Divine Mercy Novena: Praying for Those Who are Neither Hot nor Cold

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Mark Cristino https://www.flickr.com/photos/streetunka/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Mark Cristino https://www.flickr.com/photos/streetunka/

You say you are rich and need nothing. You don’t realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. You are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Jesus Christ

I doubt if there are any lukewarm Christians in Iraq. Ditto for Iran, Yemen, Saudia Arabia, North Korea, China and much of India.

Lukewarmness is the luxury of the privileged. In fact, it seems that the more privileged the person, the more tepid their faith. For instance, high school students staging walkouts and throwing tantrums at Catholic schools always seem to be among the over-privileged, too-entitled class. I doubt very much that we would see this kind of behavior if these schools were populated by students from the other side of those proverbial tracks.

When Christianity becomes the faith of the powerful, it becomes a powerless faith. Christianity thrives when it speaks with the radical and radicalizing voice of Jesus Christ. It grows when pastors preach Christ. It overcomes all before it when we follow Christ and Him crucified, Him resurrected.

We are the Easter people. But we are also the people of the cross.

There is no place in true followership of Christ for me-first lukewarmness. Following Jesus means doing what Jesus taught us to do, even when it hurts, even when people make fun of us, shun us and attack us for doing it.

Lukewarmness is another word for nothing much. Lukewarm Christians are nothing much. They can’t save anyone. They can’t transform the world. They aren’t the Light that shines in the darkness. They are, for all their money and glitzy worldliness, nothing much.

They use the privileges and the many gifts of their lives for self-pleasuring and self-deifying. They do not follow Christ, except when sorta following Christ feels good and fits in with the comfortable mud bath of warm worldliness where they dwell. They don’t bring people to Christ. In the overall, their lukewarmness leaves people indifferent and turns them from Him.

Today, Jesus asks us to bring to Him the Souls who have become Lukewarm … these souls wound me most painfully … My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls.

Loathing. Consider that, for a moment. Lukewarm souls caused loathing in the heart of Christ when He considered them at Gethsemane.

I would think that anyone with any intelligence at all would do most anything to avoid Jesus Christ looking at them with loathing. I can think of nothing more heartbreaking for these people.

Pray and pray again for those who are lukewarm. They have the faith and they reject it. They see the Way and they won’t walk it. They are perhaps the most lost of all.

Ninth Day
Today bring to Me the Souls who have become Lukewarm,

and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’ For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy.” 

Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen.

 

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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Praying the Divine Mercy Novena on Holy Saturday

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Belgapixels https://www.flickr.com/photos/belgapixels/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Belgapixels https://www.flickr.com/photos/belgapixels/

Our Passover Lamb lies in the grave.

The stone rolls over the entrance and settles with a hollow thunk. The seal is placed over it and the guards take up their watch.

Inside the tomb, Jesus’ body lies broken, dirty and cold in the silent nothingness of death. Blood congeals on the corpse’ forehead, back, wrists, ankles and chest. The limbs stiffen and this dead thing that once was a man becomes a figment of a living person. It is matter now, with no life inside it; a hard, silent piece of dead meat. Decomposition and rot begin.

This is death; raw, unyielding, and seemingly forever. It is the end of every living thing.

Death brings our dreams and accomplishments to dust. It puts a period at the end of our adventures and hopes and tosses them on the waste bin of what doesn’t matter any more. Death conquers all.

Or so it seems.

I am the Way. Jesus told his disciples. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. 

Today, humanity’s Passover Lamb lies in the grave. The perfect and complete sacrifice, the true lamb without blemish, has shed His blood for us. His shed blood is the blood of the lamb on the lintel posts of the doors to our lives.

If we wear the blood of the Passover Lamb, the angel of unending death will pass us by. If we are not marked with the blood of the Lamb, the angel of death will mow us down with his eternal scythe.

Jesus lies in the tomb today. In our place.

On this second day of the Divine Mercy Novena, He asks us to “bring me the souls of priests and religious.”

No matter when Jesus comes again, we are all in the last days of our own lives. In these last days of our lives, when, as Yeats said, “the center does not hold,” we need leadership from our priests and religious.

“Without vision, the people perish,” the Bible says. Fearful functionaries and self-congratulators cannot lead us in these times. Our priests and religious need the Divine Mercy of Our Lord.

As do we all.

Please take time to pray the Divine Mercy Novena with us. Pray that God will send us holy priests and religious.

Second Day


Today bring to Me the Souls of Priests and Religious,

and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave me strength to endure My bitter Passion. Through them as through channels My mercy flows out upon mankind.”

