Divine Mercy Novena, Praying for Those in Purgatory, Where We are Made Fit for a King

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Keoni Cabral https://www.flickr.com/photos/keoni101/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Keoni Cabral https://www.flickr.com/photos/keoni101/

I pray a Rosary every Sunday for people in Purgatory. It takes quite a while, since I name every single person I know who has died, and I mean died, ever. I include great-great-grandparents I never met and friends of friends.

It’s the least I can do for them. I only hope that when I die, someone will take the time to pray for me.

I don’t know a great deal about Purgatory. But I do have a few surmises. These surmises are based on an experience of my own. I believe that God gave me part of my Purgatory now, in this life. What I will describe here are the ideas about Purgatory I gained from that experience.

What that means to you, dear reader, is that nothing I am about to write is official Church teaching. It comes from a personal experience and my private interpretation of that experience. If reading it edifies you, good. If it doesn’t, no matter. These are just my thoughts.

 It is a terrible thing to experience the other side of the evil you’ve done to the people around you. I believe that is what happens to us in Purgatory. Everything we do, every small act of kindness, every cutting word, every hurt we’ve inflicted on others, every joy we’ve brought to them, matters.

We are forgiven for our sins, but we aren’t always healed of what committing them has done to us. Heaven wouldn’t be very heavenly if we took our petty malice, gossip and grudge-holding with us when we went there. Even the best of us is unfit for heaven when we die. I believe that Purgatory is the transformation process that fits us for heaven. Part of that cleansing has to be facing up to who we really are.

Purgatory is bearable because it’s temporary and because it heals us ultimately and completely. Our salvation is assured when we turn to Christ for forgiveness. He washes the stain of sin from our souls in that instant. But we are still fallen people, living in a fallen world. Conversion on this side of heaven consists largely of failing down and getting back up again. The outward sign of conversion is a changed life. The interior mark of conversion is not perfection, it is trust.

As St Paul said, “I know whom I have believed, and I am confident that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted to Him against that day.”

Purgatory does not limit or grant eternal salvation. We already have eternal salvation when we enter Purgatory. What Purgatory accomplishes is the final clearing away of the detritus of our fallenness. It strips off the old torn and spotted garments of our finite existence and clothes us in our eternal garment. It transforms us into heavenly beings, fit for a King.

There are many theories about Purgatory, all of them far more authoritative than mine. But my belief is that in Purgatory we face what we have done from the viewpoint of those we did it to. If, say, you hit someone, in Purgatory you would experience the blow you gave in this life. If you gossiped about someone, in Purgatory you will feel the humiliation and hurt your words inflicted.

It would be terrible enough to experience this in this life. But in Purgatory, I think our souls will be so tender and so pure that the pain will be even more exquisite.

The souls in Purgatory are not being tortured. They are being educated about their real selves. They are seeing themselves as they are, and this insight hurts. It is the deepest grief imaginable to confront the full reality of your own sins. But from this grief comes conversion of a thorough and unalterable kind.

That is true, even here in this fallen world while we struggle with the many weaknesses of our flesh. In Purgatory, when we are naked spirits, it will be absolute. The best way to describe my understanding of Purgatory is that Purgatory is where our conversion to Christ that we began in this world is completed and made perfect.

Today Jesus tells us to bring to Me the Souls who are in the prison of Purgatory and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy … All these souls are greatly loved by Me … It is in your power to bring them relief.

It is yet another miracle of grace that we can, while we are still here in this Earthly existence, reach across the divide to aid those in Purgatory.

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena with us today. Bring your loved ones who have died and are now in Purgatory to Jesus and immerse them in His Mercy.

Eighth Day
Today bring to Me the Souls who are in the prison of Purgatory,

and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice.”   

Most Merciful Jesus, You Yourself have said that You desire mercy; so I bring into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls in Purgatory, souls who are very dear to You, and yet, who must make retribution to Your justice. May the streams of Blood and Water which gushed forth from Your Heart put out the flames of Purgatory, that there, too, the power of Your mercy may be celebrated.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls suffering in Purgatory, who are enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. I beg You, by the sorrowful Passion of Jesus Your Son, and by all the bitterness with which His most sacred Soul was flooded: Manifest Your mercy to the souls who are under Your just scrutiny. Look upon them in no other way but only through the Wounds of Jesus, Your dearly beloved Son; for we firmly believe that there is no limit to Your goodness and compassion. Amen.

