Sunday, April 3, 2016

Hoping for and Needing Mercy

(From John Martin, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

I care about God's mercy because I'm a sinner, which doesn't mean what you may think.

First, a quick review of what I don't believe is true. (March 15, 2015)

I'm not "some loathsome insect," and neither are you:
"...every unconverted Man properly belongs to Hell...."

"...The God that holds you over the Pit of Hell, much as one holds a Spider, or some loathsome Insect, over the Fire, abhors you...."

" will be wholly lost and thrown away of God...."
("Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," pp. 6, 9, 15, 18; Jonathan Edwards (July 8, 1741) (via Digital Commons@University of Nebraska-Lincoln))
Samuel Clemens apparently had a well-defined attitude regarding "converted" folks, and I can't say that I blame him:
"I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell - you see, I have friends in both places.

"When I think of the number of disagreeable people that I know who have gone to a better world, I am sure hell won't be so bad at all."
(Mark Twain, p.377 of Evan Esar, "20,000 quips & quotes" (1968))

"[H]eaven for climate, Hell for society."
(Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Speech to the Acorn Society (1901); via

"I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: 'All right, then I'll go to Hell."
(Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), via Bartlett's Quotations, 16th ed.)

Still "in the Divine Image"

Catholics don't, or shouldn't, think that we're 'loathsome insects' that belong in Hell. We have free will, so going native is an option: and another topic.1

God makes us, and this universe, and God doesn't make junk. (Genesis 1:31; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 31, 299, 355)

We're rational creatures who can decide what we do, like angels. Unlike angels, we are also material creatures: spiritual beings with a body made from the stuff of this world. (Catechism, 311, 325-348, 1704, 1730-1731)

Something went wrong, obviously. Glancing through headlines tells you that.

But we're still made "in the divine image," as Genesis 1:27 puts it.

The first of us — Adam and Eve aren't German2 — decided that they'd do what they wanted, even though it meant disobeying God. Then Adam tried blaming his wife, and God: and things went downhill from there. (Genesis 3:1-12)

We've been living with the disastrous consequences of that bad decision ever since. (Catechism, 396-412)


Sin3 is not a handful of activities I either don't enjoy, can't participate in, or actively dislike.

It is what happens when I decide not to do something I should; or decide to do something I know is bad for myself or others, and do it anyway. It "is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience" — and God. (Catechism, 1849-1864)

I know that I should unceasingly love my neighbors, see everybody as my neighbor, and treat others as I want to be treated. (Matthew 5:43-44, 7:12, 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:31 10:25-27, 29-37)

But I don't. I've got lots of company, and there's a reason for that.

God could have created an unchanging universe, but didn't: not in our case, at any rate. We're in a "state of journeying" toward perfection, but we're not there yet. (Catechism, 302, 310)

We started out in harmony with ourselves, with the world, and with God: but that harmony is broken. Human nature has been wounded: but not corrupted. (Catechism, 374, 400-406)

I can decide to do what is good: but it won't be easy. (Catechism, 407-409)

Trying to do what is right doesn't set me apart from the rest of humanity.

We're not divided into 'good' people who are like me and 'bad' people who aren't. Life isn't that simple. (March 22, 2016; September 27, 2015)
"...But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners...."4
("Visit to the Congress of the United States of America," Pope Francis (September 24, 2015))

A Very High Standard

(From John Martin, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

After the end of all things, I'll be with our Lord in Heaven: or not. (Catechism, 1023-1029, 1033-1037, 1042-1050)

Nobody's dragged, kicking and screaming, into Heaven: so at my particular judgment I could walk away from our Lord. That's a daft option: but it is an option. (Catechism, 1021-1022)

Justice5 is important. So is mercy. (Catechism, 1805, 1829, 1861, 1991-2011)

I hope for mercy, so I try to forgive others. (Matthew 6: 12)
"13 'Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.

"Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.' "
(Luke 6:37-38)
Our Lord set a very high standard for forgiveness:
"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
(Luke 23:34)
Forgiving others doesn't mean ignoring trouble.

Sin isn't just about me and God. I'm not loving my neighbor if I see nothing wrong with someone hurting my neighbor. (Catechism, 2196)

Judging whether an act is good or bad is a basic requirement for being human. It's part of using my conscience. We're even expected to think about the actions of others. (Catechism, 1778, 2401-2449)

This isn't self-righteousness. It's hating the sin, loving the sinner: and leaving the judging of persons to God. (Catechism, 1861)

Before a quick overview of Divine Mercy Sunday, and the Divine Mercy devotion here in Sauk Centre; the best news we've ever had: God loves us, and wants to adopt us. All of us. (John 1:12-14, 3:17; Romans 8:14-17; Peter 1:3-4; Catechism, 27-30, 52, 1825, 1996)

Divine Mercy Sunday

Sauk Centre, Minnesota, was dedicated to the Divine Mercy6 on Divine Mercy Sunday, 1982. That's the year my wife and I married, it's her home town, we moved here a few years later, and that's yet another topic.

The Divine Mercy devotion started in Poland, where Saint Maria Faustyna (Faustina) Kowalska lived.

I've heard that official approval of the devotion took as long as it did in part because her diary was written in Polish — and folks at the Vatican had been reading a botched translation.

We eventually got a Polish pope, Pope Saint John Paul II, who could read the diary in its original Polish. That was good news for folks here in Sauk Centre: and elsewhere.

