Mercy is love in action!
The question has been asked: How do we radiate God’s mercy to others? Saint Faustina has rightly responded that the “fullness of mercy is contained by our actions, our words, and our prayers” (Diary 742). Is not the natural outcome of encountering the Triune God’s merciful touch to extend that radiance to others through word and deed? And we come into contact with absolute hesed (heb: steadfast love, mercy, loving kindness, fidelity) – by entering into the heart of Jesus. Ave Rex Coliet Terrae! Christ the King has shown us by word and deed that Abba desires to save us and we timid, fearful, and sinful creatures need to be saved. Once this eu-angelos, “good news” (root of evangelization), permeates our consciousness – it should cause us to stand in perpetual adoration of God’s spectacular love and mercy.
In the Gospel of Matthew it testifies of Jesus: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7). We are able to show mercy and love to others because we ourselves have experienced God’s merciful touch- we have been forgiven and set free. What is the next step after being brought into communion with Christ and being exposed to the “open secret”? The Dominican preacher, Fr. Antonin Sertillanges, O.P., is insightful by saying, “Anyone who loves Jesus Christ seeks forthwith to communicate him to others. Once charged with electricity, he transmits the current. To him in whom dwells the fullness of the spirit, every spirit connected with him is a transmitter… It is by communicating oneself to others that one reaches one’s own fulfillment.” (Magnificat, Vol. 8, No. 1, pg.274). In addition, the apologist and philosopher understands, “When one knows wherein life lies and one is in love, how keep the secret to oneself? The apostolate is first of all an adoration…” And we adore Christ by imitating Christ: “I have come to set the world on fire and how I wish it were already blazing” (Luke 12:49).
St Paul is relative where he testifies, “if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing… Love never fails… So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:1-13). Pope Benedict XVI, the Vicar of Christ, aligns with this supernatural truth by blessing us with his encyclical letter: Deus Caritas Est- God is Love. It is related that, “Jesus’ death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form. By contemplating the pierced side of Christ we can understand the starting point of this encyclical letter: God is love” (DC, no. 12). In “America” magazine, Christopher Ruddy explains the pertinence of this letter by saying, “And like St. Benedict of Nursia, the pope has worked to foster a Christian culture capable of renewing church and world in an age of daunting threats. Deus Caritas Est is nothing other than an attempt to show to a skeptical modernity that God is not the enemy of human flourishing, but its very possibility and fulfillment” (May 22, 2006, pg. 10). This is the acceptable time for this message to blanket the malaise of Europe, “a rich continent that is unsure of its identity and its future and powerless to solve the resulting problems; and the West’s boredom with its own principles and values, at the very moment in which it has been targeted by a deadly war declared and conducted by Islamic Fundamentalism” (Marcello Pera, Without Roots, pg. 6).
What is God’s mercy but love in action! At a time when organized religion lacks believability and amidst the North American Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis – it is time to go on the offensive. It is time to take the merciful love of Christ to the streets and fulfill our Church’s mission: to make disciples of all nations and extend the light of Christ. Father Hans Urs von Balthasar poignantly relates, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love comes from God. The two are one; anyone who has begun to love will realize this. Both of them demand the same effort, the same painful fidelity; both raise us far above a neat balance between giving and taking. The same flame burns in the foundation of all being: whoever has felt it can no longer live for any thing else” (Magnificat, June 06’, pg. 120). Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity rejoices in the splendor of the divine flame by praying, “Voice of Heaven: We who are bathed in light, within the ‘Three’ – The face of God, the splendor of its rays – See, by those shinings, into Mystery They ever show new secrets, Heaven’s days” (ibid, pg. 158).
Divine Mercy is indeed – Love in action! Again, Jesus’ secretary, Saint Faustina, testifies, “I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse yourself from it” (Diary 742). How could we possibly shrink from extending God’s love and mercy to others if we have been slain by his healing touch? Monsignor Luigi Giussani, founder of the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation, powerfully sums up what has been bestowed upon us:
Christ brought us back from exile, from the lie that exploited our weakness, our laziness, slackness, small-mindedness, opposition. How often he brought us back from the exile imposed by the lie that used our restlessness, our presumption, or our taste for power against us!...
The Lord came for the man who knows he is weak, for the man who recognizes his frailty and desires a strength that is not his, who desires the power of salvation that belongs to God…
The Lord did not die so that his cross would fall down on us as a judgment to destroy us, but so that it would grant mercy, to renew us in contrition and in gladness, in the mortification of ourselves and in the cheerfulness of self-abandonment (Magnificat).