 

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Blessed are the Merciful, the Living Images of Jesus’ Compassionate Heart

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by BK https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by BK https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/

Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Jesus Christ.

Instead of giving up chocolate this past Lent, I went on a personal pilgrimage of forgiveness.

I made a list, and I didn’t have to check it twice, of all the people I was holding a grudge against. I was astonished by how long the thing was.

Some of those grudges were decades old. In fact, five of them went back to the beginnings of my adult life. Others were more recent.

It was my own spring housecleaning, and it was hard spiritual labor.

Some of these people were easy to clear off the list. They were the ones where I got crossways with them but they were good people and I’m a good person and we both did things we shouldn’t have done to one another. One in particular is someone I owe more than enough to clear the debt for him, just based on what he did for me before he started doing to me.

But others, especially the ancient ones, went way beyond a grudge, cut deeper than hurt feelings. These hurts that punched through to the marrow of my spirit were not so simple to put down.

That’s because forgiveness is not easy. When it deals with massive wrongs, it feels like a vulnerability, a weakness in the face of that which we must defend against.

During the time (which was most of Lent) that I was sick, I watched a video on Amazon Prime about a woman who had been on the Mengele Twins. She had nearly died from the things Dr Mengele did to her in the concentration camps. Her twin, even though she survived the camps, ultimately died of the injuries inflicted on her.

A few years back, this woman issued a public statement of forgiveness, not only of Dr Mengele, but of all the Nazis who killed Jews. This action alienated many of the other Holocaust survivors from her, including other Mengele Twin survivors.

She said something when she was talking about this that helped me a great deal. She said that she realized that she “had the power over these men” to forgive them. Forgiveness was an empowerment to her. Rather than make her vulnerable to her attackers, it was a power she had over them.

She had found a great truth, one that helped me.

Forgiveness and mercy are not weaknesses, even though the world may count them as such. It takes enormous strength to forgive. It requires sacrifice, work and hardship to be merciful. These are not cheap graces. They are hard fought, hard won and deeply healing gifts we give, both to ourselves, as well as those we forgive.

Without forgiveness we become ravening wolves to one another. Without forgiveness, we are all doomed to spend our lives dipping and dodging and hiding behind facades to protect ourselves from one another. Without forgiveness, we will purge one another in a useless attempt to purge ourselves of the demons we hide inside our own souls.

Without forgiveness, there can be no mercy. And without mercy, there can be no life.

I had been praying “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” in every mass, every time I prayed the Rosary. And each time I prayed it, there was a jab of conscience that reminded me I was praying a lie. I had not forgiven, and I did not want to forgive, certain people.

I nursed my hurt in the relatively petty instances of personal fallings out. But I fled in fear of weakness, of disarming myself in the internal struggle with the deeper and more outrageous hurts of the past. I had tried before, in many ways and at many times, to forgive these things, but the anger kept coming back, like a tree I had cut down that sprouted saplings around the stump.

When I began to work on sweeping my house clean, I found without surprise that personal grievances were easy, the deforming hurts, not so much. There are sins against ourselves that run so deep that we can not forgive them of ourselves. Only by the grace of God can we take up this power that we have over them and the harm they have done and wipe it clean with forgiveness.

Mercy, Shakespeare said, is twice blessed. It blesses the person who is given mercy. It also blesses the person who gives mercy.

Jesus asks us to bring Him the souls who especially venerate and glorify My Mercy … They are the living images of My Compassionate Heart. 

In other words, when we show mercy, when we forgive from the heart, when we reach out to those in peril or suffering and lift them up with our loving care, we are being Christ to them.

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena with us today. Bring before Him in prayer those you know who live lives of giving and forgiving. Hopefully, the day will come when we will all be able to count ourselves among them. 

