites, except Léonie who became a Visitandine.
Noticing that both Louis and Zélie had tried to enter religious life when they were young made me wonder what the world would have lost if Louis had decided to stick it out in the monastery, mastering the Latin somehow. What would have happened if Zélie had entered religious life rather than marrying? There would have been no St. Thérèse, nor would any of her sisters have existed either. With no Thérèse there would be no Little Way, no proclamation that “my vocation is Love,” no “Story of a Soul,” no “spending my Heaven doing good on earth.” The most popular female saint of modern times would never have been born! There would have been no saintly couple of Louis and Zélie to give witness to the sanctity of marriage, and no example of how a man and woman can help each other grow in holiness or be guides to the culture of a family in which holy children might be raised.
The Martins helps us to see the importance of good discernment as to our vocational choices. They remind us that God guides each of us to a particular vocation even if our road to it takes a few twists and turns. Who knows if Louis would have been a good monk or Zélie a happy religious? But what we do know is that it was not the right choice for either of them. They found a world of happiness as a married couple, a great gift God gave them and which they shared with the world in raising daughters to also be people of faith. This is not to say that one vocation is better than another. Rather, one vocation is better for each individual than the others, because there is one to which each of us is ultimately called. No matter which vocation we live, we are called to live it in such a way as to glorify God and grow in sanctity through it. Louis and Zélie are excellent examples of this. They produced five daughters who each felt that religious life was where they could love and serve God the best. Being women of faith was in their spiritual DNA, so to speak, because they had godly parents from whom they learned.
The gospel for this week was the one in which James and John, brothers, asked to have the reward of sitting at God’s left and right hand when they were finally in heaven. The other apostles were outraged at this, but Jesus simply said to them that they had no idea what it was they were really asking. While noting that only the Father would decide who was to sit at His right or left, Jesus said that they would have to drink the same cup which He had drunk, which basically boiled down to the fact that He had come to serve and not be served. He said, “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be the servant of all.” (Mark 10:44) This is what the Martins seemed to have learned so well. Louis and Zélie served God by raising their daughters with the same values as Jesus taught His followers. The last will be first, and so they had to learn to serve if they truly wanted to love God in return. It is no wonder that Thérèse wanted to do even the smallest thing with great love and came to discover her Little Way. The seed was planted by her parents that it is in serving that we are most like Jesus.
From all the saintly Martins we learn that we can do this, too. Drinking the cup is not simply about suffering the way Jesus suffered. Drinking the cup means that we are called to be humble, sharing what we have without lording it over others. It means that we serve God by meeting the needs of those we see around us who may be suffering, lonely, poor, or in need of spiritual guidance. It means helping those who are spiritually searching to see that God loves them unconditionally, something we can teach through our own love and mercy and sometimes through our words. Drinking the cup means that like Louis and Zélie, we think of our home as it really is: the domestic church. (The Catechism, 2204 and following)* It means that whether we have children or not, whether we are married or single, whether we are in religious or clerical life, we are all called to live out the gospel in the family of God, the Body of Christ, into which we were baptized.
St. Louis and St. Zélie had no idea when they raised their daughters that they would make such an incredible contribution to the world in their own right. They did not seek fame or reward, save that of loving God greatly in everything they did. What we can learn from them, and from their daughters, is that each one of us is called to nothing less than this: that we do everything with love, even the smallest of things. We are called to service, generosity, mercy, and love whenever opportunities present themselves in whatever vocation we are living. We are called to do the best with whatever it is we have. And we are invited to grow more deeply in love with our good and generous God who loves us more than we can imagine.
May we be inspired by new saints, Louis and Zélie Martin, to lead lives of humility and service! May we be inspired by the witness to marriage and family life they gave us! May we ask the Martins to intercede for us when we are in any sort of spiritual or familial need! May we learn to drink from the cup from which Jesus drank so that we may learn what it means to serve our neighbors, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters! May we ask the Martins to intercede in praying for vocations, that all may find the vocation to which they are truly called! And may we recognize the joy that comes from being a member of our true family, the Church, the Body of Christ! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
*Catechism of the Catholic Church, from the section on the Christian Family
Some good resources on the Martins are the following websites, (though I must mention that the best insight into St. Thérèse is her spiritual autobiography, The Story of a Soul.) There are many other resources also.
The first photo is found at https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/st.-therese-of-lisieuxs-parents-to-make-history-as-first-married-couple-to
The photos that follow are all mine. Of these the first is a photo montage of St. Thérèse and her sisters which was on display at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
Next is the garden at the house Thérèse lived in with her father and sisters after the death of her mother in Lisieux, France.
Following, is a photo of a stained glass window in the cathedral dedicated to St. Thérèse in Lisieux, France.
Last is the view from the garden at the Martin house in Lisieux.
