The Truth About Divine Mercy

The Incredulity of St. Thomas

In the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday we are faced with the reality of what mercy looks like.

The wounds in Christ’s side, the holes in his hands and feet, show us the cost of Divine Mercy. It is not cheap.

Hidden in a room, with the doors locked, the apostles are afraid and alone. They certainly must have felt defeated. Sin has a tendency to do that. They also must have felt guilty at denying Christ and they certainly were scared that the same wound happen to them.

Dazed and confused by the death and resurrection, would Christ come back to condemn them of their failure at believing in him and his word?

The typical response to being denied, abandoned, beaten and abused would be vengeance or a desire for justice and to get back at those who had done such things, but that is not the case with Christ.

Instead of condemning the apostles he offers peace. “Peace be with you” is offered three times, and even more authority is given to them, the authority of his wounds – the ability to forgive sins.

No condemnation, no reprimand, no fussing on Christ’s part is offered to those who could have rightly been condemned, only peace.

Thomas goes further in his disbelief by stating that unless he places his hands in his side and the holes in his hands and feet, he will not believe. Certainly Christ would condemn him for this further lack of faith, right? No.

I believe the artist Caravaggio gets it right in his painting of the “Incredulity of St. Thomas.” Look at Christ’s hand on Thomas’ wrist. It is as though he has grasped his hand to plunge it into his side like the lance. “Touch Thomas, feel the wounds, immerse yourself in the cost of my mercy that you might believe.”

This is what Divine Mercy looks like. It does not hide the wounds of love but glories in them, for they are the vehicle of our salvation.

We should not be filled with shame if there are times when we do not believe. Many of the twelve did not. We should also not sentimentalize the wounds of Christ, overlooking the cost that came with them. God died. There is no sentimental value in knowing that the author of life died because of sin. It’s quite horrifying.

But those wounds are our glory. We must allow Christ to plunge us into their very depths that we might first come to know their cost and then allow them to bring about a new life within our souls.

Divine Mercy is what this whole lot is about. It’s what we hope for, it’s what we immerse ourselves in. Without it, we’re lost, damned. Let’s not turn away from it because we are ashamed. Let us allow Jesus to grab out wrist and shove our hands into his side that we might allow the eternal blood and water to wash over us.

Jesus, I trust in You!

As I sit here before the Blessed Sacrament, I am reminded of the beauty of our faith. Although this is the first time visiting this parish, I knew that if I could find that small red light, that Jesus was there. We Catholics are lead to that small red light and are in some ways called by it.

I want to give Christ everything.  Sitting here before him makes my heart burn and long for union with him.  There is something to it when one believes he would give his life for the Eucharist.  You simply would not do that with ordinary bread.

I have come to learn that the longing in my heart to visit him in this sacrament begins with his first longing for me.  Everything derives from him and returns to him.  Nothing exists without him.  My response to him is simply my recognizing that call within me and responding to it. That response is prompted by him and returns to him, hopefully not in vain.

Recently, I began bringing the Blessed Sacraments to the homebound. It has been a great joy. One day, at a stop light, I realized something. The One whom creation came forth from, the One through whom all things begin and find their ending, the One who came to suffer and die for us, that we might be redeemed, was sitting on my chest in a pyx and a small leather bag. Through him, with him, and in him all things were created, yet currently He was resting on my chest, waiting to be brought to a homebound parishioner. This realization was both overwhelming and deeply joyful.

We do not talk about the sacraments enough and that is deeply shameful.  A recent survey showed that almost 60% of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  This is a deeply troubling failure on the part of the Church.  We must do better.

If Christ is not present in this tabernacle before me, than what am I doing here? Why am I wasting my time and how nuts can I be worshiping a piece of bread?

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is a reality and one that cannot be denied.

He is here. He is present. And He is asking us to do something about it.

A Slow Return

It has been quite a while since my last post – 8 months, actually. I deleted Facebook, Instagram and Twitter because I found that keeping up with them were draining life out of me. So much deceit and horrible behavior is online and at a time when our nation was ramping up for a Presidential Election, I simply did not want to continue seeing what was online.

There are times when we need to step back from things going on in life and reevaluate those things which are most important. The rapidly approaching season of Lent will help us to hopefully do that more. I am grateful that I was able to step back from most online activity and focus on myself and those that I love.

Thankfully, I have been personally protected from COVID-19 but that does not mean that my family, like so many others, has not be affected by it. There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, a hope that some normality may begin to return in the next six months or so.

Although I have no desire to return to Twitter or Facebook anytime soon, I believe that a slow return to this blog can be beneficial. To oblates, old and new, you remain in my prayers. Please keep me in yours.

