Friday, April 25, 2014

Divine Mercy Sunday: A Day and A Message of Hope

Credit:  www.turnbacktogod.com
This Sunday, April 27, is Divine Mercy Sunday. This year it is even more special than usual because two popes - John XXIII and John Paul II - will be canonized that day. Divine Mercy Sunday was instituted by soon-to-be St. John Paul II in the year 2000. Saint John Paul II gave us this Feast in compliance with the explicit request in 1931 by Jesus Christ Himself to St. Faustina, who was canonized on that first official Divine Mercy Sunday, April 30, 2000.

Why did Our Lord want to give us this feast day? Dr. Robert Stackpole explains on the website thedivinemercy.org in an article entitled, "Divine Mercy Sunday", which you can read HERE,
First, why did Jesus ask the Church, through St. Faustina, to institute the Feast of Mercy? As recorded in Diary entry 965, Jesus said to Faustina:
Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them ... the Feast of My mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity. Secretary of My mercy, write, tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice is near.
In short, the main reason that Jesus wanted this Feast to be established is that He wanted to "throw a lifeline," so to speak, to souls who are perishing, souls who are drowning in sin and despair. That lifeline is this Feast, with all the tremendous promises of graces and benefits which Jesus attached to it. As He said to St. Faustina, He wanted to make this Feast day a special "refuge and shelter" for the "consolation" of souls. In Diary entry 1517, Jesus said: "the Feast of My Mercy has issued forth from My very depths for the consolation of the whole world." In short, Jesus gave us this Feast as both a comfort and a lifeline for souls.
As I have posted previously, I believe Divine Mercy is the essence of the message of the Catholic Church in the world today.  In our human reasoning we look at the world around us brimming over with evil and human suffering, from abortion to war to euthanasia to immorality, the destruction of the family, and on and on and on, and our answer to it is to raise our voices in condemnation and let everyone know that unless they repent they are headed to the lowest depths of hell.

But in the 1930's, Jesus - who has a much better and clearer picture of the evil in this world than we can ever have - appeared to a unknown and seemingly insignificant little nun in Poland and explained to her why He wanted the Feast of Divine Mercy to be instituted by the Church, as quoted by Dr. Stackpole.  This message from Jesus Christ is the exact opposite of condemnation:
My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the First Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.  (Diary 699)
Through St. Faustina, Jesus told the world that He is not here to condemn us but to pour His Mercy upon us if only we will say Yes to Him.  In fact, He tells us that "mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy."  Jesus Christ says plainly here that the only path to peace is through His Mercy.  It is only when we accept the loving forgiveness of Jesus Christ, when we wash our souls in His Precious Blood and allow Him to change our minds and hearts that we will find true peace.   He does this not through words of condemnation but through pleas to accept His Mercy.

One of the devotions given to St. Faustina by Jesus is the Divine Mercy Novena, which starts on Good Friday and culminates on Easter Saturday.  Our Lord told St. Faustina:
I desire that during these nine days you bring souls to the fountain of My mercy, that they may draw therefrom strength and refreshment and whatever grace they need in the hardships of life, and especially at the hour of death. 
On each day you will bring to My Heart a different group of souls, and you will immerse them in this ocean of My mercy, and I will bring all these souls into the house of My Father. You will do this in this life and in the next. I will deny nothing to any soul whom you will bring to the fount of My mercy. On each day you will beg My Father, on the strength of My bitter Passion, for graces for these souls.  (Diary 1209)
The following are the souls for whom we are to pray each day (as taken from the EWTN website):
DAY 1 (Good Friday) - All mankind, especially sinners
DAY 2 (Holy Saturday)- The souls of priests and religious
DAY 3 (Easter Sunday) - All devout and faithful souls
DAY 4 (Easter Monday)- Those who do not believe in Jesus and those who do not yet know Him
DAY 5 (Easter Tuesday)- The souls of separated brethren
DAY 6 (Easter Wednesday)- The meek and humble souls and the souls of children
DAY 7 (Easter Thursday)- The souls who especially venerate and glorify Jesus' mercy
DAY 8 (Easter Friday)- The souls who are detained in purgatory;
DAY 9 (Easter Saturday)- The souls who have become lukewarm.
This novena covers every soul on earth.  And as Jesus commanded St. Faustina, we are to "immerse them in the ocean of My mercy."  Our Lord is doing everything He can to remove the great barriers that exist between mankind and Himself, barriers that we created but which can be torn down and erased by turning to His Great Mercy.  As Jesus said to St. Faustina, "bring souls to the fountain of My mercy, that they may draw therefrom strength and refreshment and whatever grace they need in the hardships of life, and especially at the hour of death."

