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Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Mercy of God

by Susan Fox

“I’m coming up, so you better get this party started.” (Rock Star Pink).

Recently, I told my husband to play the song, “Get the Party Started,” sung by Rock Artist Pink at my funeral (after the Mass is ended).

Why? Well, that is indeed what I hope will be happening to me when I die. I’ll be at a big party with lots of my friends, especially my Best Friends, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I don’t hope to be there because of any special effort on my part – except for humility and repentance.

No, I expect to be there because of the Mercy of God.

It is His greatest attribute.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Abraham had an inkling of this incredible gift when his son, Isaac asked him what he was going to sacrifice on Mount Moriah. They were climbing the mountain on God’s orders to sacrifice Abraham’s only son, Isaac. Isaac looked around and said, “Father, here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the holocaust?” And Abraham prophetically answered, “Son, God himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice.” (Gen. 22:7-8)

That did not just refer to the ram that God provided in place of Isaac at the point of the sacrifice, but that referred to the unblemished Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, and the Son of the Living God Who would indeed be sacrificed for our sins on Good Friday – many years after the death of Abraham and Isaac.

Pope John Paul II cited many of the biblical references for the state of Purgatory in one of his papal audiences while he was still alive. One of those references cited was Leviticus 22:22, which talks about unacceptable sacrifices offered to God. The Jews offered animals for sacrifice. It would be tempting to grab that lame, blind, or sick lamb and offer it to God as it wouldn’t really be much of a sacrifice, would it? But God told the Jews, “One that is blind or crippled or maimed, or one that has a running sore or mange or ringworm, you shall not offer to the Lord.” Even in the area of priests, who make the sacrifice, there was no imperfection allowed as cited in Leviticus 21:17-23: “Speak to Aaron and tell him: None of your descendants, of whatever generation, who has any defect shall come forward to offer up the food of his God.” And then He cited the same drawbacks of lame, blind, malformed, etc.

This did not mean that God needed diversity training. No, it simply means that any sacrifice offered to God must be perfect. Jesus said, “I would have you be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.” This perfection is of the heart, not of the body, or none of us would make it.

“Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with ALL your heart, and with ALL your soul, and with ALL your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

Therefore, the Catholic Church teaches that Purgatory is not an invention of bishops or popes, and it not a place, but a condition of life. In order for a person to be united to God, “every attachment to evil must be eliminated . . . The purification must be complete, and this is, precisely, the Church’s doctrine on Purgatory,” Pope John Paul II said.

Purgatory is not a second chance to change one’s destiny. After death, there is only acceptance or rejection of love – heaven or hell, the pope said. Purgatory is a stage of purification for the dead already bound for heaven on the way to full union with God because nothing defiled shall enter the Kingdom of God.

Purgatory is also a place of Great Mercy. For if this condition of purification didn’t exist after death, a lot of us, who really did love God, but not perfectly, would be falling into hell.

The references to the perfection of the sacrifices offered in the Old Testament also foreshadowed the nature of the One Sacrifice God would offer on Mount Calvary for the salvation of mankind. Did not St. John the Baptist meet Jesus and recognize Him as such: “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29) Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection are the greatest manifestation of God’s mercy.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)

God chose the time of His birth and his own earthly parents. He did not choose to be born in the 21st century with running water and all the conveniences we have today. He choose to be born in neither a rich man’s home nor a King’s castle, though his parents were descendants of King David, whose throne will last forever. He chose humbly to be born in a stable in Bethlehem. Poor shepherds and foreign kings came and told of His birth. Angels sang of His glory. But the important people of his day did not celebrate. In fact, King Herod plotted His death and massacred the innocents of Bethlehem hoping to kill Jesus. “Rachel weeps for her children.” Being born in this manner was a great act of humility and mercy. Anyone born in humble circumstances or amidst persecution can say, "So also suffered my God when He came into the world!"

“Let Mercy come and wash away what I’ve done,” (The rock song, “What I’ve Done” by Linkin Park)

And to receive this Child, the Great Gift of God’s Mercy, we must humbly repent. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the tribunal of God’s mercy, according to St. Faustina, known as the Secretary of God’s Mercy. I enjoyed entering this great tribunal today. The priest who heard my confession had me laughing at myself by the time I got done. What a joyful confession!

St. John the Baptist prepared the way for this reconciliation. He preached repentance and salvation. When a man entered the water to be baptized by John the Baptist, he knew he was confessing his sinfulness. That’s why the Pharisees stood on higher ground and merely watched John baptize. They did not want to admit they were sinners.

But Jesus, the sinless, unblemished Lamb of God, walked into the water and asked John to baptize Him. John was shocked, “Why I am not worthy to tie your sandal!” But Jesus asked him to suffer it for now because Jesus intended to bring all who would receive it into the waters of Baptism with Him, and by His death -- His perfect atonement for our sins -- He would make us free!

