Now that Lent is over and the Easter season has arrived it is good to think about what we learned in the last 7 weeks. Hopefully, as we are singing our alleluias we do not forget what we gained as insight into ourselves, our relationship to others, and to God. If we do not come away with at least some small thing, then it might be helpful to look back at where we have been spiritually and where we are now. Even if we think we did not ‘do Lent’ very well or that we somehow did not live up to whatever our Lenten intentions were, there is always some little gift hidden along the way that we would lose out on if we let it go unnoticed. That we even realize we could have done better is a gift because it means that our intentions were ‘in the right place’ in regard to the process. The Divine Mercy which flows from the Heart of Jesus will most assuredly honor that. Besides, it is never too late to grow in the spiritual life. Therefore, this is not the time for regrets, but rather for joy. No matter what our Lent was like, Jesus died for us and for all of our attempts, failed or otherwise, so that we might have life to the full with Him in Heaven forever. Surely that is something for which to rejoice!
Jesus’ death and resurrection were acts of Divine Mercy, and therefore purify all of the things we could have done better and which often come back to nag us in the form of regrets. Who among us does not regret our own sinfulness or some behavior of which we are not proud? These regrets are seen vividly in the actions of the apostles, all of whom abandoned Jesus after He was arrested in the Garden. The most dramatic of these were Judas and Peter: sadly, Judas refused forgiveness and hence redemption, but Peter after much remorse, did accept it. While Judas did have deep regret, he let it overwhelm him; Peter accepted God’s mercy, letting go of regret, and becoming transformed into new life, which included a new way to serve Jesus. Therefore, the joy of Easter enables us to learn something from our regrets, and to let go of them as we accept the gift of redemption through Divine Mercy offered to us on the cross of Christ.
Recently I have reflected upon a different apostle, however: St. John, “the one whom Jesus loved.” He, too, ran from the soldiers in the Garden, leaving Jesus to arrest, cruel treatment, and death. But I wondered what it was like for him as he brought Jesus’ mother, Mary, to the cross. While we know John did this, I have never heard any commentary about what may have been going on in his mind and heart as he stood before the cross, equally as guilty as the other apostles who also left Jesus that night. My thought is that perhaps what enabled John to go to the cross with Mary was not guilt, but rather, love. He loved Mary and was honored to have Jesus put her into his care; John also loved the Lord and so he must have already begun letting go of his regrets, facing the issue head-on. That is, he must have looked into the eyes of Jesus and seen the Divine Mercy which is beyond all telling. He was washed clean in the blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus; I imagine that on Easter morning when he ran to the tomb with Peter, John already believed it was empty, and thus the mercy of Jesus dying on the cross became powerful Easter grace, healing any trace of previous regret John (or Peter) may have had.
The other side of regret is joyful gratitude. Every moment transformed by the Paschal mysteries, that is the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, is filled with the purification of all our failures, even our worst decision and our subsequent worst sin. All of it is purified by the greatness of God’s love and by the incomprehensible mercy which flows from the Risen Jesus and therefore leads us to gratitude and the joy of new freedom. But there is something else to consider: Jesus has gratitude for us, too. That is, whenever we respond to His call to offer our weakness and sin as a gift to Him, thus enabling greater interior freedom, Jesus rejoices and is filled with gratitude for our love. Whenever we respond to His love with our love, all of Heaven rejoices.
Even if how we handled Lent was not to our ‘specification,’ acknowledging that is actually a gift; it is an opportunity to continue to live a gospel life the way we desire and the way God desires, but without expecting more than we are capable of doing at the moment. Perhaps we are called to set our goals anew, turning more to Jesus and His Divine Mercy, and less to our self-reliance. If so, then we have indeed ‘done Lent’ well and have offered a finer gift to God than we realized. Life is a process, but in the Risen Jesus we can always find mercy, and therefore spiritual growth and new life. One of the gifts of Jesus’ victorious Resurrection lies in the knowledge that interior freedom and holiness are never beyond our reach. Let us turn to Jesus with gratitude and joy so that our joy may in turn be His. Alleluia!
May we rejoice in the victory won for us by our Risen Lord, Jesus! May we rejoice in the boundlessness of Divine Mercy! May we accept God’s invitation to come to new life in His Risen Son! And may our joy and gratitude be offered as a gift to the Lord who also rejoices over us! Let us meet at the Empty tomb, rejoicing that He is alive! Alleluia! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
1. Icon, The Risen Christ by Fr. William Hart McNichols. You can obtain a copy of this icon at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-risen-christ-014-william-hart-mcnichols.html
2. My photo, a rose taken in the rose gardens in Portland, Oregon. I chose this because I love the reddish color on the borders of the golden petals. It spoke to me of the Resurrection in which the blood is transformed into glory.
3. Inset of a Russian icon, Woman, Behold, Your Son. I must point out the commas in the words of Jesus which name this icon. Jesus was telling Mary to behold her 'new' son, John! Jesus entrusted John to her as her son, and Mary to John as His mother. I chose this for the expression on St. John's face.
4. My photo, bush in bloom, taken a number of years ago in the driveway of St. Joseph on the Rio Grande Catholic Church in Albuquerque, NM.
5. Illumination (inset), Madonna of Mercy with Kneeling Friars, (unseen in the inset), by Blessed Fra Angelico. Jesus brings us Divine Mercy; therefore, Mary is the Mother of Mercy. I had to include Mary here especially since she was at the cross with St. John. For more see interestingpretties.blogspot.com/2012/10/madonna-of-mercy-with-kneeling-friars.html
6. Painting, Jesus, I Trust in You (Divine Mercy) as seen and described by St. Faustina Kowalska. The Sunday after Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday.
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Heart Speaks to Heart