the year of Mercy…

“Deserves it! I daresay he does.
Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life.
Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.
For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


(Original painting of the Divine Mercy, by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in 1934)

It’s the end of another year as well as the end of another decade…
A time when we grow full of reflection and even introspection.

And if we don’t, well, I think it would behoove us to do so…
it’s good for the soul.

And by the way, I can say that because I’m now on the downhill slope of what is
considered to be US life expectancy, and thus—
older people are supposed to have gleaned from hindsight…
so my hindsight is saying that you need to reflect.

The other day I had offered my hope that the coming year could be a year
for moms and motherhood along with their children and husbands…
as in the fathers of their children…as in families…traditional families
as in those families found within the covenant of God the Father.

And no, this post is not about a debate regarding what constitutes a “family”–
that’s a discussion for another day.

But for now, let’s hear it for moms.
Be they working or stay at home….
because at the end of the day…
the bottom line is that a mom is still a mom…
and that is the single most important job.

And so this notion has gotten me thinking.
Thinking and pondering.

I’ve started a new book…in part because I saw that Bishop Gavin Ashenden had
written the forward to the book.

Oh and just in case you missed it, our favorite across the pond Anglican cleric
is now a new Catholic convert.

The book is The Warning by Christine Watkins

“Authentic accounts of saints and mystics of the Church who have spoken of a day when
we will all see our souls in the light of truth,
and fascinating stories of those who have already experienced it for themselves.”

As I was reading my few pages last night, as that is about all the reading I’m afforded
these days–a page here or there at night, Ms. Watkins mused about death—
something that we will all eventually face.
Whether we are a believer or not, death does not discriminate.

So she posed a question about what happens upon death—our death.
It’s the age-old mystery…death and what happens to us at that defining moment.

For Believers, this is a time of accountability.

As in all sins, all those things done and not done will be set before us.
Even those sins we have confessed and asked forgiveness over will
still, be displayed.

That notion made me swallow hard.

Even though there is and has been forgiveness, our sins will still be on display.
Both known and unknown.
Displayed before us and our Savior, Father and Holy Spirit.

How do you defend such?
How do you explain such?
How do you play off such?

Because isn’t that what we currently do in life? We make excuses.
So why not in death?

But here’s the thing, we won’t be able to nor can we.
The moment will be beyond earthly comprehension
and somehow I think to stand before God, will leave us without defense.

We will be totally exposed, opened like a splayed chicken and utterly vulnerable.

And on that thought, I closed the book, turned off the light and laid there thinking…
and praying.

A key word came to mind…

Mercy.

According to Merriam Webster ‘mercy’ is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown
toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

God has shown His mercy to man—both you and me, by sending His only son…
offering mercy to a corrupt and sinful humankind.
Grace has been given to those who do not deserve Grace but who have been offered it freely
and without attached strings.

And so I would like to see this to be a year for all of us to put mercy atop our list.
To show and to offer mercy to our fellow human beings, despite whether they deserve it or not
because deserving is not the issue.

It will not be easy.
It will demand us to stop and think before quickly casting our hate-filled
angry filled resentment and judgment.

We are such a divided nation, so full of the notion of ‘I am right and you are wrong’
that we allow our national convictions to outweigh the human act of Compassion, Grace and
especially Mercy.
We have become so knee jerk in our reactions that the thought of Mercy never crosses
our minds.

In the turning of the calendar, in the moving into a new year,
may we be mindful of the gift we have each been given…
that being the gift, the ability, to offer to others our compassion, our grace,
and our mercy only because God first offered His Compassion, Grace, and Mercy to us.

In 2015 Pope Francis proclaimed that the year of the Jubilee of Mercy,
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (Latin: Iubilaeum Extraordinarium Misericordiae)
was a Roman Catholic period of prayer held from 8 December 2015,
the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to 20 November 2016,
the Feast of Christ the King.
Like previous jubilees, it was seen by the Church as a period for remission of sins
and universal pardon focusing particularly on God’s forgiveness and mercy.
It was an extraordinary Jubilee because it had not been predetermined long before;
ordinary jubilees are usually celebrated every 25 years.

I think we need to offer such jubilee one more time!

I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus,
but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with,
to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think –
and I say it with humility – that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.

Pope Francis
Homily on March 17, 2013

what does forgiveness look like

I had prepared an entire post for this morning that was to continue with the
discussion from yesterday regarding prayer…but that post will just have to wait until tomorrow.

It has to wait because I just finished reading the latest post from our friend
David Robertson…our favorite Scottish pastor who is now our favorite
down under pastor.
His post, or what I consider to be more of a reflection, centers on a leading US headline.

It is a post about the US news story regarding the trial of the white female police officer
who unbelievably walked into her neighbor’s apartment—
a neighbor who was a young black male–
She mistakingly thought it was her own apartment, and in turn, shot the neighbor
as he sat on the couch eating ice cream…
All the while thinking he was a burglar in her apartment.

I won’t even begin to try to go into the surrealism of this story.
The attempt of understanding this particular case—
a case which eludes the mind and prevents any ability to comprehend how or
why this could have ever happened.