Further, Jesus says that "You will do this in this life and in the next."  The saints in heaven and even the poor souls in purgatory continue to intercede for us just as they did when they were here on earth.  To be one with Christ is to be one in His Great Sacrifice on the Cross, to join with His Sorrowful Passion, as we pray in the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Do we bring souls to Jesus Christ through words of condemnation?  Are those in heaven sitting before Christ and condemning us?  Or are they interceding with words of love and mercy on our behalf?  If in the next life we will be interceding on behalf of sinners with mercy and compassion, how can we possibly believe that our actions should be any different while we are on earth?  Is it really our job as followers of Jesus  Christ to confront with words of condemnation those who are entrapped by their sins and completely unable to break free on their own?

Our Lord did not direct St. Faustina to confront sinners.  He told her, and us, to bring sinners to His Mercy through our prayers, always invoking the Passion of Jesus Christ.  He told us, through St. Faustina, to be willing to sacrifice for others, joining our sacrifices with His Great Sacrifice on the Cross. 

It is so easy to get on our high horse and look down on the rest of the world, pointing out their sin and telling them they are a bunch of pathetic losers.  But that is not why Christ died that horrible, bloody death on the Cross.  He took on our sins and went to His Cross to show the world how much He loves all of us.  We who have accepted that great Mercy into our lives and been transformed by it, are now given the great responsibility and duty to spread this message of Mercy and Love to others.  

Unfortunately, that is not how some people see it. Some people think that this idea of Divine Mercy, despite the fact that these are direct commands from Jesus Christ, is "pampering sinners". Michael Voris once again sadly gives us the perfect example of this thinking. He just did a Vortex episode entitled, "Easter Division", which you can watch HERE. In this Vortex, Michael Voris makes the argument that the purpose of the Church is, believe it or not, to cause division:
Know this and learn it well – if the world .. meaning your family, friends and neighbors who live in opposition to the truths of Christ don’t see a stumbling block in you, a cause of division – then you are living your faith as a coward – as Judas.
You have made compromise with the world. You are appeasing the Prince of this world at the cost of worship to your King.
You are a dead or wounded soldier, brought down by your own lack of fidelity and cowardice to confront the kingdom of Hell.
Really, Mike?  Just how do you reconcile Our Lord's words to St. Faustina, that we should be praying for the world and "immersing them" in the ocean of His Mercy, with being a "stumbling block" and causing division?

St. Paul gave the exact opposite message as he wrote in Romans 14:13:
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
In fact, Voris would probably condemn St. Paul for writing the following as recorded in II Cor. 6:3:
We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.
What did St. Paul do in his ministry?  Verses 4-10:
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
In other words, St. Paul suffered on behalf of sinners in order to bring them to the saving message of the Gospel.  And as he wrote, he acted "in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God."  No words of condemnation or division.

Those who would agree with Michael Voris about causing division will no doubt point to subsequent verses in II Corinthians 6: "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" (verse 14) St. Paul also quotes from the prophets, "Come out from them and be separate" (verse 17). However, to use this to justify causing "division" is a canard because there is a big difference between being "yoked" with unbelievers, i.e., taking part in their sinful conduct, and condemning unbelievers. Condemnation is a stumbling block to people, and St. Paul says he will not do that. How can we expect to bring people to Christ when we are pushing them away with our words?

This is certainly not to say that Paul never verbally corrected anyone. However, the people he corrected were those within the Church who should have known better, such as the Corinthians who allowed and even approved of a blatant sinner within their midst (I Corinthians 5). Once the Corinthians accepted St. Paul's correction, he encouraged them with love and kindness. And St. Paul further told the Corinthians that they should show love and acceptance to those who offend. From II Corinthians 2:
5 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.
The difference between separating ourselves from the sin of others and condemning them is further clarified in James 4:11-12:
Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
Following is Michael Voris' answer to the above scriptures:
The Church of Nice goes on and on incessantly about love of neighbor, but at the end of the day, is perfectly content to let their neighbor be damned for everyday offenses against almighty God like contraception, adultery, homosexuality, and so forth.

See, the Church of Nice isn’t really all that Nice. It’s all just a show. They don’t like the Church Militant because they are convicted in their consciences of their pitiful lack of fight – of militancy.

And if there is one thing that the Church of Nice detests, on principle and in practice – it is division. And here is where the adherents of the Church of Nice are dead wrong. In order to achieve the unity that Our Lord begged for, there must be division.
Michael Voris conflates mercy and compassion with being "perfectly content to let their neighbor be damned for everyday offenses against almighty God like contraception, adultery, homosexuality, and so forth."  That is a completely deceptive and false statement.  Using this logic from Michael Voris, we would have to say that Jesus Christ was content to let people be damned when He refused to condemn those who were crucifying Him and instead said from the Cross, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."  Mercy does not mean accepting people's sins.  It means praying that sinners will accept the love and forgiveness of God.  That is what the Divine Mercy Novena is all about.

Michael Voris derisively uses the term "Church of Nice" (a term many Catholics, including myself at one time, have unfortunately adopted from Voris) to describe those who do not agree with the absurd and destructive philosophy that unity is born of division.  Michael Voris, if he was to be totally honest, would most certainly put St. Faustina, St. Paul, St. James and even Jesus Christ Himself in the category of "Church of Nice" because they preached against attacking one another in the Church.

Voris gives us St. Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost as an example of one who is not afraid to cause division:
The very first words spoken publicly about the resurrection were charges of complicity leveled against the Jews by St. Peter himself at Pentecost.

Talk about saying something divisive right out of the gate. No political correctness there with him, no siree. He came right out with it – and not just once – but TWICE.

Men of Jerusalem – this Jesus whom you crucified God raised from the dead!
Voris doesn't give us any exact quotes from scripture, so I will. St. Peter starts out by quoting from the prophet Joel, a very upbeat and encouraging message (Acts 2:17-21):
‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
No words of condemnation or division there, just words of hope: "and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." No one is left out of this message of hope and salvation. Everyone is included.

St. Peter then goes on to explain to the people what had happened only a little more than 50 days prior to that day on which he spoke:
Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
Do you hear any words of condemnation there?  Yes, St. Peter did say that these Jews were complicit in putting Christ to death, but he also said this was done according to "God's deliberate plan and foreknowledge."  St. Peter explains that "it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him."  St. Peter couched the words of accusation with words of hope.

Then, in verse 36, St. Peter tell the Jews the good news that this Jesus whom they crucified is their Lord and Messiah:
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.
As the very next verse, verse 37, tells us, "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' " It was not words of condemnation that brought the people to this point. It was being told that yes, they are sinners, but they have a great Lord and Messiah who gave everything to save them from their sin. St. Peter, in this famous sermon, was immersing the people in the ocean of Christ's Mercy, just as Our Lord told St. Faustina almost exactly 2000 years later.

In response to the question of what they should do, St. Peter gave them the beautiful Gospel message He had received from Our Lord (Acts 2:38-39):
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.
Yes, St. Peter told the people that they were sinners and responsible for the death of Jesus Christ, but the primary message from St. Peter was that Christ had died and been resurrected in fulfillment of God's Great Divine Plan to save mankind from their sins.  This is the message of the Gospel, the Good News that we are to spread around the world.   Contrary to the assertions of Michael Voris, there were no words of division in St. Peter's message but exactly the opposite - words of encouragement, hope and unity.

We need to ask ourselves, is the work of a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, one of confrontation leading to division?  Or is it to bring the healing message of mercy and salvation?  Do we look at our Lord on the Cross and see condemnation and division, or do we see Divine Mercy and Love?  What is it that we want to bring to the world?  What is the message that will save the world?  Michael Voris tells us that everything he does is to save souls.  Yet, it seems he wants to do it his way, with harshness and condemnation, and he ridicules anyone who doesn't agree with him.

This Sunday, April 27, 2014, two popes will be canonized.  They were both popes who did much to spread the message of mercy and hope of salvation to the world.  They both saw a world that is in immense pain and suffering, and they sought to bring healing.  These two popes lived the following command from Jesus Christ as told to St. Faustina,
I desire that priests proclaim this great mercy of Mine toward the souls of sinners. Let no sinner be afraid to approach Me.  (Diary 50)
Both John XXIII and John Paul II embodied the following passage from the diary of St. Faustina:
In the Old Covenant I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My People. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force Me to do so; My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice. Before the Day of Justice I am sending the Day of Mercy.  (Diary 1588)
Jesus Christ Himself tells us that "My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice."  We need to take these words to heart.  It goes against everything that we humans regard as "common sense" that as the world descends into evil in a way that could have never been envisioned in history, Jesus Christ comes to us not with words of condemnation, but with the great message of His Mercy.  He says He does not want to punish us.  This is the message of Jesus Christ:

5 comments:

