Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Mercy moment

My pace of blogging in March is what I expected it to be after the first of the year. As I pondered blogging over the last few days it occurred to me that the last time I posted was an early Friday traditio last Thursday. But this thought didn't really prompt me to action. One of my key Lenten endeavors, prayerfully-discerned, was to begin to develop a healthier relationship with being on-line, which is code for using social media more sparingly. Along with Facebook, Twitter, and G+, blogging is social media. But for me, blogging is a form a social media that I find useful and is actually a vehicle for growth.

Once again, beginning 1 March - the Feast of St. David of Wales, on which this year I posted nothing- I began, again, the endeavor to read the Bible in a year. Well, actually, I began yesterday, 7 March, by reading chapters 22-24 of Genesis. But since the plan I am following kind of forces you to start at the beginning of the month, I am reading the chapters for the current day in the morning and the 21 make-up chapters from 1-6 March in the evening at a pace of at least 3 chapters a day. Tonight, feeling a little ambitious and having the time, I read chapters 5-10 of Genesis. Included in those chapters is the well-known tale of Noah and the ark.

It was interesting to consider that both before and after the flood God noted the wickedness of humanity:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them" (Gen 6:5-17- ESV)
After the floodwaters subsided and Noah and his family left the ark for dry land, Noah "built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar" (Gen 8:20-ESV). Upon smelling "the pleasing aroma" of Noah's sacrifice, "the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done" (Gen 8:21-ESV).

This reminded me of the important, I would say necessary, juxtaposition of two verses of Scripture: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight" (Prov 9:10-ESV) with "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not a been perfected in love" (1 John 4:18- ESV). Knowing the love of the Father given us in the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit is what it means to have "the knowledge of the Holy One," which is why we can gauge our holiness by our willingness and ability to love.

Realizing how utterly preachy the last phrase of the last sentence of the above paragraph sounds, let me assure anyone who reads this that neither my willingness nor my ability to love, especially those closest to me, would qualify me as holy by that definition, not by a long shot. It is this realization about myself that helps me to better grasp that God's vow to never again "curse the ground because of man" or destroy every living thing is not conditional on our righteousness, which is what makes it truly mercy. This epiphany of sorts also helps me to appreciate, in light of Noah's pleasing sacrifice, which prompted God to establish his faithfulness as an ordinance, as opposed to a covenant, how important the Church's Treasury of Merit is for us all.

Citing Bl. Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum doctrina, the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, "In the communion of saints, 'a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things'" (par 1475). After all, communio sanctorum refers to the communion of holy people and holy things. The Church's Treasury of Merit, according Pope Paul, "is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ's merits have before God. They were offered so that the whole of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father. In Christ, the Redeemer himself, the satisfactions and merits of his Redemption exist and find their efficacy" (Indulgentiarum doctrina, par 5).

"This treasury," Papa Montini insisted, also includes "the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body" (Indulgentiarum doctrina, par 5).

My mercy moment today did not begun with reading the account of the flood in Genesis, but by praying Evening Prayer for Wednesday during the Fourth of Week of Lent, particularly the responsory to the scriptural reading. The scriptural reading is from the second chapter of the Letter of St. James, which emphatically highlights that faith that is truly faith is made manifest by good works. Following this reading makes the responsory all the more poignant:
To you, O Lord, I make my prayer for mercy.
    - To you, O Lord, I make my prayer for mercy.
Heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.
    - I make my prayer for mercy.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
    - To you, O Lord, I make my prayer for mercy


  1. What plan are you following to read the Bible in a year?

  2. This one. It's not perfect because it does not include the deutero-canonical books, but I will read those after I finish the rest. So, it will take me a little longer than a year.


Jesus and the fire of God's love

Readings: Jer 38:4-6.8-10; Ps 40:2-4.18; Heb 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53 What is Jesus on about in today's Gospel? These are the kinds of p...