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Open the Floodgates of Mercy!

Beginning on Good Friday and culminating on Divine Mercy Sunday, the second Sunday of the Octave of Easter, the Church turns her attention to the divine mystery of merciful love.  This devotion in different forms Kazimirowski_Eugeniusz,_Divine_Mercy,_1934 Wikimediais a special gift from the saints of our era.  St. Therese of Lisieux made an offering of herself to this mystery at the end of the 19th Century.   Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity understood her vocation to praise the glory of its immensity at the beginning of the 20th Century.   St. Faustina Kowalska was made the apostle of this devotion at the outbreak of World War II, faithfully transmitting the special prayers she received in extraordinary ways in her contemplation of the Risen Lord, especially the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  Blessed John Paul II was instrumental in restoring this devotion just before he was elected Pope.  He would later beatify and canonized St. Faustina, and declare Divine Mercy Sunday as an observance for the Universal Church.    John Paul II wrote an encyclical about this defining reality of the Christian life.  He also beatified St. Teresa of Calcutta, a living icon of Divine Mercy in action.   He died on the Eve of Divine Mercy Sunday and later was beatified by Pope Benedict on this same feast.    

One of the beautiful truths that Blessed John Paul II illustrates in his Encyclical on Divine Mercy is that logic of mercy only makes sense from the inside, from those who are implicated in it.  Using the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11ff),  he observes that when we remain on the outside of the relationship between the father and the son of the parable, what the father does appears foolish.   This indeed is how the older son looks at it.   It is only when we think about the father’s words and actions from within the logic of his relationship with his sons that the depths of his love is disclosed to us.  In both cases, the figure of the father suffers the misery of his sons.  In the first instance, awareness of the living death into which his younger son had fallen pained his own heart.  In the second instance, his heart is pained that the older son, after all they had been through together, still did not understand how much he had been loved, how much was his.   In both instances, the father’s heart is pierced by the plight of his sons.

Mercy, as a word, is related to the Latin idea of “miserum cor.”   It is a movement of love where one’s heart is pierced over the plight of another.   This pain of heart stirs a deep love that must be shown forth in action.  In the case of the father, he obviously spends his life searching for his sons to bring them home.   The celebration of this season of mercy which begins in the very heart of the Triduum and extends through the Easter Octave is a time to allow our hearts to be pierced by one another’s plights.  This is especially the case for those who have strayed far from the father’s house and who have not yet come to their senses.

If someone wondered about how to access divine mercy for themselves, the only place to find it is the Cross of Christ.  The Paschal Mystery is the threshold to mercy – its unbounded font, its supreme summit.   This may be why the Novena to Divine Mercy begins on Good Friday.   Contemplating the Agony of the Lord is a meaningless exercise outside the logic of mercy.  If we do not implicate ourselves in the drama of God the Father’s love, the death of the Suffering Servant can only be seen as an enigma of injustice.   But with the eyes of faith, one discerns in the outstretched arms of our Crucified Master how the overwhelming misery of humanity (on both the most personal and most social levels) finds its limits in the limitlessness of Divine Mercy.

In the light cast by the Passion of the Lord, mercy demands that we be ready to forgive every debt and trespass, and that we be solicitous to be reconciled with those the Lord has entrusted to us.   It is time to abandon our lukewarm indifference to God and to our neighbor, and to allow our hearts to be pierced as is the heart of God for us.  It is time to make no provision for our fallen nature or its appetites – but in each and every moment to choose that mercy that gushes forth from our Risen Lord.  It is a time to go to confession and to take a little more time to examine our consciences in regards to the way we treat the poor, the needy and the vulnerable in our lives.    It is a time to let go of grudges, bitter judgment and resentment – and if our struggle to let go of these things that bind our hearts is fierce, we must beg for the courage and strength to be able to do so in the face of our weakness.

Why would our merciful Father not hear such heart-felt prayer?  But once you taste mercy, it is never enough to keep it to yourself.  Sobered and humbled before its vast horizons, we cannot help but pray for our brothers and sisters who struggle under the weight of intense suffering and death.   Once we feel the heartbeat of mercy in the Father’s embrace, we feel compelled to seek out those who, like us, are coming home from a long way off.   Our hearts have not yet been pierced by merciful love if we do not feel with urgency the need to run and welcome those who feel they are no longer worthy to be called the sons and daughters of the Father — He who yearns for our homecoming.   This is the time and this the hour in which we must make every effort for their sake.  How can we not join this jubilation that resounds even now in the Father’s House, that infinite excess of love in the bosom of the Trinity?

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About Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. He and his lovely wife, Agnes, are blessed with three children and live in California, where he is the Academic Dean of St. John's Seminary, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Academic Advisor at Juan Diego House, House of Formation for Seminarians. Dr. Lilles worked for the Denver Archdiocese for over twenty years directing parish religious education, R.C.I.A. and youth ministry as well as serving as Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese and as Coordinator of Spiritual Formation for the permanent diaconate. In 1999, he became a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he was eventually appointed Academic Dean for nine years. He is an associate professor of theology and a Board Member for the Society of Catholic Liturgy. Dr. Lilles has provided graduate level courses on a variety of topics including the Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing, Church History, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Direction and on various classics of Catholic Spirituality. His expertise is in the spiritual doctrine of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In 2012, Discerning Hearts published his book "Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer," a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students and contemplatives about the spiritual life. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute. He blogs at BeginningtoPray.blogspot.com

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  • quiltbugjj

    For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have Mercy on us and on the whole world.

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  • LizEst

    Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

    • Donald True

      This is the one prayer I say every morning when I wake up and every evening when I retire.