This is the eu-angelos, the “good news,” that must be handed-on to a tired and hungry world. The spiritual victory has already been won – we are merely waiting for the physical manifestation of that Victory. Can the world bear this open secret? Is it possible for the baptized to re-apprehend this victory and “interrupt” an often times indifferent world?
Love in action means re-appropriating the dignity and grace that has been granted to us and “interrupting” the world with the powerful gifts at our fingertips. Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, explains: “The word baptism means derailment. Christ baptizes Peter when he tells him: Because you confessed your love for me, your life is no longer your own. Before you said this, you fastened your belt and you walked wherever you liked. Now, others will put a belt around you and take you where you would rather not go”. God’s love, mercy, and graces are not without consequence. Although, Blessed Jose Maria Escriva has empowered us by saying, “I am asked for very little compared to how much I am being given.” To experience even a fragment of what Christ suffered for an opportunity “to see” is an immense grace. Further, Fr. Rolheiser relates, “To submit to love is to be baptized- that is, to let one’s life be forever interrupted. To not let one’s life be interrupted is to say no to love” (Tidings, June 16, 06’, pg.19). God interrupted the world by sending us his only begotten Son to demonstrate what “yes” to God’s love really entails. Timothy Hanchin insightfully understands that, “Jesus was not nailed to a cross because he equated loving the world with getting along with everyone or being nice. Jesus interrupted the world by challenging people to see the world in a new way. Most profoundly, God interrupts the imagination of the world by revealing God’s self most completely in the stripped, insulted, beaten-down and spat-upon Christ” (America, May 8, 06’, pg.12).
The realization and appropriation of the merciful and loving actions of Jesus should spur us to be beacon’s of light- to be modern day prophets who challenge people to see the world in a new way. “Everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph 5:14). Ernest Larkin has rightly asserted, “We are called to be mystics and prophets. Mystics know God by way of love. Prophets speak up for God and do God’s work. The Christian vocation is prayer and prophecy, contemplation and action, love of God and love of people” (Contemplative Prayer as the Soul of the Apostolate, pg. 457). We need the power of the Holy Spirit to speak and act, the same spirit that enabled the early Apostles to mobilize. Pope John Paul II understood the two-fold necessity of contemplation and action by saying, “We need heralds of the gospel who are experts in humanity, who know the depths of the human heart, who can share the joys and the hopes, the agonies and distress of people today, but who are at the same time contemplatives in from love with God” (ibid).
It is not easy to be a prophet today, especially as a Catholic, there will be much adversity and perhaps controversy involved. Although, we must heed the words of St. Gregory the Great who said, “It’s better to cause controversy than let the truth go unheard.” And part of that truth is: Deus est semper major- God is always more (mercy, love, goodness, truth, fidelity…). Being a Christian is not about being safe. In the Acts of the Apostles it testifies, “But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out and said, ‘Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life’ ” (Acts 5:19-20). Sr. Melanie Svoboda, S.N.D., observes that when the angel freed the Apostles from prison, they were not sent home. She says, “The angel did not say go and hide somewhere so they won’t catch you again. Rather, the angel sent them right back to the temple area and instructed them to continue their preaching of the Gospel- the very thing that landed them in prison in the first place” (Living Faith, Vol. 22, No. 1, 4/26). In correlation, even though our Church has been battered over the years in the media, we are on the defensive, and perhaps our laity are in a quiet depression- we must re-awaken the powerful spirit that dwells within us and re-take our place in the temple area! “For the weapons of our battle are not of the flesh, but are enormously powerful capable of destroying fortresses” (2 Cor 10:4).
One of the greatest weapons that we have against fear, complacency, indifference, laziness, relativeness, and sin is the tangible appropriation of Jesus’ Divine Mercy. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis. And the spirit is the key to this consciousness. Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz poignantly relates, “The Holy Spirit introduces us to the essence of Divine Mercy. He is the comforting Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who, already for 2,000 years has led the Church through a stormy ocean of time with its problems and challenges, and who indicates to us Divine Mercy and meaning. In the modern day, when man has lost the sense of sin, the Holy Spirit convinces the world of sin (cf. John 16:8), and at the same time reveals the meaning of salvation in Jesus Christ, salvation accomplished through the mystery of the cross and resurrection” (No Source of Hope Other than Divine Mercy, Lecture, 5/01/06, LA Divine Mercy Congress). Let us pray that the Spirit slays our consciousness with the realization of God’s radical love and mercy for us and in turn inspires us to evoke a renewed consciousness alternative to the prevailing culture. Mercy is Love in Action!