Seventh Day
Today bring to Me the Souls who especially venerate and glorify My Mercy*,

and immerse them in My mercy. These souls sorrowed most over my Passion and entered most deeply into My spirit. They are living images of My Compassionate Heart. These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life. Not one of them will go into the fire of hell. I shall particularly defend each one of them at the hour of death.

Most Merciful Jesus, whose Heart is Love Itself, receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who particularly extol and venerate the greatness of Your mercy. These souls are mighty with the very power of God Himself. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident of Your mercy; and united to You, O Jesus, they carry all mankind on their shoulders. These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart from this life.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls who glorify and venerate Your greatest attribute, that of Your fathomless mercy, and who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls are a living Gospel; their hands are full of deeds of mercy, and their hearts, overflowing with joy, sing a canticle of mercy to You, O Most High! I beg You O God:

Show them Your mercy according to the hope and trust they have placed in You. Let there be accomplished in them the promise of Jesus, who said to them that during their life, but especially at the hour of death, the souls who will venerate this fathomless mercy of His, He, Himself, will defend as His glory. Amen.

*The text leads one to conclude that in the first prayer directed to Jesus, Who is the Redeemer, it is “victim” souls and contemplatives that are being prayed for; those persons, that is, that voluntarily offered themselves to God for the salvation of their neighbor (see Col 1:24; 2 Cor 4:12). This explains their close union with the Savior and the extraordinary efficacy that their invisible activity has for others. In the second prayer, directed to the Father from whom comes “every worthwhile gift and every genuine benefit,”we recommend the “active” souls, who promote devotion to The Divine Mercy and exercise with it all the other works that lend themselves to the spiritual and material uplifting of their brethren.

 

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Praying the Divine Mercy in an Age of Exploitation and Murder of Innocents

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alyssa L Miller https://www.flickr.com/photos/alyssafilmmaker/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alyssa L Miller https://www.flickr.com/photos/alyssafilmmaker/

If you do not become be converted and become as a little child, you shall not enter the Kingdom of heaven … And whoever receives a little child in my name receives me. But it would be better for those who harm one of these little ones if a millstone was hung around their neck and they were cast in to the sea. Jesus Christ

Today we pray for the little children and souls of those who are meek and humble. In other words, we pray for the innocents and the good people of this world.

Humbleness of heart is the opposite of narcissism and self-deification. Humble-hearted people do not seek to re-write the teachings of the Gospels to say their sins are not sins; they simply do their best to obey those teachings.

Children trust with a profound trust. They believe and build themselves on that belief.

These things truly do mirror Jesus’ own heart. The human Jesus did not rely on human understanding when the devil tempted Him in the wilderness. Instead, He quoted Scripture in reply to satan’s taunts and relied entirely on God.

He could have walked away at Gethsemane. He didn’t need 2,000 angels to battle for Him. All He had to do was get up and run; leave Jerusalem and take His ministry elsewhere.

But He did the stupid thing and stayed. In obedience.

He was God, and yet He obeyed God. That is the confounding truth of God made human. It is why His sacrifice purchased our redemption. He Who was sinless, paid the price for our sins, and He did it in obedience, the obedience of a humble human soul.

There are those in our society who do not view innocence as a call to offer their protection. They view it as an opportunity. They view the trusting innocence of children as an opportunity to change our culture with pernicious programs in our schools. They see innocent people as rubes to be misinformed by propaganda posing as news, laws written for the powerful that steal from them, and a plethora of other abuses.

They look on innocence in the womb and deny that what they are seeing is a fellow human being whose life by every understanding of human rights should be protected. They consider the new innocence of our elderly and infirm and see a burden and an expense that could easily be eliminated with euthanasia.

Innocence is not a protection in our society because the wolves are in charge. In this world, innocence is an opportunity to abuse, exploit and kill.

The humble of heart and the innocent thus seem like the world’s victims. And yet, Jesus tells us that if we want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must become converted and be innocent ourselves. If we want to be forgiven, we must bring “a humble and contrite heart” to Him, because Scripture tells us He will never refuse such a heart.

The key to eternity is in the hands of the innocents that we use, abuse and kill; in the hearts of the humble we scorn.

In the world that is coming, these are the ones who will be lifted high. While those of us who prance about and posture in the many conceits of our possessions, power and accomplishments will be blessed by God’s Mercy if we get in at all.

Today Jesus asks us to bring to Me the meek and humble souls and the souls of little children … (they) most closely resemble my own heart.

Today, as we pray, we should bring to Him the unborn, the babies, the little children, the elderly wandering in their fog of dementia, the humble woman next door whose horizon is her family for whom she gives her life, the sweet man down the street who goes to work and comes home and is always ready to help you out.

Bring to Him the simple souls, the salt of the earth on which all stability and kindness in human society is built. Bring to Him the good people without whom this world would be a living hell. They, and not the glitzy power brokers and difference makers are what make life livable. They are the only goodness humanity has to offer.

Pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Bring the good people to Him and immerse them in His mercy. While you’re at it, ask Him to make you more like them yourself.

Sixth Day
Today bring to Me the Meek and Humble Souls and the Souls of  Little Children,

and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I saw them as earthly Angels, who will keep vigil at My altars. I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace. I favor humble souls with My confidence.    

Most Merciful Jesus, You yourself have said, “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.” Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children. These souls send all heaven into ecstasy and they are the heavenly Father’s favorites. They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God; God Himself takes delight in their fragrance. These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon meek souls, upon humble souls, and upon little children who are enfolded in the abode which is the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls bear the closest resemblance to Your Son. Their fragrance rises from the earth and reaches Your very throne. Father of mercy and of all goodness, I beg You by the love You bear these souls and by the delight You take in them: Bless the whole world, that all souls together may sing out the praises of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

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Bring to Me the Souls of Those Who Have Separated from My Church

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

We live in an apostate world, and that apostasy is itself divided into groups.

The direct and honest apostate leaves the Church. He or she walks out and shuts the door.

What I call “the apostate in place” continues, for whatever bizarre reasons they might have, to attend mass, sing hymns, and pretend to be what they are not. They then metamorphose into a practical unbeliever when they step through the church doors and walk out. Since I’ve spent so many years in politics, I am well and truly acquainted with apostates in place.

Apostates in place leave the Church in their hearts, but due to a fundamental lack of honesty, continue to use their church affiliation for whatever it is they think they can get out of it. These phony baloneys are among the meanest and most spiteful people I know. They are also, odd to say, among the most self-righteous.

When I was in political office, I had the opportunity to see them in both places. I observed them at Church mixing with people who actually believed and tried to lived the Gospels. And I observed them with the Christian-bashing crowd where they liked to hang their political hats. It was a disturbing visage, watching them make fun of the same Church that had so kindly offered them a spiritual home, telling sarcastic and demeaning stories about the people who sat next to them in the pews.

Then, later, I’d see them back at Church again, quietly passing as what they were not.

I have to admit it: I detest these people. They irk me. I do not respect them. And I do my best to avoid their company.

The honest unbeliever who is acting without malice is a person I can respect. I can trust them, and in situations where our interests coincide, I happily work with them.

I understand how a person can get so crossways with a church or a parish or a priest that they just get up and walk out the door. I did something quite similar once upon a long time ago. That walkaway of mine launched me into what I call my anti-religion period; 17 years of denying Christ.

I understand the honest walkaways. But I can’t fathom those who hide in place. How can they stand the life they live?

If it was up to me, I’d wash my hands of them until and unless they got their minds right and started speaking truth. If I was God, I’d pass these phony baloney apostate-in-place Christians by and not give them a glance.

But I am not God. And we should all be glad of that. The real God does not take such a short and harsh-minded view of human weakness, including the phony baloneys who are doing their best to rip Him off.

Jesus tells us “bring to me the Souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.”

I think that He means those who have separated themselves in spirit from the Church, even while they are sitting in the pews as well as those who have walked out and slammed the door shut behind them. I have no doubt the those who are lying about their faith will be more difficult to convert that those who live in honest unbelief.

I also have no doubt that Jesus loves each one of them just as much as He loves me or you. He told St Faustina that while He was suffering and dying, these apostate souls tore at His heart. They added to His pain then, and they continue to inflict suffering on Him now.

Today’s prayer of the Divine Mercy Novena is for those who have, by their own volition, turned their backs on Christ and His Church. The time was that many people who walked away from the Church had reasons why they did it. A good number of them had been wounded by the Church in ways they could not bear.

That has changed now that Christian bashing and anti-Christian bigotry is the new fashion. Now most of those of leave the Church do it for superficial reasons of going along with the gang and adopting a popular pose.

Group hate-offs have become a kind of new community formation tool in our society. The fact that the communities that form around hatred in this way are a bunch of sick fools does not change this reality. In today’s climate the one group it is safe to hate without reservation is Christians. Just look at the Christian-bashing blogs on the internet and see what I mean.

You will see people trying to outdo one another in insulting Christianity and Christians. What you will not see is anyone calling them to task for being bigots and haters.

Today, when we pray the Divine Mercy Novena, Jesus has asked us to bring to Him the souls of those who have left His Church. He tells us that thinking of them added to the agonies of His passion.

But He does not ask us to discipline them or admonish them. He does not call down vengeance on them.

Jesus directs us to pray for them, to bring them and their sin-sickness to the ocean of His mercy and immerse them in the cleansing waters of eternal love.

Jesus’ Mercy is His final offering to us before the end times. It makes no difference whether the end of all time is imminent or far away. Our end time is always just around the next bend. In that moment when we step from life to death, in that last instance; even then, we can cry out to Him for mercy and receive it.

One of the people I talked about earlier in this post, a person who played Catholic at church and then made fun of Catholics and Catholicism when he was with his political cronies, died last week. He died without warning, in his sleep.

I have no idea what became of him at his passing. I only know that Christ’s mercy is so great that no sin we can commit can separate us from it. The only thing that can keep us from the Divine Mercy is us. We have to say no to avoid it.

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Pray for all the apostates you know. Pray that God will keep calling them until they turn back to Him. Then trust that He will do that.

Jesus asked us to bring to him the souls who have separated themselves from His Church.

I, for one, need to remember that the next time I get exasperated and want to walk on by these people and leave them to their dissolution. I have something I can do for them. I can bring them to Jesus and immerse them in the ocean of His Mercy.

In this way, I can heal myself, as well as them.

Fifth Day
Today bring to Me the Souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church*,

and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion.”  

Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son’s Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen.

*Our Lord’s original words here were “heretics and schismatics,” since He spoke to Saint Faustina within the context of her times. As of the Second Vatican Council, Church authorities have seen fit not to use those designations in accordance with the explanation given in the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism (n.3). Every pope since the Council has reaffirmed that usage. Saint Faustina herself, her heart always in harmony with the mind of the Church, most certainly would have agreed. When at one time, because of the decisions of her superiors and father confessor, she was not able to execute Our Lord’s inspirations and orders, she declared: “I will follow Your will insofar as You will permit me to do so through Your representative. O my Jesus ” I give priority to the voice of the Church over the voice with which You speak to me” (497). The Lord confirmed her action and praised her for it.

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Divine Mercy Novena: Praying for Unbelievers

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by brett jordan https://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by brett jordan https://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/

Jesus told us that when a lost soul repents, there is abounding joy in heaven.

I experienced this joy when I found Christ. I was driving to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. I felt — actually felt — an Other. I felt ecstatic love and joy rushing into me. I’ve tried to describe this joy and love, but I can’t do it.  Our language does not have the words.

Human language is inadequate to describe true encounters with God. The reason for this is simple and obvious, and yet we forget what it means.

God is not us. God is the I Am. The standards by which we measure reality do not apply to Him because He made what we call reality. Without Him, there is nothing. Not a vacuum, not non-existence, not oblivion: Without Him, there is nothing.

The concept of nothing in this eternal and absolute sense defies both our understanding and our imaging. We can not describe it any more than we can describe Him.

God is not an idea or an intellectual construct that we can manipulate and bring down to our understanding. God is a Being, a Personality, with a will and emotions of His own.

I did not convert to an idea. I was not embraced by a concept. I met another Being and this Other, even though He is transcendent, reached into my finiteness and loved me from death to life. The Way by which He did this is Jesus Christ.

Unlike those who lived before Christ, we can see the face of God and live. All we have to do is look at Jesus. He, and He alone, is the Way that leads to eternal life.

The idea that all faiths are equal is nonsense. There is only one empty tomb, only one Way out of the abyss of our sins. No one will ever approach the throne of God and live unless he or she is marked by the shed blood of the Lamb of God.

The Church teaches that it is possible for those of other faiths and those who have not heard His name to be welcomed to heaven, but they must come by way of their works and their sinlessness. They have to earn heaven.

Even then, the only entry, the only Way, is through Jesus. His grace and His mercy are the only hope that any one, anywhere, has. Without Him, we are damned, every one of us, by our own sinful and rebellious natures.

Jesus told St Faustina that unbelievers and those who had never heard His name were in His thoughts as He suffered and died two thousand years ago. He didn’t die only for you and me. He died for everyone, everywhere, for all time. He ransomed lost humanity with His blood — all of humanity.

All anyone has to do is choose Him over the world. Just as He did with the Israelites, God places before us Life and Death and lets us choose between them. Eternal hell is not a punishment. It is a choice that we make as free human beings clothed in radical freedom.

We are called to do more than glory in our salvation. We are called to be the Light in a dark world.

God has set us free, and now we must free others. The universal Christian vocation is the conversion of the world. We must offer Him to those who are perishing right in front of us, even if they rebuff us and shriek with the agony of devils touched by grace when we do it.

We Christians of the laity are conduits of the informal graces of life and love to the larger world. Our lives are the testimony and witness to our faith. We are the ones who go out from the churches, who step away from the altar and enter the fray of bashing and bloodletting that is modern society.

We go into the hospitals, schools, legislative chambers, court houses, construction sites, grocery stores, gyms and on-line com boxes. We go into all the places where ordinary life is lived and we enter them without the confining otherness of the collar. We are part of this larger world and we move inside it with the intimacy of fellow travelers.

Our priesthood is the priesthood of the laity. It is the priesthood that will either convert the world, or leave the world to die in its sins.

We are the People of God. We are the Easter people. We serve a Risen Lord. Our home is in heaven. We are, all of us, wayfaring strangers in this world of woe.

Even though you die, you will live. Jesus told us. Where I go, you will follow, he said.

We are going to die. I don’t write that to upset you, but to free you and comfort you. I want you to understand that there is nothing in this world for a follower of Christ to fear. You and I are just passing through this life. We are going to die. But when we die, we will live. Because of His Mercy.

So what should we do about those unbelievers who attack Christians? What should we do for those who have never heard His name?

Jesus says bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me.

He tells us that He was thinking about them when He suffered and died. His love for them is the unfathomable longing of God Who is love.

I don’t know which ones they are, but I believe that future evangelists for Christ are hiding among today’s Christian-bashing unbelievers. One day, they will say “yes” to Him, and He will fill them with the same love and joy that He poured into my soul and into yours. He will lift them up to testify to Him with all the fervor of someone who understands what it means to be rescued from eternal death.

I also know that among those who have not been told about Him there are people who will one day carry the news of His love to others who have not heard of him. Jesus is the Way, and that way is open to everyone.

But on this Easter Monday, they are still lost. They wander in the acrid bitterness of their unbelief, the noisy silence of their lack of knowledge. They are lost.

Christ’s mercy is the living water that enlivens our souls. Christ’s mercy is beyond our understanding, greater than our ability to reckon. It, like Him, is infinite. His mercy transcends time and place. It is available to everyone.

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Bring the lost souls of the world to Him and His mercy. He can change hearts that you and I think are beyond reaching.

I know.

I was once such a person myself.

Fourth Day

Today bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me, 

I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.”  

Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

*Our Lord’s original words here were “the pagans.” Since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII, the Church has seen fit to replace this term with clearer and more appropriate terminology.

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Pope Francis: Don’t Be a Bat Christian

We are the light of the world. Pope Francis reminds us not to hide that light, but to joyously let it shine.

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Easter in Nigeria: Boko Haram Will Not Have the Final Word

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria spoke of Easter hope in the midst of suffering Sunday.