I put a resource link list at the end of this post.6

Divine Mercy Sunday is the Sunday following Easter, so it moves around the calendar a bit. This year it's April 2, today.

There's an image associated with the devotion, showing Jesus with two rays coming from our Lord's wounded heart; one red, the other white — representing blood and water. (John 19:34)

Sauk Centre's Divine Mercy devotion uses a carving my father-in-law made, based on St. Faustina's picture. A photo like the one up there takes its place at St. Paul's church, when the carving is on tour.

Pope St. John Paul II talked about the Divine Mercy, and what the red and white rays mean, when Sr. Mary Faustina Kowalska was canonized:
"...'Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever' (Ps 118: 1). So the Church sings on the Octave of Easter, as if receiving from Christ's lips these words of the Psalm; from the lips of the risen Christ, who bears the great message of divine mercy and entrusts its ministry to the Apostles in the Upper Room: 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.... Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained' (Jn 20: 21-23).

"Before speaking these words, Jesus shows his hands and his side. He points, that is, to the wounds of the Passion, especially the wound in his heart, the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity. From that heart Sr Faustina Kowalska, the blessed whom from now on we will call a saint, will see two rays of light shining from that heart and illuminating the world: 'The two rays', Jesus himself explained to her one day, 'represent blood and water' (Diary, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p. 132)...."
("Canonization of Sr. Mary Faustina Kowalska," Pope St. John Paul II (April 30, 2000) (Divine Mercy Sunday))
There's a Divine Mercy chaplet and a novena — and that's yet again another topic.

More of my take on mercy, love, and living as if God matters:

1 More about 'going native' — or not:
"go native (of a settler) to adopt the lifestyle of the local population, esp when it appears less civilized"
(the Free Online Dictionary)

"Go native is an expression meaning 'to adopt the lifestyle or outlook of local inhabitants'."

"to go native (third-person singular simple present goes native, present participle going native, simple past went native, past participle gone native)
  1. (idiomatic) To adopt the lifestyle or outlook of local inhabitants, especially when dwelling in a colonial region; to become less refined under the influence of a less cultured, more primitive, or simpler social environment.
  2. (idiomatic) Of a contractor or consultant, to begin working directly as an employee for a company and cease to work through a contracting firm or agency."
As a Christian and Catholic, my duty is "to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom...." (Catechism, 2239)

I'm in the world, but do not 'belong to' the world. (John 17:16-18)

But being 'so heavenly-minded I'm no earthly good' isn't an option:
2 I keep saying this: I think this universe is billions, not thousands, of years old; Earth isn't flat; Adam and Eve aren't German; poetry isn't science; and thinking is not a sin:
3 Sin, defined and discussed —
"SIN: An offense against God as well as a fault against reason, truth, and right conscience. Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the eternal law of God. In judging the gravity of sin, it is customary to distinguish between mortal and venial sins (1849, 1853, 1854)."
(Catechism, Glossary, S)
My take on sin:
4 More from that speech:
"...On religious fundamentalism: 'In any confession there will be a small group of fundamentalists whose work is to destroy in the interests of an idea, not of a reality. Reality is superior to an idea. God, whether in Judaism, in Christianity, or in Islam, in the faith of those three peoples, accompanies God's people with his presence. In the Bible we see it, Muslims in the Quran. Our God is a God of nearness, which accompanies. Fundamentalists push God away from the companionship of his people; they dis-incarnate him, they transform him into an ideology. Therefore, in the name of this ideological God, they kill, attack, destroy, and calumniate. Practically, they transform this God into a Baal, into an idol.'..."
("Pope Francis: 'Jesus was popular and look how that turned out'," David Gibson, Religion News Service (September 14, 2015))

"...Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners...."
("Visit to the Congress of the United States of America," Pope Francis (September 24, 2015))
I recommend reading the entire address:
5 Justice is one of the cardinal virtues. (Catechism, 1805)

Feeling anger, a desire for revenge, is be a natural response to evil. Directing anger at a person, desiring revenge, may feel like justice, but it's wrong. (Catechism, 1472, 1762-1766, 2262, 2302)
"By recalling the commandment, "You shall not kill,"94 our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.

"Anger is a desire for revenge. 'To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit,' but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution 'to correct vices and maintain justice.'95 If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, 'Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.'96"
(Catechism, 2302)
Seeking vengeance is a bad idea, and we shouldn't do it:
"We know the one who said: 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay,' and again: 'The Lord will judge his people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
(Hebrews 10:30-31)

"Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' Rather, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.' Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good."
(Romans 12:19-21)

"1 Therefore, you are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. 2 For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things. ... There is no partiality with God."
(Romans 2:1-11)

"1 2 'Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you."
(Matthew 7:1-2)

"11 If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
(Matthew 6:14-15)

"17 But I say to you, whoever is angry 18 with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, 'Raqa,' will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna. " (Matthew 5:22)

"The vengeful will suffer the LORD'S vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Should a man nourish anger against his fellows and expect healing from the LORD? Should a man refuse mercy to his fellows, yet seek pardon for his own sins? If he who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins?"
(Sirach 28:1-5)
I've talked about justice, vengeance, and getting a grip, before:
6 More about mercy, the Divine Mercy devotion, and St. Mary Faustina Kowalska:

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