Thursday, June 2, 2016

Sacred Heart of Jesus and Divine Mercy

I've been on a roll recently with reviewing my notes from great talks that I've had an opportunity to hear and then typing them up to share here on this blog.  This is the last of my notes and it's very fitting reading for the Feast of The Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Not only is the topic on The Sacred Heart, but the source is well known for his own personal devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and for sharing and encouraging that devotion in others.  What follows are the notes taken from Fr. James Kubicki's Lenten Day of Reflection for Catholics United for the Faith (CUF).

Sacred Heart of Jesus and Divine Mercy by Fr. James Kubicki, SJ, National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer

Some people may wonder if the Divine Mercy image replaces the Sacred Heart image.  The Heart of Jesus is both merciful and loving.  The two devotions go together.  Saint John Paul II said, “Between the first and second world wars Christ entrusted the message of mercy to St. Faustina.  Those who remember know how necessary was the message of mercy.”  “During the most merciless century Jesus appeared with this message:  Jesus told Faustina that humanity will not find peace until it turns trustingly to Divine Mercy.”  How true those words are today and how much more do we need to hear them!

Saint John Paul continues: “Divine Mercy reaches human beings through the Heart of Christ crucified.  On Easter Sunday when Jesus appeared to the apostles he showed his hands and side.  He points to the wounds of passion, especially the wound of his Heart.”

In the image of Divine Mercy, the two rays represent blood and water-this comes right from scripture as the eye witness observed the soldier pierce the side of Christ and out came blood and water.  The water is the clear pericardial fluid of the heart.

St. Faustina had a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  In her diary she quotes Jesus as saying, “I have opened my heart as a living fountain of mercy.  My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world.  For you I allowed myself to be nailed to a cross.  For you I allowed my Sacred Heart to be pierced.”

His Sacred Heart is present in the tabernacle; he remains present to us.  The Divine Mercy and Sacred Heart are so closely bound up and are inseparable because Jesus has only one heart.  When we approach these devotions the differences between these are ones of emphasis springing from the same heart.  If you’re devoted to Divine Mercy you are also devoted to the Sacred Heart. 

Jesus told St. Faustina, “My divine heart is so passionately fond of the human race that it cannot keep back its charity.  It must be released through you.”

Jesus has indescribable wonders of his pure love for humanity.  Again he tells St. Faustina, “All my eager efforts of their welfare meet with coldness.  Tell aching humanity to snuggle close to my heart and I will fill it with peace.  Oh how painful it is to me that souls so seldom unite themselves to me in Holy Communion.” 

Statistics show that Mass attendance has gone down.  People say, “I don’t get anything out of Mass,” but they don’t know what the Mass is all about.  We need to pray that our faith will increase.
The Holy Trinity is the great mystery of our faith.  The nature of love is to want to share love.  God created human beings in his own image and likeness.  Love has to be free.  You can’t put a gun to someone’s head and say, “Now love me.”  God never does that.  He always invites our love and tries to attract our love.  We have at times rejected God’s loving plan and that’s sin.  So God sent his son to save us.

In Saint Pope John Paul’s Mercy Encyclical he says, “The Church seems in a particular way to profess the mercy of God when she directs herself to the heart of Christ.  Mercy is the most stupendous attribute of the creator and the redeemer.”

His heart is also present in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  God is infinite, there is no limit to his love and mercy.  No human sin can prevail over the power of his mercy.  When we don’t go to confession or carry our old sins long after they’ve been forgiven, we limit God’s mercy. 
There’s nothing we can do to make God love us less.  Saint Francis de Sales reminds us that the sun shines on the flowers in the garden with equal intensity.  Saint Pope John Paul tells us that “only a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent on our part can limit God’s mercy.”  We may come to him with a thimble or with our whole self.  God is always ready to give us his love and mercy but we have to admit that we need it.

Mercy is like a good river-it’s only pure as long as it flows.  When the Jordan River meets the Dead Sea it stops and stagnates.  We are called to let mercy flow through us into the world.
When we sin we make an Act of Contrition and then go through the Church for Sacraments.  Christ is the head and we are the body-we can’t have a body without a head.  The two go together.  Jesus is present in the Church forgiving sins.  We need to hear and accept God’s forgiveness.  The only way our sins are retained is if we don’t give them to the Lord.  James writes, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another.”

There is a communal dimension to our lives.  We are part of a body.  We can’t just say it’s enough for me to go to God.  We go through the Church.  We meet Jesus through the priest.  I think the greatest joy that Jesus had was in forgiving sins even more than physical healing.  Jesus’ priority was that it was more important to heal a man deep down.  Physical healings are nice but they don’t last.  Ultimately our bodies weaken and die.  Try to see confession from Jesus’ perspective.  We approach the Sacrament ashamed and afraid but we give Jesus the opportunity to forgive us and heal us spiritually.

Jesus told St. Faustina that confession is a fountain of his mercy.  Blood and water flow from his soul and ennobles the Sacrament.  Pope Francis says that confession is not like going to the dry cleaners.  Our sins are more than stains; they are wounds that need healing.  When you go to confession, think of the great joy you give to Jesus as you give him your sins and allow him to heal you.

Some people say, “What’s the point?  I only confess the same sins over and over again.”  Our sins are just like any habit that we fall into.  Jesus isn’t looking for you to get new sins.  He knows our habits but he wants to take those sins off our conscience and heal us.

Other people say, “Why am I here?  I don’t have any sins.  I don’t know what to confess.” When people go to confession frequently it’s not because they are bigger sinners than the rest of us but because they are more in love with the Lord.  All great saints seem to have so many sins not because they are great sinners but because they are great lovers.  They are sin-sensitive.

Love doesn’t ask for the minimum requirement.  The measure of our love depends on how deeply aware we are of God’s love for us.  Having received mercy in confession we go forth and live our faith.  One of the great works of mercy is to pray for the conversion of sinners, to pray for people who are dead in their sins, who don’t know the mercy of God.  God’s mercy is always there ready to be given.

Last year on Divine Mercy Sunday Pope Francis talked about the need for mercy.  We can feel crushed asking ourselves why humanity’s evil can appear as an abyss empty of life.  How can we fill it?  For us, it’s impossible.  Only God can do it.  When Jesus died on the cross he filled the abyss with the depth of his mercy.  But to receive mercy there has to be conversion.

St. Leopold, a renowned confessor along with St. Pio, was once criticized for being too easy in the confessional.  He replied, “Is it I who is too generous?  I didn’t die for you.  Jesus is the one who is too generous in dying for you.  I am just giving you the mercy he won for you!”

Pope Francis says “May the message of mercy reach everyone and may no one be indifferent to this call.  It is given even more fervently to those whose behavior distances them from God’s grace.  Sooner or later everyone will be subjected to God’s judgment from which no one can escape.  Are we ready?  We pray that all people will be ready.”  God doesn’t send people to hell, people choose it.  It’s their own decision.  The world has to freely accept God’s love.  Eternal damnation is not God’s initiative because God only desires our salvation.  In reality it’s the creature who closes himself to God’s love.

We are called to pray for the conversion of sinners.  This was Mary’s message at Lourdes and Fatima.  It’s Jesus message to St. Faustina as well.  “Pray for souls that they be not afraid to approach the tribunal of my mercy.  You always console me when you pray for sinners.”

What are the greatest obstacles to holiness?  Jesus told St. Faustina, “My child, know that the greatest are discouragement and an exaggerated anxiety.  Have confidence; do not lose heart in coming for pardon because I am always ready to forgive you.”

Jesus desires that we trust in his love and mercy and then we can better share that mercy with the world.  Jesus showed St. Faustina that we can help repair the damage of sin.  We can use our sufferings to offer reparation to God.  As members of the Body of Christ stay close and united to the Heart of Jesus.  We need our hearts to be transformed.

St. Faustina’s diary says: “When a soul approaches me with trust I fill it with such an abundance of mercy that radiates to others. And St. Faustina prayed:  “Most sweet Jesus, set on fire my love for you and transform me into yourself. Divinize me that my deeds may be pleasing to you.  May this be accomplished by the Holy Communion I receive daily.  I want to be transformed into you.”  This is very much like Galatians:  “Now I live not I but Christ lives in me.”
Extending forgiveness begins in the heart.  Fr. Lawrence Jenco, a Servite priest who was the director of Catholic Relief Services in Beirut in 1985 was held hostage for 594 days.  He wrote a book called, Bound to Forgive in which he writes about a man that tortured him: “Toward the end of my captivity one of my guards, a man named Sayeed who had at times brutalized me, sat down on my mat with me. He had recently started calling me 'Abouna,' an Arabic name meaning 'dear father.' At first I was Jenco, then Lawrence, then Abouna, indicating by the choice of names and tone of voice that a change of heart was taking place. He asked me if I remembered the first six months of my captivity. I responded 'Yes, Sayeed. I remember all the pain and suffering you caused me and my brothers.' Then he asked 'Abouna, do you forgive me?'

These quietly spoken words overwhelmed me. As I sat blindfolded, unable to see the man who had been my enemy, I understood I was called to forgive, to let go of revenge, retaliation, and vindictiveness.

And I was challenged to forgive him unconditionally. I could not forgive him on the condition that he change his behavior to conform to my wishes or values. I had no control over his response. I understood I was to say yes.

I said: 'Sayeed, there were times I hated you. I was filled with anger and revenge for what you did to me and my brothers. But Jesus said on the mountain top that I was not to hate you. I was to love you. Sayeed, I need to ask God's forgiveness and yours.'”*

There are many people we won’t like or we’ll disagree with but we’ll have to love and forgive them.  In Mass, Jesus offers himself to the Father for the salvation of souls.  What the head has done, we are now called to join.  When we leave Mass we are empowered to live that mercy in our daily lives.  When we meet our judge face to face nothing will hold us back.  

*The full quote from Fr. Jenko was taken from Fr. Jim's Offer It Up blog.