Often we hear people say that common sense is needed in certain situations, or we hear a sort of collective criticism of society saying that we have lost our common sense. I have also heard people say that what we call common sense is not all that common. This begs the question of what exactly is meant by common sense. I think what we call common sense is what the biblical writers referred to as wisdom. And no, it is not all that common these days, nor was it all that common in the days of our ancestors. But common sense is not something that is taught. It clearly is a gift from God which we have to cultivate. It begins like a tender shoot, but with care it will grow. That means it takes a bit of work. Perhaps that is why we have such a struggle with it.
Truly, what we call common sense is the ability to make decisions which are seemingly obvious as a good way of proceeding. It means having an intuitive sense of people and situations; it is a sort of ‘know-how’ which seems to come naturally to those who possess it. It is definitely not something learned in a book, but yet it allows one to synthesize everything he or she has learned in order to use it in a way that is beneficial. In biblical terms common sense is what was often referred to as wisdom because it was seen as a gift which was built upon the solid foundation of one’s commitment to prayer and living a Godly life. That is, it seems to come naturally, but in reality it is the result of a gift that one cultivates by learning to be aware of God’s guidance.
The readings from this Sunday are all about this kind of wisdom. The first reading from the Book of Wisdom highlights the importance of this gift. It is something for which we pray and even beg God to give us. It is to be valued above everything else, including wealth, beauty, and health. “Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.” (Wisdom 7:11) In other words, if we have the gift of wisdom, we will have a different kind of wealth and health, the spiritual kind, which will enable us to see beauty and all of the gifts God has given us. Wisdom helps us to see with the eyes of God so that we make good decisions, living life with gratitude. It does not mean we become perfect, but it means that we are striving to grow in holiness.
In the Gospel we see that wisdom is not necessarily the same as knowledge. A rich young man approaches Jesus asking what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. He makes it clear that he knows the commandments and that he lives them. He has knowledge of how to live a life of holiness according to the Law, yet Jesus indicates that he is still a long way off from having what he seeks. This is because the young man does not have the wisdom to see that he is bound to his possessions, and furthermore, he is in God’s presence, yet is not aware of it. In short, this young man lacks wisdom. He is blinded to the fact that he is so attached to his material things that he cannot see the things of Heaven which are right before him. He is not lost, however. Jesus, loving him, offered hope in saying that once he is able to set his priorities straight, once he can become less attached to worldly things, he will be able to follow completely and hence, inherit eternal life. He needed to pray for acceptance of the gift being offered to him, which was the gift of wisdom.
The apostles seemed a bit dismayed at Jesus’ statement to this well-intentioned young man. They feared that no one can be saved if entering the Kingdom is so difficult. But Jesus reassured them that while this may be impossible for human beings, nothing is impossible for God. Jesus was teaching them that wisdom is a gift from God, which our merciful Heavenly Father desires for each of us to have. What follows confirms this. Jesus said: “There is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” (Mark 10:29-30) If we are willing to let God guide us into putting our priorities straight, that is, if we put God before all else, we will have everything we began with, but we will use it correctly and we will have a heart for making wise choices.
If we read that statement carefully what we see is that we really do not have to give up anything material. What we do have to do is let the Lord direct our hearts and minds to that which builds the Kingdom. If we put God first, follow the way of the gospels, pray for the gift of discernment and wisdom when making choices, putting love and mercy ahead of personal gain, we will have eternal life. You will notice that all the things Jesus says we give up for His sake and the sake of the gospel will be given us in a greater way because they come with eternal life. But we need to live the way of the gospel, which is to live with love and mercy: clothe the naked, give food and drink to the hungering and thirsting, visit the ill and imprisoned; be generous with what we have, forgiving of those who have hurt us, open to the stranger and alien, just to the poor and marginalized, and open to our enemies as well as those who are like ourselves.
The good news is that we already have the gift of wisdom which directs us in doing the best we can. But it needs to be cultivated by spending time in prayer and discernment. If we do the best we can with what we have and what we know at the time of a decision; if we proceed with what seems to be the most merciful, loving way; if what we decide moves us or another closer to God, then no matter what we do, we have to trust that the gift of wisdom is informing our decision. Our resources will always be limited because we are human. But wisdom consists of accepting the outcome with peace in knowing we did what seemed right given what we knew at the time, even if we discover later that there had been a better way. That is why the wise one is a person of peace: he or she knows that everything happens for a reason and trusts in God’s perfection. They put God first in all they do and they trust that His wisdom is greater than theirs. They are simply being good disciples, such as the apostles, and even the rich young man, desired to be. People who live in this way are people with common sense. That is, it becomes so natural to them that they seem to have a good idea of how to respond in smaller matters and not just the big ones.