“We … cannot let Boko Haram have the final word … there is a greater force (than Boko Haram) and we there should not be overcome by a terrible fear and even paranoia that we are unable to even go out to worship,” he said.

Nigerian Christians celebrated the Resurrection in the midst of mourning. Seventy-nine people were recently killed in a bomb blast, and 129 school girls were abducted by the Islamic group to be used as slaves. Forty-four of these girls have managed to escape, a fact that gives hope.

I wrote a post earlier, asking why the government can’t track Boko Haram down and end them. It seems to me that having 44 girls who have escaped and could give information would be a major aid in doing just that.

In the meantime, Archbishop Kaigama says that Nigeria Christians, “… believe that God cannot abandon us and as a Church we continue to pray and preach nonviolence and we continue to inspire confidence in people. We should only succumb and subject ourselves to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life and who is the Resurrection.”

That thought, that we should only subject ourselves to Jesus is the essence of Christian freedom. It the call of every Christian, everywhere. Our only master should be Our Lord, which means that the many things we submit ourselves to in this life are a false calling. In the final analysis, none of us answers to anyone but Him, and, again in the final analysis, each and every one of us actually does answer to Him.

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Why Did Jesus Have to Die, and Why Does the Resurrection Matter?

 

Calvary is the fulcrum of history.

Everything changed on that hill called Golgotha 2,000 years ago. Three days later, when the stone rolled away, God put His final redemptive imprimatur on the story of our salvation.

Before that Day in the garden outside the empty tomb, when He looked at the woman and said, Mary!,  Solomon’s ancient wail of “Vanity, vanity; all is vanity,” was the summation of the reality of human existence.

But Calvary and what He did there, the garden and Who the woman met there, changed all that forever.

Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, for you will surely die, God told them.

“You will not die,” Satan countered, in one of the deceptive lies disguised in a seeming truth that he uses so often against us.

They ate.

And they did not die.

Then.

But death was born into the world with that first bite of disobedience. The scales fell from their eyes and they knew. They fouled their primal innocence with willfulness, and they knew shame; first the shame of their nakedness, and then the shame of their fallenness.

Their first action was to hide from God because, as they told Him, “We were ashamed because we were naked.”

God’s answer illuminates their changed condition, Who told you that you were naked?

Their second action was to blame one another.

Primal innocence was gone in a single bite of the apple of disobedience, replaced by primal love of self.

Humankind denied this loss throughout its history, denies it even to this day. Self-will battles with God’s will in each of us every moment of our lives. And yet, there is in each of us, encoded in our souls, a haunting memory of who we really are, and an inchoate longing that will not be silenced for what we have lost.

“Our hearts are made for thee,” St Augustine said. And so they are.

God-longing is a part of the human condition, as is a hunger for transcendence and lost innocence. Separated as we are, this longing festers into resentment and denial, while the hunger congeals on our souls as hubris and self-worship.

The curse of lost innocence drives us to rageful disobedience. It ensnares us in our own desires and, if we let it, murders us with the excesses those desires breed in our lives.

Throughout human history this pull of longing for God and lost innocence has played against the push of the hubris of our self-aggrandizements and twisted desires. The tension it creates drives us into a universal acceptance of insanity. We kill one another and we kill ourselves in as many ways as the human story can devise. Our blood-soaked history of suffering and misery has one message: We cannot save ourselves.

The God-hunger encoded in us and the God-image inside of us, drive us to seek propitiation. From moloch to corporatism, we feed our lives and the lives of our children into the empty maw of false gods of our devising. We seek our lost transcendence in debauchery and achievement; in doing good and doing bad; in war making and peace making; in causes and rights and laws.

We try to achieve a lost immortality by looking as Ted Bundy did, into the eyes of those we kill and persuading ourselves that in that moment when the light of life fades we are like gods. We attempt to overcome our finite hopelessness by doing good works, and advancing humankind through the achievements of our efforts and our minds.

But in the end, we are but dust. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

God does not force us. He doesn’t reach down and re-invent us back to our lost innocence.

That is not cruelty as some claim. It is love and longing. Love, to be love, must be freely given. Our love for Him must be ours to give or withhold, or it is not love at all.