Most Merciful Jesus, from whom comes all that is good, increase Your grace in men and women consecrated to Your service,* that they may perform worthy works of mercy; and that all who see them may glorify the Father of Mercy who is in heaven.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company of chosen ones in Your vineyard — upon the souls of priests and religious; and endow them with the strength of Your blessing. For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless mercy for ages without end. Amen.

 

* In the original text, Saint Faustina uses the pronoun “us” since she was offering this prayer as a consecrated religious sister. The wording adapted here is intended to make the prayer suitable for universal use. 


Praying the Divine Mercy Novena in a Time of Christian Persecution

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

I am not going to write about this week’s events until after Easter. But I do want to make one small point.

The nasty reaction to an Indiana law that would provide religious freedom underscores that we live in a post Christian America. That fact should not frighten us. It is an opportunity for us to serve the Lord in meaningful ways. We can stand for Jesus in these times and actually suffer for having done it. That is not a curse. It is a gift.

This situation fits the meaning and the purpose of the Divine Mercy Novena extremely well. Jesus gave the Divine Mercy Novena to Saint Faustina in the years before World War II. St Faustina was an unknown Polish nun.

The point of the Divine Mercy is that Jesus’ mercy towards us knows no bounds. It is Him, reaching out to us through this humble nun to try to tell us that He is always ready to forgive us, that His mercy is available to anyone who will accept it.

The Divine Mercy chaplet, Divine Mercy novena and Divine Mercy Sunday are all manifestations of that plea from our blessed Lord to accept His mercy before it is too late. Biblical prophecies are coming true at fast clip these days, beginning with the founding of the State of Israel. I am not equipped to comment on end times prophecies. In truth, I don’t think it matters. We are each of us hurtling toward our own end of days every moment we live.

Christ Jesus offers us mercy in the face of our depravations. That is the meaning of Holy Week. Christ’s Passion, his death on the cross, which we remember today, are an expression of the depth of His love for us, and His mercy towards us.

As we ponder the horrible events on Calvary, we must always remember that this is the price God paid for our salvation. This is how much He loves us.

The Divine Mercy is another gift of love to us. It is a way of underscoring once again that we, like the thief of the cross, can find salvation and eternal life at any time, in any extremity, no matter what we have done. The eleventh hour and 59 minutes is not too late to accept Christ’s mercy. The last moments of life are not too late.

But what a waste of good living and happiness — not to mention the danger of not doing it, ever — it would be to play brinksmanship with our eternal lives. My pastor said in a homily that when we die, someone will say to us: You belong to me. We get to chose who that will be. When you die, will you meet Jesus and have Him say, “You belong to me?” Or, will it be satan? The choice is yours, and you make it now, in this life.

The Divine Mercy novena is a series of prayers in which we take those who need His mercy before the throne of God in prayer.

Today is the first day of the Novena. We pray on this day for all of suffering humankind. The world is dying for lack of Christ. The satan in people’s hearts manifests itself in attacking Christians the world over. We are no longer safe from discrimination and even violent persecution for our faith here in America.

Our world bleeds on this Good Friday. It is dripping away its life blood from a thousand self-inflicted cuts. There is one answer for this, one Way out of the abyss of hatred and violence. It is the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the blood of the Lamb of God, guarding our hearts against that day when we will stand on the threshold of eternity and someone says to us “You belong to me.”

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Pray for the whole human race, which is dying for lack of His love.

First Day
Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners,

and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me.”

Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

Advent: Come Lord Jesus

 

The Bible ends with a poignant verse.

Come Lord Jesus, cries in a voice that resounds in the heart of every Christian.

Two thousand years ago, the conquered children of Israel looked forward to Him, even though they didn’t fully understand Who He was, and they certainly misunderstood what He would do.

The prophecies of the Christ begin in Genesis when God tells the serpent He will set enmity between the serpent and the Woman, that she would crush his head, and he would strike at her heel. This was not, note, a prophecy of Eve’s life, but of Mary, the New Eve whose quiet birth, unmarked as it was by the larger world, was the door opening on our salvation.

With Mary’s Immaculate Conception, the primal hope of the garden before the fall reawakened in human existence. It was given back to us as a free and totally unmerited gift by God. It set the stage for the coming of His Son, the long hoped-for Messiah.

Prophecies of Jesus began at the beginning, in the Garden, and are woven throughout the many thousands of years of history that tell the tales of His family in the book we call the Old Testament. It is the story of God, raising up a people by first calling one man to leave his home and go out into the wilderness.

It began, as these things always do, with a family; in Abraham’s case, a troubled and often sinful family that nevertheless trusted God. Not everything Abraham did was right, but he believed the Lord’s promises, and Scripture tells us that God “reckoned that to him as righteousness.”

There is a message in this for all of us. That message is simply that we need to trust God and follow Him without placing the unreachable burden of perfection on ourselves. Righteousness is found in trying to do God’s will and trusting our lives and our salvation to His mercy. Whatever we lack in ourselves and our efforts, He will supply. All we need to do is trust Him and do our best.