Growing in wisdom and therefore, common sense, is a process toward which we should be attentive. Every saint learned to use this gift. Why we consider them holy is that they opened themselves up to God’s grace which meant they would have to let go of their bad habits and areas of selfishness. They did not become perfect, but rather, they learned to coexist with the faults and weaknesses they had, offering them again and again to God for purification. They had to live with choices that they realized had not been good, allowing God to purify them as they suffered the pain of knowing they may have acted selfishly. But what made them rise above their faults to become holy was that they loved God so much they were willing to go through this process so that love became their total motivation, no matter whether they were picking up a pin from the floor (St. Thérèse of Lisieux) or whether they were reforming their religious order (St. Teresa of Avila). This is true wisdom: studying the Gospels so we know what Jesus taught, praying to know what glorifies God, and then acting with love and mercy. Like the rich young man, we can learn how to put God first and live a life of mercy and generosity. Then perhaps we will truly have that gift of spiritual common sense known as wisdom.
May we pray for right use of the gift of wisdom which we were given at Confirmation! May we be open to learning at the feet of Jesus how to be a better disciple so that we may learn the way of the gospel, the way of wisdom! May we know the right use of material goods as well as spiritual gifts! May we learn to live in gratitude for all that we have been given! And may we learn how to put God first so that we may put love and mercy into all our actions! Let us continue to meet in the merciful and wise heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
The first painting is called Jesus and the Eleven by Duccio di Buoninsegna. (1308-11)
Second is an image painted by Fr. William Hart McNichols called The Advent of Hagia Sophia. It can be found at http://frbillmcnichols-_sacredimages.com/featured/the-advent-of-hagia-sophia-173-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Third is one of my own photos. This was taken in Austria, near the Alps.
Fourth is a painting called Christ and the Rich Young Man by A.N. Miranov. All the information on Miranov and his painting can be found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_and_the_rich_young_man._A.N._Mironov.jpg
Last is an image which is part of a larger work called Viriditas by Fr. William Hart McNichols. This segment is called Viriditas-Holy Spirit Detail. It can be found at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/viriditas-holy-spirit-detail-william-hart-mcnichols.html
We are nearing the commencement of the Year of Mercy as announced by Pope Francis earlier this year. The Year of Mercy will begin on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015, and will conclude with the Feast of Christ the King, November 20, 2016. The Pope said a new term will be added to the title of Christ celebrated that day, calling Jesus "the living face of the mercy of the Father." * This is significant, but not new to the message of Pope Francis. Even if we have only been remotely paying attention to his ministry, it would be difficult to miss his overriding message of mercy and compassion professed through just about everything he says and does. Mercy was indeed the consistent message of Jesus during His life and ministry so we should not be surprised that this message is being highlighted at this time by this pope. Mercy is the gospel message and it is important for us to grow in this grace.
On October 5 a feast day on the Church calendar should also direct our attention to the message of mercy. This day we celebrate St. Faustina, the saint whose entire life was devoted to the message of Divine Mercy. She was born Helena Kowalska in a small village near Lodz, Poland on August 25, 1905. She was from a poor peasant family who were very religious. She had experienced a call to religious life at the age of seven while praying before the Blessed Sacrament, but it took her until she was twenty years of age before she could finally enter religious life after having worked as a housekeeper to assist her parents financially. She entered the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and took the name of Sr. Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament. Given the experience she had when she was young, it is not surprising that she had a great devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, reflected in her choice of religious name.
Sr. Faustina’s life was filled with personal suffering, both physical and spiritual. She embraced the suffering because she felt that it was something she could offer for others. She worked hard in her life as a sister, so it almost defies the imagination how she could have written her extensive diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul. It runs about 650 (printed) pages all of which she wrote by hand in a series of notebooks at the request of Jesus. The contents of this diary are verbatim accounts of her encounters with Jesus and Mary during her prayer, written over the last four years of her life. She had many visions of Jesus; the most notable, of course, is the image of Jesus as Divine Mercy which she subsequently had painted based on her vision. This image eventually spread throughout the world. But she also left us some other important tools for how to live mercy: prayers, including the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a prayer given her by Jesus and prayed on ordinary Rosary beads, the institution of Divine Mercy Sunday, (which was promulgated by another Polish saint, John Paul II), and her Diary which helps us to be inspired by her life.
Though St. Faustina died of tuberculosis in 1938 at age 33, her short life was packed with revelation. Her Diary is very detailed, but the continuous message is that in Jesus is found an “ocean of mercy” into which He desires to immerse every one of us. In one of the visions Jesus said: “Write this: before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy.” (Diary, 83) As Pope Francis said, Jesus is the living face of the mercy of the Father. God wants us to have His mercy and nothing less. Therefore it is imperative that we understand this: Jesus desires to offer us mercy rather than judgment. And it is also important that we become people of mercy, offering the same mercy which we have received to those whom we encounter.
