Trust in God’s Mercy


Jesus tells Nicodemus that just as the bronze serpent was an instrument of healing, so too will the Son of Man be the source of salvation when he is lifted up on the Cross. ~ John 3:14-21.


 

Christ of Saint John of the Cross 1951 art by Salvador Dali

Christ of Saint John of the Cross, art by Salvador Dalí 1951

 

“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” This image refers to the time that God sent Seraph serpents among the people as a punishment for their complaints against God and Moses. Those who were bitten but still lived begged Moses to intercede for them. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole. “And everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live” (Nm 21:9). Why would looking upon the bronze serpent bring healing? Because it symbolizes acknowledging the consequences of one’s actions. It means looking upon what we have done to ourselves and to others. This is the first step in healing. The serpent mounted on the pole is a symbol of Jesus upon the cross. On the cross we see what our sins have done. We have killed Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. As we grow older, the cross is set before our eyes more and more as our sinful past looms up before us and we see the damage that lies in the wake of our lives.

But more that an icon of our sins, the Cross is the manifestation of God’s infinite mercy. It is God’s promise that the final judgement upon our lives is mercy and forgiveness. “Christ’s death on the cross is a judgement of judgement, ” Maximus the Confessor puts it (Clement 49). How can this be otherwise? Jesus, who allowed himself to be murdered, offered his murderers forgiveness as he hung dying. In the Cross God reveals completely unmerited forgiveness.

If, when we look upon the Cross, we see only our sins, we are not looking deeply enough. Sin, which is an offense against God, cannot be separated from God’s forgiveness. Such a myopic way of looking at sin can result in what Saint Teresa considers one of the great dangers of the spiritual life—discouragement. If we look at our sins isolated from God’s mercy, we do not perceive them correctly. Teresa tells us that we should look at our sins against the backdrop of God’s mercy, as if we were looking at a black dot against a white background. Excessive introspection upon one’s sinfulness is dangerous because we see only the black dot. “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “The belief that Jesus is referring to is trust in God’s mercy.

~ A Meditation by Fr. Marc Foley, O.C.D.

Love’s Arrow, Love’s Surrender

surrender by Janice Van Cronkhite

Surrender, art by Janice Van Cronkhite

Love, I think, is an arrow shot by the will, and, freed from every pull of earth, flying straight at God with full force, it infallibly strikes His Majesty. Once it has pierced the Heart of God, absolute Love, it rebounds with immense graces…

O secrets of God! We must silence our understanding admitting that, never of itself can it fathom the greatness of God. Let us remember here Our Lady the Virgin, how she, in her great wisdom, surrendered in this way, and to her question to the angel, ‘How shall this be done?’ , received the answer: ‘The Holy Ghost will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.’

~ Saint Teresa of Avila, ‘Conceptions of the Love of God’

Seeking God

Uniting with Spirit

Uniting with Spirit, art by Liane Collot D’ Herbois

Soul, you must seek yourself in Me,
and in yourself you must seek Me.

Love was so able to portray,
dear soul, inside Me your likeness,
that no skilled painter could display
in such a lovely, artful way
your image formed with such finesse.

It was for love that you were made
with beauty, oh so perfectly,
within Me deep your form portrayed,
my love, if you are lost, dismayed,
soul, you must seek yourself in Me.

How well I know that you will find
yourself within my heart portrayed
so very lifelike there displayed
that seeing it will please your mind
to see a painting so well made.

And if perchance you do not know
where you must go for finding Me,
do not walk here or there to see,
but, if you wish to find Me, go
deep in yourself to seek for Me.

~ A poem by Saint Teresa of Avila

 

 

 

Potential of the New

 

Misty Path, Art by Michael Whelan

Misty Path, Art by Michael Whelan

It is an art to be able to start over, to be able to let go completely of what has been. Perhaps something decisive happens in our lives, and we are forced to leave the old and habitual. This can be an occasion for us to deepen our relationship with God.

Joy and sorrow, grace and sin, have entered our lives. We must be thankful for God’s grace; for our sins we must repent. Everything that God has bestowed on us is a grace, and has an everlasting value. We are God’s beloved children, and God is faithful to us without fail. This we must keep as a precious treasure.

We cannot carry our sins into the new. They must be placed at the mercy of God, and he erases our sins so they are no more. When God forgives, he does it thoroughly. We will have no burden of sin when we enter the new; the Lamb of God carries that burden to the Father, who receives it with joy. It is a joy for the Father to be able to show us his mercy.

~ A meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

 

Wishing you all a very blessed New Year 2018!

  

Saying “Yes” to God

Maria Immaculata ~ Art by Franz Ittenbach, 1879

Maria Immaculata ~ Art by Franz Ittenbach, 1879

When John writes about the wedding in Cana, he very briefly points out that “the mother of Jesus was there” (Jn 2:1). Where Jesus is, there is Mary as well. She is always there. When Jesus dies, Mary is still there. She is under the cross. Why is Mary always there? Not directly to help Jesus, but to help us.

“Do whatever he tells you,” she says to the waiters in Cana and to all of us. She exhorts us to listen to her Son and to do what he asks. She not only says it: She is, in all of her life, a model of listening and obedience.

The fact that Mary wholeheartedly followed God’s will made it possible for him to save humankind. In and through Mary, the whole creation says “yes” to God and receives his gift. Through Mary, God’s request receives a perfect answer. Without her “yes,” the dialogue between God and humankind wouldn’t have progressed.

At the same time as her “yes” gives God opportunity to save you, it also gives you occasion to follow her. She teaches you to say the same “yes” to God as she did, so that the salvation of the world can be your personal salvation as well.

~ A meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D

Wishing you all a very blessed feast day of The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary! 

Mysticism: Intoxication with God

The Gift, art by Ruth Tietjen Councell

The Gift, art by Ruth Tietjen Councell

Whenever a human being belongs to God so completely that God can do what he wants in and through him or her, such a person is called a mystic. A mystic is someone who no longer lives his or her own life. God has “taken over” and lives his/her life. Saint Paul has given us an unsurpassed definition of mysticism: “…it is no longer I who live…it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

The mystics teach us that Christian life is much richer than we imagine. “Don’t be content with so little,” they tell us, “don’t live a maimed life; you are greater than you suppose.”

We need these close friends of God to shake us up…we who so often reduce the Christian life to some commandments and obligations. They have a message for us.

“Poor you,” they say, “why do you stand there freezing? Place yourself under the sun, enjoy the warmth. Why are you so thirsty? Place yourself under the waterfall and drink. There is plentiful water. Your life doesn’t have to be so impoverished.
You think God is far away, yet you don’t even have to search for him. He is inside of you. You carry a treasure. Is it not time for you to wake up?”

Without the mystics we risk seeing Christianity as a cold and dead skeleton of dogmatic statements and moral admonitions. The mystics show us that the skeleton in reality is a living organism, a living body. Christianity is full of life, a life that makes us happy. The mystics teach us through  their own example that God can make a person “drunk” with love and joy.     

~ A meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, Carmelite friar