Issues Vol. 168 >
Vol. 168 No. 16 - April 22 - April 28, 2017
The focus of Pope Francis' Message for Divine Mercy underlines that God's name is 'merciful' and His Mercy to us is itself an invitation to be Agents of His mercy. He has revealed Himself to us, on many occasions in the Bible as the father and mother's embrace of their child. The understanding of the concept of mercy spelt out in Sacred Scripture, above all, is the closeness of God to His people, essentially through help and protection. This aspect is reflected in the beautiful words of the prophet Hosea: "Through cords of compassion, and bands of love, I ease the yoke on their jaws, and bent down to feed them." (11:4)
We do not have a God who is incapable of understanding and sharing our weaknesses (cf. Heb 4:15). Quite the contrary! Precisely because of His mercy, God became one of us: Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin" (Gaudium et Spes 22). By His incarnation, the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart, explains the Holy Father.
We have often heard how Thomas was adamant in wanting a reality check for the basis of his faith. He refused to believe. And he found his faith at precisely the moment he touched the wounds of the Lord. The Pope reiterates "a faith that is not able to touch the Lord's wounds, is not faith! A faith that cannot be merciful, as the Lord's wounds were a sign of mercy, is not faith - it is an idea, an ideology." But if we really want to believe, we must draw near and touch those wounds, caress those wounds to be healed, so that we in turn can reach out to others to soothe their wounds.
This mercy comes to us as closeness and tenderness, and because of this, comes also as compassion and solidarity, as consolation and forgiveness. The more we receive, the more we are called to share it with others; it cannot be kept hidden or kept only for ourselves. It is something which burns within our hearts, driving us to love and recognise the face of Jesus Christ, in those who are most distant, weak, alone, confused and marginalised.
The Pontiff impresses on us that Mercy never allows us to feel satisfied. It is the love of Christ which makes us restless until we reach the goal; it impels us to embrace, welcome and include those who need mercy, so that all may be reconciled with the Father. Citing scripture, he says that Mercy does not remain still: it seeks out the lost sheep, and when one is found, a contagious joy overflows. Mercy knows how to look into the eyes of every person; each one is precious, for each one is unique.
We ought not to fear, for it is a love which comes to us and involves us to such an extent that we go beyond ourselves, enabling us to see His face in our brothers and sisters. Let us allow ourselves to be humbly guided by this love; then we will become merciful as the Father is merciful, urges Pope Francis.
In Jesus, therefore, we are able not only to touch the mercy of God with our hands, but we are inspired to become instruments of His mercy. It is easy to speak of mercy, yet more difficult to become its witness. This is a path that is life-long and which should not be interrupted. Jesus has said to us that 'we must be merciful as the Father'. It is a lifelong endeavour, exhorts the Pope.
Today the Church repeats, sings, shouts, "Jesus is risen!" But why? Peter, John, the women went to the tomb and it was empty, He was not there. They went with their hearts closed by sadness, the sadness of defeat: the Master, their Master, the one they loved so much had been executed, had died. And you do not come back from the dead. This is defeat, this is the path of defeat, the road to the tomb.
But the angel said to them: "He is not here, he is risen." It is the first announcement: "He is Risen." And then the confusion. The disciples remain closed all day in the Cenacle, because they were afraid the same would happen to them as had befallen Jesus.
And the Church does not cease to tell of our defeats, our closed and fearful hearts: "Stop, The Lord is risen." But if the Lord is risen, why are these things happening? Why are there so many unfortunate things happening - diseases, human trafficking, the exploitation of people, wars, destruction, mutilation, revenge and hatred? But where is the Lord?
Yesterday, I phoned this young man with a serious disease, a well-educated young man, an engineer, and talking to give him a sign of faith, I told him: "There is no explanation for what is happening to you. Look at Jesus on the Cross, God did this with his Son, and there is no other explanation. “And he replied: "Yes, but He asked his Son, and His Son said yes. I was not asked if I wanted it.”
“This moves us; none of us are asked: "Are you happy with what is happening in the world? Are you willing to carry on this cross?" And the cross goes on, and faith in Jesus comes down. Today, the Church continues to say: "Stop, Jesus is risen." And this is not a fantasy; the Resurrection of Christ is not a party with many flowers. This is nice, but this is not it; It is the mystery of the rejected stone that ends up being the foundation of our existence. Christ is risen, this is what it means.
Easter is a time of great purpose and commitment. Jesus on the Cross, overcame His apparent abandonment by God the Father by prayerfully reciting the opening line of Psalm 22: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The rest of the Psalm moves from Absencing to Presencing, from losing to gaining, from complaining to praising, in regard to the mystery of God. The mere recitation of Psalm 22 for help, uttered by Jesus, went beyond his apparent aloneness in death.