Of course, there are currently a myriad of angry voices expressing their take to this
entire sad tale…but in the end…there are no words.

There is only tragedy, loss and death.

Or so that is what we would be lead to believe.

Yet there is one individual in all of this who has shown us otherwise.

It is the 18-year-old younger brother to the 26-year-old victim who tells us all that there
is much more to this story…

This is what forgiveness and love look like (David’s full post follows the clip)

Here is the link to David’s post…

Amber Guyger and Brandt Jean – Forgiveness – the Most Radical Teaching of Christ – in Practice

graces

“Three things are necessary to everyone:
truth of faith which brings understanding,
love of Christ which brings compassion,
and endurance of hope which brings perseverance.”

St. Bonaventure


(a gull prances in the surf / Julie Cook / 2019)

My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners.
If only they could understand that I am the best of Fathers to them and that
it is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy.
For them I dwell in the tabernacle as King of Mercy.
I desire to bestow My graces upon souls, but they do not want to accept them.
You, at least, come to Me as often as possible and take these graces they do not want to accept.
In this way you will console My Heart.
Oh, how indifferent are souls to so much goodness, to so many proofs of love!
My Heart drinks only of the ingratitude and forgetfulness of souls living in the world.
They have time for everything, but they have no time to come to Me for graces.”

St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, p. 367
An Excerpt From
Diary of St. Faustina

understanding

“I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe,
but rather, I believe in order that I may understand.”

St. Anselm of Canterbury


(Galileo surveys the night sky of Florence / Florence, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“So when we pray, we must stand in His presence, on His level.
We must see His suffering in the same way that we see His greatness,
and as we picture His compassion.
But we must also remember that that suffering,
that greatness and that compassion will one day judge us.
We shall be weighed in the balance by them; and if we are found wanting in any way,
we shall hear the words:
‘Depart from me…’
‘Go elsewhere; go to those who refused to be my friends.'”

Dom Augustin Guillerand, p. 53
An Excerpt From
The Prayer of the Presence of God

wonder found in the details…

I live and love in God’s peculiar light.
Michelangelo


(close up of a thistle / Julie Cook / 2017)

Yesterday, my friend Colorstorm over on The Lion’s Den
( https://thenakedtruth2.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/well-this-is-deep/ )
offered a post complete with a rather informative video clip regarding the depths
of the ocean.

An amazingly informative little narrative that is not only factually full but is
actually quite humbling.

And in keeping with this humbling mindset,
last week CS offered a clip about the majesty of the earth.
The clip offered an interesting perspective of a flat planet vs the more familiar round.
Yet no matter one’s thoughts on flat or round—the earth is beyond words.
The sheer majesty of the natural planet is so much greater than man’s capacity for
adjectives….

And now CS has offered a clip of equal magnitude when considering the depths of the ocean.
The clip does not focus on pretty pictures but rather indisputable numbers,
facts and comparisons.

It is estimated that only 5% of the ocean floor has been adequately “mapped” by man.
Meaning that there is 95% of the world’s oceans that are a vast unexplored mystery.
And since the oceans of this planet cover 71% of earth’s surface…that is
an awful lot of unknowns….

So as I pondered and mused over the fact that our God,
the Creator of not only the earth, but of all that is within…
that the Creator of all the oceans and seas that cover this earth…
is so awesome,
so amazing,
so beyond man’s mere limited comprehension…
that even the creatures of the darkest depths are provided illumination and
that even the most mundane and cursed of weeds of the land is topped with a glorious crown…

For His attention is not only full of the big, the vast, the deep and the wide,
but it is in the tiniest of details that we actually see His true nature…
that of an endless loving compassion…

No one is like you, Lord;
you are great,
and your name is mighty in power.
Who should not fear you,
King of the nations?
This is your due.
Among all the wise leaders of the nations
and in all their kingdoms,
there is no one like you.

Jeremiah 10:6-7

behold the Lamb….

“He, the Life of all, our Lord and Saviour, did not arrange the manner of his own death lest He should seem to be afraid of some other kind. No. He accepted and bore upon the cross a death inflicted by others, and those other His special enemies, a death which to them was supremely terrible and by no means to be faced; and He did this in order that, by destroying even this death, He might Himself be believed to be the Life, and the power of death be recognised as finally annulled. A marvellous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonour and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death’s defeat.”
― Athanasius of Alexandria, On the Incarnation


(a lamb on the cliffs of Slieve League / County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

In death there exists a mind crushing silence.

For we long, nay need, to be in the presence of the living…
of those who breathe, who have movement and who are warm to one’s touch
That is the reality of our moment in present time.

It is our comfort…it is what we know and what we take for granted.

Yet to be in the presence of that same once living life which in an instant no longer breathes,
is now rigid and stiff and frighteningly cold to the touch,
is to be in the presence of overwhelming nothingness…

There is a suffocating moment of panic as the primeval reflex of run and flight wrestles
to take hold. We are choked by the need to escape.
The innate sense of racing from the black void of nothingness, desperate
to find the sensory fulness of the living…
because it is in that single moment of reality of loss that complete isolation is frighteningly found…as well as  utter
aloneness– all of which crushes and squeezes the senses of our present living…

Death is an endless void.
For in death we see what was and is now no more.
There is no light, no breeze, no warming sun,
no thoughts of tomorrow.
For tomorrow’s thoughts are of a life without.