The True Face of Love

The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb

To what depths did God go to love us? Look above.

To what depths did God go to save us? Look above.

We sugarcoat the crucifixion. We are all very good at sugarcoating death, but if we are to truly understand the depths of God’s love for us we must look the dead Christ in the face.

Take your time, for his mouth is gaping wide and his eyes are not yet fully closed. His hands show sings of rigor mortis and his face is contorted with pain.

We know this isn’t the end of the story but too often we gloss over the reality of Christ’s crucifixion and death.

If we want to know the ways of God…Look above.

If we want to know how far God went to bring us to himself…Look above.

Don’t gloss over it because it is vile. Gaze into the shattered face of Christ, caress his broken body and touch his green hands and feet.

We cannot begin to fathom the depths of God’s love until we first allow his lifeless eyes to gaze back at us. When we do, we begin to see the depths God plunged himself into so he might recklessly give himself away.

Throw a Wrench

Too much vitriol consumes our world. It’s also consuming a lot of our Church.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the hatred which so easily flows from peoples mouths. It’s exhausting and destructive, regardless of what “side” it comes from.

We so easily vilify anyone or anything that is different from ourselves. It certainly must be lonely up there on our pedestal.

The past few months, years, begs the question…”what the hell is going on?”

I have neither the time, energy, or competence to adequately answer that question but I do know the solution.

We stop. That’s it. We just stop. You would think as adults we know that. You would think as adults we would have learned that infantile behavior is well, stupid and childish. But, I’m wrong. We haven’t.

To LIBERALLY quote St. Benedict, we need to shut up for a moment, go to our rooms, and listen to the only voice that really matters.

If the creator of the universe only spoke one word – Christ – than maybe we should have him on our lips before we ever think of speaking another word again.

Christ calls us to break the cycle of violence. He calls us to throw a wrench into the destructive words and actions we see too often today.

Maybe, just maybe, we should sit in our rooms, turn off the TV, close our mouths, and listen.

It might not seem like much but it is one way we can throw a wrench in the middle of a world which seems to be collapsing in on itself because too many people can’t keep quiet.

On that note, I will take my own advice and end here.

Peace!

A New Journey Begins

The past few months have seen many changes including a recent move. As our world seems to be turned upside down and life seems to bring many struggles, I have found that God is present in ways we cannot begin to comprehend.

Instability seems to be the norm yet we must remember that Christ is the same, “yesterday, today and forever.” We must also remember that stability, a promise we Benedictines make, anchors us in Christ and His Church – 1,500 years of history has shown that Benedictines understand how to ride the waves of uncertainty.

None of us really knows what lies ahead and maybe this is what God is reminding us. Our future is in His hands, not ours. Abandonment to God and his will is really the only way we can keep from getting caught up in the chaos that seems to surround us. That doesn’t mean that anxiety doesn’t creep in but it does help us realize that when we surrender to His will we find new adventures placed in our lives.

I’m not sure where God is leading me at this time, especially since I will most likely be leaving a career in medicine, but I do know that an excitement and peace has come with this new change.

May God lead us all during this time and as St. Benedict says, “may he brings us all together to everlasting life.” (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 72)

An Anxious Oblate

These past few months have been filled with a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about the future. Church’s have been closed, the sacraments have been without (not without some good reason) and thousands have died.

I would like to say that I have personally handled some of these struggles in the best way but that would not be the truth. I’ve struggled with anxiety for decades if not most of my life. Numerous things have happened over the course of the past 6 months where it feels as though life has been one chaotic moment after another.

Prayer becomes elusive when anxiety is through the roof. Blind faith is the only thing one has to hold on to, especially one who struggles with anxiety. These times have certainly not helped. What is a Catholic and an oblate to due when faced with anxiety and stress? Is there anything St. Benedict can help us with?

The promise of stability which oblates make comes to mind. It calls us to stick with it through the good and the bad. It reminds us that God is in every moment especially days like these. When stress and anxiety gets the better of us, stability reminds us that we still have a commitment to the promises we made and how we are to express those promises – prayer, lectio divina, etc… Keeping a routine has been helpful when everything else seems a bit chaotic.

Millions of individuals are currently suffering in ways that I cannot begin to comprehend. There very well may be more suffering and death in the near future. Fear and anxiety can easily strangle the life within us that God wishes to give. Hunkering down in the monastic practices we have learned as oblates is a sure means of keeping our eyes on Christ and not on something we have little control over.