  1. I have never been a fan of brother Michael Voris. In fact, I used to post detractions on errors I found from his Vortex episodes on his ChurchMilitantTV facebook page on a regular basis until he had me blocked.
    A classic example of what I would point out was taking statement out of context, not quoting the entire passage for the fuller meaning and better understanding. However, he usually misquotes Bishops and Priests, not Saints and our first Pope.
    Also concerning was the choice of words Michael Voris choose that were almost in exact direct opposition of the very words of St. Paul. If that in itself is not a wakeup call for his followers, I am not sure what would be.
    Another error that I would humbly point out the Easter Division Vortex would be to label Judas as a conformer to the world. I do not believe that Judas wanted to conform to anyone, not even to Jesus. I think Judas wanted our Lord to be a Messiah that would liberate the Jews from oppression, from Roman rule. Jesus was in fact liberating all people from the oppression on sin. I do not believe this was not what and how Judas perceived it should be, and I believe that he thought that he knew better than anyone else. Further, I feel that because our Lord did not conform to Judas, Judas felt betrayed by our Lord and then he betrayed our Lord in turn.
    No, I think the sin of Judas was pride; pride in thinking that his way was the only way and that everyone who thinks otherwise is lost.
    Sister Catholic in Brooklyn, I love how you close your articles with a bang and what a bang it is from St. Faustina's Diary 1588, "My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice."
    The hand of the Risen Christ, His actual hand pierced for our offences, is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice.
    What are we actually saying about ourselves, if we are so eager to take up that sword when His is not?

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    1. Thank you again, Mr. Clark, for your insights. They are always welcome. I actually use to be a big fan of Voris, handing over my $10 every month to support him. That is the kind of transformation, thanks to the Grace of God that I have gone through. It seems to me that Voris is subtly trying to destroy the Church, although I would never accuse him of consciously trying to do this. But just recently he did a Vortex in which he called for the mass resignation of bishops:

      "Hopefully – here’s what will happen as a result of all this. Today’s leaders will realize that they have lost the fight for the faith playing by the old rules and that a radical new plan must be implemented. A plan they neither have the vision for nor clarity of mind to execute. They will come to their senses and realize that they must lay aside their office and openly resign en masse."

      The bishops are the ones who give us our priests, and the priests are the ones who absolve our sins and give us the other sacraments. We can't have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass without the bishops and priests. No bishops, no priests, no church. Who is really behind this?

      Truly, some of the worst enemies of the Church are those who claim most to support her.

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  2. I think our Lord put it even more directly. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Which means the reverse can also be true ... if we aren't, we won't. Something to really think about.

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  3. LOVE your blog...it has been a true help in me regaining my sense of charity.

    The parish I go to (which my dad's the deacon at) held their Divine Mercy Sunday Holy Hour yesterday; seeing how our pastor is part of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, this is a big deal for us. After we all prayed the Chaplet, he gave a homily with one of the best analogies I've heard in quite some time; retelling the story from 2 Samuel about the elderly King David, his rebellious son Absalom, and the general Joab.

    During Absalom's rebellion, he was all high and mighty (with some nice hair to boot), all while wreaking havoc against his father's house. Now, King David had already given his orders for them not to do the slightest harm to Absalom, but to be gentle to him. Soon after, Absalom, while riding on his mule, got his hair caught in the tree branches, hanging between heaven and earth (this was down the Mount of Olives, in what is believed to be the Garden of Gethsemane). One of the soldiers in Joab's troop saw this, and reported the news back to him, Joab would've given him fifty pieces of silver and a hero's belt, but the soldier said "I wouldn't do it even if you'd given me a hundred pieces of silver; the king said to 'protect Absalom for my sake.'" Joab decided he didn't have time for this, so he went and, with all his troops, finished off Absalom himself. Although Joab went back to King David gloating about the news, King David went into deep mourning, "Absalom! Absalom, my son! If only I had died in your place, Absalom, my son!"

    Now earlier it says that David was a man after the Lord's own heart, and the Lord swore that his throne would last forever (of course, fulfilled by our Lord Jesus Christ as King of all creation, Whose reign will last forever). So this helps us see the situation of every soul in mortal sin; having declared God their enemy, they hang between heaven and hell. However, the King's mercy knows no limit, which is why He wants anyone who deals with a soul in such condition to treat that person with kindness and charity, so that they may see His mercy and repent and turn back to Him, for this King DID die in our place, taking my sins and yours upon Himself during His sorrowful Passion.

    So, where does that leave Joab? I was thinking about your post and that perhaps Michael Voris is just one of many Joabs out there, who is a great tactician and could be of great service to the Church (and thinks he actually is), but lacks the Heart of a King. I know you say how you used to be one of these, and I thank our King for giving you a heart like unto His, and pray that the other bloggers in the world soon open themselves to receive that new heart and the Mercy therein.

    "Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine!"

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment. I never thought of the story of Absalom in that light before. Truly, that does show the great mercy in David. As we say in one of the prayers of the chaplet to God, "Your Holy Will which is love and mercy itself." God does not have mercy and love, He IS mercy and love, and if we are to become like Him, we must be the same. I believe the lack of mercy and love on the part of the Pharisees is why Jesus condemned them. What good is it to obey laws but not have love towards one another?

      I think it was St. John of the Cross who said, we will all be judged by how much we love. That is the bottom line.

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