But how does God supply the lacks? How does He reach across the unfathomable gulf between our finiteness and His infinite transcendence? He did it by doing the unthinkable, by taking on human flesh, being born of a young woman and living, suffering and dying as one of us. Jesus was foretold over and over again throughout the Old Testament, but, as Steve Jobs famously said, it’s impossible to connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking back.

In the case of the many prophecies of Jesus the Christ, the prophecies of His second coming are intertwined with those of His first coming. The triumphant Lord of all history is foretold alongside the Suffering Servant of Calvary. Connecting those dots going forward was as confounding to the people of that day as connecting the dots of the Second Coming are to us. Theories and theology abound, and all of them are, to a great extent, educated guesses.

People of Jesus’ day skipped over the Suffering Servant prophecies and misinterpreted the salvation prophecies to weave together an interpretation of a warrior king who would make the nation of Israel into the dominant world power. They tried to connect the dots going forward and came up with a political interpretation which, while it comforted them in their sufferings as a conquered people who occupied the bottom rung on a significant trade route for the Roman Empire — The trade route mattered to the Romans. The people who lived there, not so much. — was wildly inaccurate.

They took comfort in the promised messiah of their own interpreting who would place his foot on the back of the Roman neck and make the Israelites the rulers of the world. Although this inaccurate interpretation comforted them in their daily problems, it led them into the mistake of missing the real Messiah when He actually came to them.

Nothing in their grandiose imaginings came close to the lowly carpenter’s son, born of a virgin in a stable and then forced to flee into exile soon afterwards. They were unprepared for parables and stories urging them to love and care for one another and talking about a Kingdom that would grow like a tiny mustard seed or the leaven in bread into something they could not fathom.

The idea that the Messiah would be executed like a common criminal and then rise from the dead only to leave the whole enterprise of Kingdom building in the hands of 12 men chosen from ordinary fishermen and tax collectors made no sense according to the false interpretation they had believed for so long.

And so the cornerstone of the new Kingdom became the stumbling block for God’s chosen ones. They, the apple of God’s eye, the ones from whom salvation comes, turned aside from their own salvation while the prostitutes and sinners, the rabble and riff-raff of outsiders, walked right in.

Advent is the season we set aside to consider these things. We know about the first coming of Christ. The dots are in our past, where we can see the pathway they form with clarity. We have the Church to explain these things to us, and we have 2,000 years of Christian teaching to make them clear.

So long as we confine our Advent meditations to mulling over the First Coming of Christ and think about our personal piety and our need for repentance and conversion, we are on fairly solid ground. We know what is expected of us as His followers. We know the story of God made man for our salvation.

But we are not at the end of the story. We still await the fulfillment of the prophecies. We are somewhere along the long row of dots that connect the planting of the mustard seed and the final harvest. We are, all of us, awaiting the day when He comes again.

Perhaps more to the point, we are traveling along our own road of life, journeying from birth to grave. We know — know — that our end of time is always imminent. One day our souls will be required of us, and none of us knows the day or the hour that will happen. That will be our end of time, when we go to Him, even if He has not yet returned to us.

Advent is the prophetic pot, simmering. It is a few weeks set aside for us to contemplate the mystery and the majesty of Christ coming. We have the history of His First Coming and the probably seriously misunderstood promises of His Second Coming, all intertwined with the certainty of our departing and going to Him.

We can’t — any of us — connect the dots looking forward. But we don’t have to. All we have to do is follow in the footsteps of Abraham, or Mary or Stephen or Priscilla or Paul or the woman with the hemorrhage or the blind man who would not deny Him and was put out of the Temple for his fealty. All we have to do is just believe Him and follow Him and trust that, even if the dots don’t connect in meaningful ways for us looking forward, they will be form a pattern of salvation when we look back.

Advent is a good great time to consecrate however much of our lives we have left to His Mercy. Trust and obey the old hymn says. There is no other way to be happy in Jesus. 

Truer words were never spoken.

Spend a few minutes this advent contemplating the dots going forward into your eternity as well as those going back to the Immaculate Conception and to the stable. Are we living in the End Times? Perhaps. But in truth, it doesn’t much matter if we are.

Each and every one of us is living in his or her “end times” every single day. There is absolutely nothing to fear in this if you trust and obey. God’s mercy, which was poured out on all humanity from the wounded side of Jesus, is greater than our weakness, stronger than our failures, more loving than all our fears.

Just put your hand in His and let Him lead you Home. There is no other way.

What We Need: Divine Mercy

 

I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet every Friday. I also pray the main prayer after Communion. It is a beautiful prayer of atonement and Christ’s unending mercy towards us.

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