Even though Lent seems to have lastEd far longer this year than expected, we must remind ourselves that we are an Easter people living in the Easter Season. Death, anxiety and fear are real struggles for many yet Christ our life, our peace and our hope dispels/ the darkness we all to often see today.

A lot of the anxiety and darkness was dispelled this morning as I was able to attend Mass for the first time since this began.  I was blessed to be able to carry everyone in my heart who could not attend.  There is a certain grace that comes with not being able to receive the sacraments.  A longing grows in ones heart.  Maybe God is calling us during this time to cultivate that longing for him.  May he bless us all during these difficult times!

Christ in the Pandemic

“Care of the sick must rank above and before all else so that they may truly be served as Christ…” Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 36

I have been quiet over the past few months because I have been sick with a cold that seems to not have wanted to go away. No, I do not have COVID-19! But what I do have is a small sense of anxiety because I work on the front lines of this pandemic and am myself not in the best of health.

I have been seriously considering what I should do. Should I seriously discern whether God might be calling me out of the medical field? Shouldn’t I think first of myself and those I love and not risk being in the midst of something like this? Why chance it? It’s just a job, right?

This evenings reading from the Rule of St. Benedict brought comfort to my soul. Let’s be honest – God did not call me to work in medicine to then abandon me. If I am called to serve Him in the sick and suffering then I must trust that His grace is there with me.

It’s only human to be fearful in situations we can do very little about. The unknown scares us. Our anxieties must be tempered with a good dose of faith in the God who does not abandon His people. Christ is both in the pandemic and in those suffering from it.

As an oblate I am to remind myself of the promises I made. Conversatio Morum calls us to a continual deepening of our monastic way of life. Am I really to turn my back on my sick brothers and sisters when St. Benedict tells me that their care must “rank above and before all else so that they may truly be served as Christ?” In thinking of myself would I not be turning my back on my sick brothers and sisters and essentially on Christ himself?

In sharing in Christ’s sufferings may we also come to share in His resurrection. Let us pray for all medical workers and all those affected by this pandemic. Let us pray that our fasting, prayer and almsgiving during this Lenten Season may be offered on behalf of all who suffer at this time.

Pax!

P.S. WASH YOUR HANDS!

Oblation Anniversary

Signing my oblate vows

Today I celebrate the 4th year anniversary of my Final Oblation as a Benedictine Oblate of St. Meinrad Archabbey. The past 4 years have been filled with many blessings. The greatest being a deeper understanding of what God has called me to in this vocation.

The oblate life calls one to a deeper understanding and love for the liturgy of the Church. As Benedictines we are called to be active voices in the continual prayer of the Church in the Divine Office. We are to be formed in the liturgy of the Church and become voices which praise God throughout all time.

We cannot properly participate in praising God if we have not first listened to Him in His word. An attentive ear is always necessary, for to hear God’s voice one must always be open to how He wishes to reveal himself.

Listening with an open heart requires the oblate to respond. Obedience is found in the many situations of life. We are called to live our lives as best we can and respond to the daily demands. God is not found up in the clouds but in the menial things of life. How do we respond to Him there?

All this requires a certain amount of stability and follow through. One cannot possibly grow or hear God’s voice if they are continually on the move. What are we running from if we can’t possibly sit for a moment to learn what God wants from us?

The life of a Benedictine oblate is one of beauty. The liturgy, the Rule, community, and the word shows the oblate that life is beautiful and should be lived with purpose.

Being a Benedictine oblate of St. Meinrad Archabbey is a happy life. God has not been stingy with His grace in my vocation and He most certainly has not been in showing me how wonderful this calling is.

May St. Benedict, St. Meinrad and St. John Paul II pray for me and all oblates this day as I celebrate with joy my 4th anniversary of oblation.

Looking at life with open eyes

Getting older isn’t much fun. Soon I’ll turn 46. I’m grateful that I am alive and in good health. But this time also brings things into your life such as my mom being diagnosed with breast cancer.

You are forced to face the mortality of your parents and yourself. When my parents go to God, I must realize that I’m next. This is disturbing.

Saint Benedict tells us in Chapter 4 of his Rule to “keep death daily before your eyes.” I never really thought much of death until recently. It is something I need to focus on.

There are a lot of wonderful things that come with getting older, yet one is forced to look sickness and death in the face.

St. Benedict’s practice of keeping death daily before our eyes is a practice that should be done, because if we can face death with peace and the knowledge that we will be with God then we can accept what lies ahead.

How should an oblate react to things like sickness and death? We must realize that if we believe that God exists and the perfect place is to be with him, then we should not weep much over the loss of others or our own sickness because heaven awaits us when we close our eyes to this world.

Thanks be to God!