So God led us gently over long years and slow changes to the moment when He stepped into our history as one of us in order to offer us a Way. Jesus had to die because by dying He became the ultimate sacrificial lamb, the complete propitiation for our sins. He made it right by offering Himself in lieu of us on the altar of life and death.

He was our Passover lamb and Calvary was the ultimate and final Lord’s Passover.

If that is true, then what is the meaning and the necessity of the Resurrection? Wasn’t dying on the cross enough to redeem us?

The answers people give are all true. The Resurrection demonstrates that Jesus is God. The Resurrection is a sign of the resurrection that awaits all of us who accept Him and go through the open doorway of redemption that He represents. He is the Way in a literal and absolute manner. We enter into the Kingdom through Him.

But I think there is another ultimate meaning to the Resurrection. Calvary wasn’t the only way that God could have restored us to Himself. It was the only way He could do it and leave us free.

The Resurrection was the great undoing of that curse we cursed ourselves with in the garden. If you eat of the tree of knowledge, you will surely die. 

You will not die, Satan told us, and left out the word “today.”

We believed the lie, and the curse of death, real death that is separation from the Light, entered humanity.

The Resurrection broke that curse. God Himself entered into death, took on the curse, and experienced its depths. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me, Jesus cried from the cross as He experienced the cold annihilation of The Alone in its absolute form.

I’ve have written about The Alone that we inflict on one another with our cruelties. But that Alone, which is a foretaste of the pit of hell, is nothing but a foretaste. The real hell, the true Alone, is complete separation from God.

We experience shades of this hell in the bitter blackness of our sinfulness. I have lived a bit of it, both in things I’ve done and things that have been done to me. The pleasure people take in hurting other people is a dark thing that swallows their own humanity.

We can cast other people into The Alone with our rapes, tortures, murders, greed, gossip and pretentious claims to superiority. Every time we do this to another person, we experience a bit of the cold blackness that such actions come from.

The curse of the fall is our daily experience, and that curse is death. The Resurrection broke that curse. God entered into our cursedness and experienced its shattering consequences. He, Who knew no sin, became sin for our sakes.

Then, on the third day, He shattered the curse like a glass by breaking death itself. He cast off death and arose from the grave.

This was different in every way from miracles such as raising Lazarus or the little girl or the young man who was being carried to his burial place. The difference is that He didn’t stand outside death and undo it for a time, He entered into death and dissolved it for all time.

Physical death is a huge thing to us. But to God it appears to be almost trivial. Jesus raised people from the dead as easily as taking a drink of water. Little girl arise, He said. He took pity on a mother’s grief at her son’s funeral procession and raised the young man with a word. Lazarus, come forth He commanded and Lazarus walked out of his tomb.

Physical death isn’t the great divide that it is to us to One who sees both sides of the experience, to the One Who created life in the first place.

The Resurrection isn’t another casual raising of someone from the dead so that they will die again in a few years. The Resurrection is an everlasting casting off of ultimate death altogether.

Eat, and you will surely die. 

You will not die … today.

I am the Way … all who believe in Me will never die. 

The Resurrection is the end of death. It is the Way out of getting what we deserve.

And it leaves us free. We can accept Him and love Him … or not.

Love is not love unless it is freely given.

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The Empty Tomb


He is Risen!

Happy Easter my friends.

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2013 Favs: New Tests Date the Shroud from the Time of Christ

New scientific tests on the Shroud of Turin, which went on display Saturday (March 30) in a special TV appearance introduced by the pope, date the cloth to ancient times, challenging earlier experiments that dated it only to the Middle Ages.

… The new test, by scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy, used the same fibers from the 1988 tests but disputes the earlier findings. The new examination dates the shroud to between 300 B.C. and 400 A.D., which would put it in the era of Christ.

… It determined that the earlier results may have been skewed by contamination from fibers used to repair the cloth when it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages, the British newspaper reported. The cloth has been kept at the cathedral since 1578.

… The new tests also supported earlier results claiming to have found traces of dust and pollen on that shroud that could only have come from the Holy Land. (Read the rest here.)

(Doug Stanglin writes for USA Today.)

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