  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    I pray that all of us, “Family Members” will prepare appropriately to celebrate this great Gift from our Merciful Saviour – the Divine Mercy Sunday. This is what Jesus asked Saint Faustina to do on this Sunday; and He is asking each one of us, too:

    “Gather all sinners from the entire world and immerse them in the abyss of My Mercy. I want to give Myself to souls; I yearn for souls……On the day of My Feast, the Feast of Mercy you will go through the whole world and bring fainting souls to the spring of My Mercy. I shall heal and strengthen them”( Diary No.206)

    As we prepare ourselves by praying the Novena and the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy; as we perform works of Mercy during the Novena period; as we meet Jesus in His Tribunal of Mercy, confess our sins and obtain absolution and Graces; as we attend the Holy Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday and receive Him in the Eucharist; as we venerate His Divine Mercy Image and offer ourselves so as to receive complete forgiveness of our sins and punishments thereof, and Jesus restores our souls to the condition they were in on the day we were baptized, let us remember to take His request to Saint Faustina as our own and offer to the Holy Trinity the entire humankind and especially the sinners,the dying and the Holy Souls in Purgatory

    • LizEst

      We do not even begin to fathom the depths of God’s mercy.

      • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

        LizEst, I am sure by now you know the Merciful Jesus answered our Prayers. The Supreme Court yesterday Saturday the 30th March, ruled that the President and Deputy Preside-Elect were validly declared winners of the Presidential Elections on the 9th of March, and threw out the Petition of their arch-rival. Even though his tribesmen have reacted violently – as they always do when things do not go their way – the Security Forces were alert and contained the situation.

        And as the Supreme Court Judges were reading their Ruling, a brilliant rainbow appeared above the Supreme Court even though the skies were covered by heavy clouds and there was no sun shining. Meanwhile the President-elect was at the Consolata Shrine Catholic Church ready to attend the Easter Vigil Holy Mass.

        Thank you all our “Family” Members for your prayers for my beloved Motheland.

        • LizEst

          Thank you for the news, Mary. What wonderful news to coincide with the Easter vigil. God bless you…and Happy and Blessed and Holy Easter. Christ is risen, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

    • Anthony_Lilles

      Thank you for this quote from St. Faustina’s Diary – yes it is time to bring souls to the Fountain of Mercy.

  • Jeanette

    The Novena to Divine Mercy and Divine Mercy Chaplet are my favourite devotions. As you may know, Jesus asked that this Feast of Divine Mercy be preceded by a Divine Mercy Novena which begins on Good Friday. Blessed John Paul II established Divine Mercy Sunday to be enriched by a plenary indulgence (complete forgiveness of sin and punishment) granted under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Pope) to be granted to the faithful who on the Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from sin, even venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord (e.g. “Merciful Jesus, I trust in You!”). A partial indulgence, granted to the faithful who, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation. I obtained the above information from a Divine Mercy website and wanted to share it with you. Glory be to God for His Love, Mercy and Compassion!

    • Anthony_Lilles

      This is great information and background – thank you.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QJPSTEVMQAO3LALLJEHDGQTXOI Teresa

    The father’s mercy is infinity. Heavenly Father your mercy is endless and I can’t help but to hold tight to cling to your mercy and be greatful for your forgiveness and mercy that it gives me zeal and motivation and will to forgive and be merciful to others. Teach me O Father to be an instrument of your mercy and love. Amen

  • Grtgrandpa

    MERCY (Shakespear’s ‘Merchant of Venice’): “It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest (sic); It is blesseth (sic) by him that gives and him that takes…Mercy is above the scept’red sway; It is enthroned in the hearts of Kings; It is an attribute of God himself….When mercy seasons justice, though justice be thy plea, consider this: That in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation. We do pray for mercy, and that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy (Act 4 – lines 185-199).”
    “When a soul judges its misery greater than God’s mercy, that is a sin which is neither pardoned here nor there, because the soul would not be pardoned depreciating God’s mercy. Therefore this is the last sin graver to God than all other sins that the soul has committed. Wherefore the dispair of Judas dispeased God more, and was more grave to Jesus than was his betrayal of Him (The Dialogue of Catherine of Siena).”

    • Anthony_Lilles

      What powerful quotes from William Shakespeare and Catherine of Siena – thank you!

  • carl641

    My favorite story in the Gospels is in Luke 7 and is the one about the sinful woman who washes the Lords feet and anoints them. She did that because she had been shown mercy and was grateful. I understand why she did that at a very deep level in my being.

    I would not have experienced the mercy of the Lord had it not been for Christians carrying the message to me. Most of my life I had lived a dissolute and sinful life. If Christians had not shown me mercy and taken me under their wings I would never have known of the Lord’s mercy and grace.

    I understand the quote above from John Paul II about mercy being understood from the inside. But that implies that you have to have been shown mercy to begin with (as I was) to be able get inside of it. It’s why we need to carry the message of mercy to those who will listen.

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  • Fr. Terry Kissell

    Thank you for such a wonderful reflection on God’s extreme mercy.
    Beautiful words. It’s nice to see you here, Anthony, my old friend from Good Shepherd days, sharing your wisdom and insight the to the people of God in this forum. Be well! Regards to your family and wife! Fr. Terry Kissell, Aurora, Colorado

    • Anthony_Lilles

      Hello, Father. Agnes and I are both pleasantly surprised by your message. I have the best memories of working with you in Denver. I hope the celebration that begins tonight is grace for you and the people of St. Michael’s – they are blessed to have you – as were we! We remain, united with you in friendship and prayer – Anthony and Agnes

  • http://www.facebook.com/dominic.jenkinson1 Dominic Jenkinson

    Wonderful article, beautiful and encourages me to abandon myself to Mercy

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