In Death we are without and it is in that “without” that our brains labor to process…
for the very processing of the concept of loss and death is more than our reasoning can contain.
Death and its finality is a reality that we can only process slowly, even if then…as time, emotion
and physical wellbeing swirl into the forefront of survival.
Because it is Life of which we know and we hold on tightly to the knowing of the presence of that thing thus named Life.

Yet Infinte Wisdom, in compassion for man and his utter isolation found in  Death, offered a lifeline…as the concept of Hope was now to be returned.
The now endless rope of Salvation anchored permanently to Forever.

The stillness and darkened cold, along with the endless emptiness were vanquished by a thunderous ray of Light…as Life walked free leaving Death discarded in a tomb….

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning,
the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were wondering about this,
suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.
In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground,
but the men said to them,
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here; he has risen!
Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:
‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”
Then they remembered his words. 9 When they came back from the tomb,
they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.
It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James,
and the others with them who told this to the apostles.
But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to
them like nonsense.
Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.
Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves,
and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12

A Maundy Thursday example of love

“Preach the Gospel at all times.
When necessary, use words.”

― Francis of Assisi


(Mother Teresa’s bare feet)

I’ve used this image of Mother Teresa’s feet before in a previous post—
it was a post for a previous Easter that touched not only on the notion
of Jesus’ example of the washing of feet, but it explored our obsession with health,
wealth and all things fit and beautiful.

Like hands, feet are a good indicator of the type of life one has lived.

Rough, calloused and gnarly…
or
smooth, soft and pampered…

I tend to like the first notion…as in rough, calloused and gnarly being signs of
at best, a life really lived to the fullest….
or
at the least, lived to the best of ones abilities as
things had perhaps never been easy nor comfortable.

I find there is more character to be found in the rougher, harder, calloused side to living.

Following that evening meal of so long ago, a chain of events had been set in motion
and there was no turning back…
hope no longer remained in avoiding the inevitable.
I imagine everyone in the room that quiet night had a sense that things were to be
different very soon but as to exactly how, only one knew for sure.

The mood was somber…and not just because it had been a meal intended to
commemorate and reflect upon the struggles of a people from a previous time,
but rather because the master of ceremonies
himself was obviously melancholy as his thoughts were far removed.

Just as I know other types of jobs and services stress this same sort of approach,
in education, teachers are constantly reminded of the importance of leading by example.

Don’t just tell it or say it….
Do it and show it!!!!!
This so others may see.
Visual and tactile learning create a most lasting impression.

So Jesus set out that evening to do that very thing…
one more time…
to lead by example.

The point wasn’t just to wash feet.
Feet, as important as they are, are considered pretty lowly.
They aren’t the prettiest things to look at what with their bunions, hammer toes,
ingrown toe nails and rough cracked skin…
they can be oddly shaped, they get dirty quickly,
they usually stay covered up…for a reason,
and they are not the first things we prefer to look at,
plus they can smell.
Not good combinations.

So dealing with people and their feet has always been looked at,
other than from a podiatrist’s point of view, as something somewhat subservient….
especially if the feet are rough looking, with dirty cracked and broken nails…
Not the first thing most folks want to caress and love on…unless they’re a bit odd.

So naturally when Jesus set about wanting to wash everyones feet, he was quickly and
awkwardly rebuffed.
It was embarrassing to have the Master wash the dirty, dusty, dry feet of the followers.
Think of a General wanting to do such for a private…
As that’s exactly what it was like.
Unheard of….

But the washing wasn’t the lesson.

It was the leading by example.

The doing of and the action of that which would be otherwise considered lowly and less than,
being done to another…
As the recipient of such, that of the the washed,
would be thought to be more highly than the washer….

It was the notion of serving with the serving being of such a lowly but very respectful
and loving manner…that that was the key.
Doing something so lowly but doing it in pure unselfish care and love…

Mother Teresa’s feet are examples of a person who worked long and hard all her life—
her feet do not lie.
She toiled on those feet her entire life…always for others.

Being with Dad’s caregivers day in and day out, assisting as they had to turn dad from
side to side as I had to hold him up on his side towards me just so they
could wipe his bottom, cleaning him after he had soiled himself….

I marveled at the care and thoroughness in which one caregiver in particular
went about her task.

I don’t think I could have done or do what she did and does.
Taking care of the most basic needs of a human—
feeding and then cleaning…much as one does for a baby.

Baby’s are cute.

Old cancer ridden bodies that smell and are wasting are not.

As the days passed, physically moving dad was difficult as he winced and cried in pain…
but the cleaning still needed to be done…
And it was done with dignity, compassion…as

that is the rough, calloused, gnarly example of what love is all about…

“Love one another as I have first loved you…..”

And with the best way always being by example…..

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas,
the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power,
and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet,
drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied,
“not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet;
their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”
For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said
not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should
wash one another’s feet.
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master,
nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Matthew 13:2-17