St. Faustina is remembered not only for her visions and the message contained in her Diary, but because she lived a life of kindness and mercy. She was not canonized because she had visions; having visions is not criteria for canonization. She was canonized because she lived what Jesus taught her. She desired to conform her will to His, reflecting the living face of God’s mercy. She wrote: “Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God.” (Diary, 1107) She never desired attention or any reward for her work in promoting mercy. She simply loved Jesus so much that she wanted His will to be done. In short, she wanted His mercy to be known because she was so filled with the gift of mercy Jesus gave to her.
If we allow mercy to touch our souls deeply, as it did St. Faustina, we can then become disciples of mercy. I think this is what the Year of Mercy is really meant to be: that we would become truer disciples of Jesus, the King of Mercy, bringing His mercy into our prayer and into our actions. The gospels are truly annals of mercy. Everything Jesus did was about giving mercy to the poor, sick, marginalized, criminal, pagan, sinner, and alien. His mercy was extended to unbelievers, detractors, enemies, and those who put Him to death. His mercy was given to His friends who failed Him so overwhelmingly during His arrest and subsequent death. Every word of His teaching has to do with living love, especially through receiving and giving the gift of mercy and compassion to everyone we meet, especially our detractors. But the gospels are more than annals; they are a living message, containing truths about mercy and love. Having a year in which we dedicate our lives to working on the virtue of mercy could not be more important or timelier. We must become like Jesus, the One whom we follow: we must reflect the living face of the mercy of the Father.
Perhaps as we prepare for the Year of Mercy we can discern how we might fully participate. If we want to take on the rather lengthy book, (which I highly recommend as spiritual reading), we can make the commitment to read St. Faustina’s Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul. I would suggest taking a little bit every day during the Year of Mercy, reading short entries and reflecting upon them. If that is too daunting a task, then maybe praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy regularly (daily) would be a good way to pray for the virtue of mercy for oneself and for the whole world. Another suggestion is to read Matthew 25:31-46 and then making an effort to live the corporal works of mercy found within that passage. Perhaps making a conscious effort to do one of them each week (or whenever the opportunity presents itself) would be a fitting way to live the Year of Mercy. If we are intentional about trying to perform one of the works weekly, it will become habitual. But if none of these work for us, at the very least we can incorporate the image of Jesus and the short prayer “Jesus, I trust in You” into our daily life, asking the Lord to bring His mercy upon us and the whole world.
Living the mercy we are offered from Jesus is what St. Faustina aspired to do and it is not out of the realm of possibility that we can become as she did in our own way and in our own circumstances. St. Faustina had to overcome many obstacles and she suffered greatly, yet she was remembered by her sisters as being quite cheerful. But in her deep love for Jesus she was willing to make His mercy known no matter what the cost. Indeed, our world needs mercy desperately and that mercy is available. But if we do not live that mercy, the world will have no way of knowing about it or experiencing it. This is no easy task, but it is what Jesus desires. Let us follow in the footsteps of St. Faustina, doing all we can to bring mercy into everything we do. We can start by living the Year of Mercy, but we can also make mercy our lifelong commitment. Jesus desires that we receive His mercy, so let us immerse ourselves in the ocean of His mercy and invite others into the waters of mercy, too. In doing so, we can all come to know the face of the mercy of the Father.
May we truly come to trust in the mercy of Jesus! May we be inspired by St. Faustina to become disciples of Divine Mercy, to live and share in the mercy of Jesus! May we live the Corporal Works of Mercy! May we learn that doing small works of mercy with great love can change the world! May we give ourselves to Jesus, accepting His mercy and sharing it with others! And may we embrace the Year of Mercy as a beginning of renewed love for Jesus, with gratitude for His gift of mercy to us and to the whole world! Let us continue to meet in the Merciful Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* Here is where the quote came from. The article was from when Pope Francis announced the Year of Mercy. http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/francis-announces-new-global-jubilee-holy-year-mercy
Here are some links to more information on St. Faustina:
All the photos are mine. The first was taken in Salzburg, Austria.
Next is an icon painted by Fr. William Hart McNichols called St. Faustina Kowalska Apostle of Divine Mercy. It wonderfully brings together St. Faustina and the image she saw, so it is a great way to meditate upon Divine Mercy. If you are interested in purchasing a copy it can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/st-faustina-kowalska-apostle-of-divine-mercy-094-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Next are two of my photos: a cactus flower, taken at Big Bend National Park, TX. I chose it because the flower appears to be fragile, yet bold amidst the thorns of the cactus plant, just as mercy may appear fragile but is in fact bold. The second is of the Atlantic Ocean taken at Westhampton Beach, Long Island. I chose it to remind us of the oceans of mercy found in Jesus.
Finally is the original image, as guided by St. Faustina, of Jesus as King of Divine Mercy .
Heart Speaks to Heart