Many are afraid to stand in line for confession as were the Pharisees afraid to enter the waters of Baptism with Jesus. If I get in line, or admit my sinfulness, surely that is a painful thing? St. John said God is light, and “if we say, ‘We have fellowship with Him,’ while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth.” (1John 1:6) Further, “If we say, ‘We have not sinned,’ we make Him (God) a liar, and His word is not in us.”

Recognizing one’s sins and repenting of them is a great gift of God’s Mercy and Healing. It brings true joy.

Pope Benedict XVI recently affirmed that administration of the Sacrament of Penance is an “indispensable ministry” that aids the faithful along the “demanding road of sanctity (read perfection).”

In the Old Testament, God gave the Israelites the 10 commandments. Giving people a law to live by was a great act of mercy. That’s why I criticized the “one true god” of the cylons in the TV show, “Battlestar Galactica” in my last posting on this blog. In that work of fiction, this god gave his perfect machine people no laws to live by. Instead, in his name, they committed genocide. That made him a loveless god, unlike the One True God revealed in the lives of the Israelite people in the Old Testament, and the life of Christ in the New Testament. Our God is love. He gives us laws to live by. Our freedom is perfected in love.

The first time Moses brought the 10 commandments down from Mount Sinai to the Israelite people, he found they had made an idol, and were worshiping the golden calf. In his anger, Moses threw the stone tablets of the law down at the base of the mountain and broke them (Exodus 33:19). This was a great, great punishment. Without knowing the law that God has placed in our heart, we are walking around blind. Unchecked, from our hearts comes murder, rape, anger, pride, injustice and all forms of vileness, making everyone unhappy.

That’s why when Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore lost his battle to keep the monument of the 10 commandments in the Alabama state courthouse in 2003; I knew our nation was headed for deep trouble. God Himself had allowed us to remove the 10 commandments from our courthouses. He had taken His law away from us. Misery, economic instability, murder, abortion, euthanasia, sexual excesses, witchcraft and demonic possession have followed. Ultimately, Mother Teresa of Calcutta scolded Bill and Hillary Clinton when Bill was president, warning that nuclear war would be the fruit of legal abortion in our nation.

But the Israelite people repented of their sin of idolatry. Moses prayed for them. And God showed his mercy, giving the people the 10 commandments and the law again. It is interesting to note, however, that the first time they received the 10 commandments God Himself wrote the words on the stone. The second time, he had Moses do it. When the tablets were given the second time, God is praised because He is “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

It wasn’t, “Oh no, God’s will is a big stone about to hit our heads that will restrict our freedom.” That’s what people think when they use the word, “choice,” with respect to abortion. How can you restrict my freedom, a freedom that in later years will tear me apart once I recognize I’ve killed my own dear child? I spoke to an abortion supporter at the United Nations a few years ago, and tried to explain to her that the right to chose life should be give to her little daughter and her elderly mother as well. But she told me that she had the absolute right to decide whether her infant daughter in the womb and her sick, elderly mother should live. It was not their decision. Isn’t it funny this freedom of choice is just for some people and not for others? And she was insulted when I mentioned the lack of choice the Jews had in the time of Hitler – the man who had the freedom to choose life or death for a whole race of people. “How dare you compare me to Hitler?” she said. What is the difference?

How better to understand the Mercy of God than to reflect on the Passion of Christ -- the fact that when Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, hung on the cross, He met two thieves. One mocked him, but the other defended Him while repenting of the sins of his own life. The Good Thief asked Jesus, “Remember me, when you come into Your Kingdom.”

Jesus responded, “This day you will be with Me in Paradise.”

That’s all? Just sorrow and humility and the gates of heaven are open to you a in a matter of hours? That’s right. Even a serial murderer with perfect contrition can bypass Purgatory and go straight to heaven. Jesus has paid the price of our ticket. And the train leaving for heaven is waiting for each of us. All we have to do is repent and love Him.

It’s interesting to note, however, that many Americans have chosen instead to reject God’s revelation of Himself and have adopted beliefs of the New Age Movement, including reincarnation. Do you realize what a heavy obligation these beliefs hide? For under Karmic (New Age) Law, the Good Thief would have had to live 100s of other lives to remove his own karma generated by his sins of thieving. But in one moment of time, the Good Thief met God’s Only Son, Jesus Christ, dying on the cross. And in that moment, he repented of his sins, and begged for admittance to God’s kingdom and it was granted to him immediately: “THIS DAY YOU SHALL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.”

And that, dear friends, is the mercy of God.

I have cousins who have embraced some of the beliefs of the New Age Movement, and one of them tried to explain to me why she had both a statue of Jesus and Buddha on her dresser. She felt they both had wisdom to offer her. However, we have the teeth of Buddha. He was a man. Now he is a dead man. We have no relic of the Body of Jesus Christ. He is God and He has risen from the dead! To know more of the dangers of the New Age Movement, visit www.crossveil.org

Happy Mercy Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter!