Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Vote For Mercy

I was still thinking about the difficulties in my life and my prayers for mercy when I listened to a talk by Al Kresta, CEO of Ave Maria Radio, on First Friday morning. At one point Al said something I had heard often before: “It’s great to be a Catholic today,” only THAT day my dark thoughts immediately turned it to sarcasm: “Sure it’s great, like it was great to be Catholic in the time of Peter and Paul, who suffered persecution --- like we are today --- and death, as trends seem to indicate we might also see.

But then I stopped. I suddenly saw that my words didn’t seem such a sarcastic comment at all, but rather a true one. There are many things similar about the relationship between Rome and the people of Rome and the Christians of that time, versus the relationship of America and Americans to the Christians of our time. Then there was an arrogant government that thought it knew all --- and even claimed it was led by a god --- and it felt a need to appease and distract the populace. There was something for everyone then, as the people were taught to “eat, drink and be merry” --- and ignore the failings of the Roman government, even in its most basic duties, such as defense. And eventually Rome fell.

The U.S. government acts today in many similar ways, and it too may fall because of its excesses even as Rome did, and like then that would be a great trial for many people --- or perhaps a very good thing.

One thing I thought on Friday morning was the fact that today we are worried about the fate of the Church and Christians (and America!), even as Christians in the time of the Roman Empire were worried about their fate, but Christianity survived that time and even flourished. With a government then, like ours now, giving the people all they might want, still, people turned to Christianity, despite the seemingly pleasing alternative, and despite the persecutions Christians faced. Pope Benedict XVI has declared that starting in October of this year will be a “Year of Evangelization.” What message did the Roman citizens and atheists hear then which turned them from the circuses and sin and a prevalent “me first” attitude to choose Christianity? I wonder: Could that same message be evangelized effectively today?? And just what was it?

In the despair many are feeling in America, is there hope? Al mentioned in his Friday talk that at the time of Jesus the people then also faced some critical elections: and they voted for Barabbas over Jesus, yet in the end it was Jesus who won, and who persevered through His Church. Are these similar days of despair for Christians in America? No, it is a great time to be Catholic, and it is a great time to vote --- with our prayers, to vote for God’s Mercy. And we can have confidence for we have seen its impact in the past.

Easter Sunday reminds us that eternal victory is not just possible, it happened. And Divine Mercy Sunday, which follows one week later, reminds us that even today, in what seems our darkest hours, in what seems a world of sin, that the promise of eternal victory continues, despite our sins, for our God is a Merciful God.
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The night after I listened to Al Kresta’s talk I sat in the adoration chapel and began to read the latest book by Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, titled: We Have Found Mercy. The first chapter was about John Paul II, the Pope of Mercy:

“What can stem the flood of evil? Only God’s mercy sets a limit to evil. Pope John Paul II thinks this while looking back at the terrible years of National Socialism, during which the Poles suffered so much. Ultimately it was not military might that defeated evil but, rather, mercy alone. In this he sees the great sign of hope that God’s mercy has set a limit to the tragic experiences of the twentieth century. The apparent powerlessness of God against the deluge of evil is in reality still the power of good.
In a beautiful prayer, Sister Faustina prays that Jesus’ mercy, this most profound attitude which he brought to the world from the heart of God, so to speak, might thoroughly imbue us, indeed that it might become, as it were, the form of our Being, of our life.”

I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.
Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearance, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.
Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.
Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.
Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.
Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.
Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me….
O my Jesus, transform me into Yourself, for You can do all things.

From Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalski: Divine Mercy in My Soul

Do you grasp the heart of this beautiful prayer, my friends? It is a prayer for mercy, but not for us, but rather that we might be merciful, that we might be his instrument of Mercy to our suffering neighbors. The prayer isn’t that God fix my personal problems, but that He help me to fix others’ problems. We look at the coming elections and seek to vote for someone to fix our problems, but the prayer for mercy is a vote for the mercy that WE might do, with God’s help.

I asked what message did the Romans and atheists hear which turned them from the circuses and sin of their time? I think the answer is in the words of the Romans themselves: “See how they love one another.”

I have only read the first chapter of Cardinal Schonborn’s book. It is titled “We Have Found Mercy.” From what I have read thus far, it seems that he implies that “where” this mercy is to be found is in the mirror. And then perhaps even today those who seek to have happiness given to them --- or to take it from others --- and those who think it is love when they constantly seek to pleasure their bodies (and ask others to pay for their sins), perhaps even today these people may tire of this “love” they give to themselves and again marvel at true love, and say once again: “See how they love one another.”

What greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend?

I pray the Divine Mercy Prayer daily: “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.” I think I shall copy this other Divine Mercy prayer and begin to pray it daily also --- and look in the mirror.

If we want to save our country, we have to start by saving one person at a time --- our neighbor.

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