Silence does not mean Absence. There is no area of life today that falls outside the Presence and Activity of God. In the Cross, Jesus is found to be Active and Present in the midst of extraordinary evil, suffering and death. He draws good out of evil, salvation out of suffering, and new life out of death. The realms of human failure and tragedy are today revealed to be within the compass of divine activity and transformation. Jesus on the Cross, in His own unique way, captures the paradox in life. Moments in my own life, when God seemed most Absent, were in hindsight recognised as the very moments when God was most Present - perhaps even carried me in His strong arms. In the same way, the silence of God at Calvary did not denote Absence. On the contrary, silence and signs, darkness and light, suffering and joy were the very location of God's creative Presence and Activity.
Our world today, threatened by the darkness of human, ecological and nuclear holocausts, needs a new and creative way to look into darkness. Jesus on the Cross showed us the way. We have to struggle with the God of Jesus against the human forces of darkness. Martin Luther said, "The Christian is someone, who in the face of darkness and death, goes into the garden of life to plant a tree, and knows that he or she does not plant in vain." Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Baba Amte, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Romero - all did the same. Jesus showed by example the Power of One. Others followed, and it worked. One person can make a difference to the world for the better.
It was precisely at the moment, when Jesus apparently felt abandoned by God His Father, that He felt an unexpected sense of deliverance. As if in the hard, sombre labyrinth of necessity, He had discovered liberty and freedom - "Father, not my Will, but yours be done." We human beings too feel an indescribable pride and joy when, within ourselves, we are the conquerors, although externally we feel utterly defeated. Outward calamity is transformed into supreme and unshakeable felicity.
The celebration of Easter signals the advent of springtime.
It is a time when the diminishing blankets of snow
and paler shades of white
make way for a carpet of green.
Bare skeleton tree trunks
now begin to be dotted with green shoots
as another cycle of life unfolds.
Death and Resurrection are the "substance" of nature.
It carries within itself the capacity for self-renewal.
In the Aristotelian connotation of the term,
underlying the accidental trappings of colour shape, form and size
is the 'substance' of things that holds them together.
Beginning with Maundy Thursday,
the day of the Lord's Last Supper, the death of Jesus
and the celebration of his Resurrection
form the essential parts of a Triduum in the Christian Calendar.
It is surprising therefore,
that the Gospel of John omits mention of the Last Supper
in his Gospel narrative.
He replaces it with Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.
It is his way of pointing out
that Self-Renunciation is at the heart of Christian Discipleship.
John writes of the events of the Sacred Triduum
so that we see through the "veil of the descriptions" to its substance.
The three days together form a homogeneous whole
and must be celebrated as a "memorial".
For the believing Jew
the circumference of a "memorial"
goes far beyond the radius of "memory".
We are called not merely to remember these events as part of history,
but to recognise their presence beyond time in the NOW.
When Jesus washes the feet of his disciples,
he is operating not so much out of his human substance,
but out of his "divine substance"
that lies at the core of his being.
The Genesis story of the creation of human beings
emphasises this fact that God breathed into their nostrils
the breath of life
so that they became LIVING BEINGS.
We participate in the divine nature.
We have our BEING IN GOD.
In the Biblical account of Creation, we read how God created the earth before He fashioned humans. Humans came into being only after the earth was furnished with plants, animals, water, and air. While the Bible apparently considers humans as the crown of creation, it also insists on their role as stewards of the created world: “Till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). The Earth Day which has been celebrated every April 22, since 1970, is a fitting occasion to remind ourselves of this primary responsibility.
This Earth Day was envisaged by American politician, Gaylord Nelson, to promote the idea of ecology, to encourage respect for life on Earth, and highlight growing concerns about different kinds of pollution. Gaylord deplored the human carelessness towards environment. Uncontrolled development is depleting the earth’s finite resources. We hardly ever realize that we need to leave something for the posterity.
The Church has always voiced its concern about the way we treat mother nature. Pope Paul VI, in Pacem in Terris, referred to the ecological concern as “a tragic consequence” of unchecked human activity. Years later, Saint John Paul II, in his first Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, warned that human beings frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption”. Pope Francis, who chose St Francis of Assisi, the champion nature lover, as his model, felt the urgency to write an Laudato Si on care for the earth. It is everyone’s responsibility, not just that of the Catholics, to protect the earth.
The earth, which Pope Francis calls ‘Our Home,’ has been over exploited and distorted over the years in a quest for more wealth and more comfort. Inventions and discoveries have brought great conveniences to our houses, but, at what cost. The results of this imbalance in ecology are already showing up in our country itself, the first few months of 2017 have witnessed drought in the south, unusual snowing in the north, relentless rain in the east and soaring heat in the west, all happening at the same time. The past months have been named among the hottest months in the past decades, and mercury is expected to rise in the coming months. That means more deaths due to heat. The agitating TN farmers at Jantar Mantar, the farmers waiting to waive off their loans are a testimony to how the changing environment is causing havoc in the lives of the people.
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