I had a brief discussion with my 8th grade CCD class on whether God could forgive people who have committed heinous sins. They brought up the usual questions. They mentioned Hitler and the Nazi’s, an abortionist and a murderer. To all the circumstances I replied as I always have, “God’s mercy is bigger than any sin, no matter how heinous and if a person truly repents they will receive that mercy.”
It’s the same message I gave to the Abortionists I met as a sidewalk counselor. It’s the same message I have given to countless people at retreats or talks and when I say it there is great conviction in my heart that it is true.
Many of you probably have the same conviction about the deep mercy of God. But many of you may also struggle, like I do, in understanding how God’s mercy can apply to us personally. For some reason it is much easier for me to understand how God can be merciful to a heinous sinner than to understand that God could have mercy for me.
You see I know my soul all too well. I know how many times I have turned away from the one who I love. I know how many promises and vows I have made to my Lord only to break them within hours. I know that it must hurt my Lord for me to be constantly unfaithful to Him. Just when I think He could never forgive me and take me back I am reminded of His promises and remember that He will always take me back.
His mercy for the repentant heinous sinner is great and blows me away…but His constant mercy to me, His constant willingness to take me back, His constant searching for me when I run away, His deep mercy in my life is all but unfathomable.
But it is real; therefore let us throw ourselves continually into the mercy of God until we sink so deep into that wonderful ocean we cannot leave.
Lord, we thank you for your great, unfathomable, mercy.
Most Gently, the finger of your Justice, in love and compassion, touches the wounds of him who is to be healed.
St. Ephrem the Syrian
A Mountain, A Battle, A Race, A Consuming Fire, A Romance…The Dynamic of a Relationship to a Jealous God
There are many analogies we can use to explain our relationship with God…Not one of them is boring or even casual. We are in a relationship with a jealous God, and He intensely desires every last part of us. Our journey to His heart is anything but easy, quick or monotonous. This is why we describe our Journey to the Lord using imagery like climbing a mountain, fighting a battle or running a race. We need to climb, battle, run and romance our way into deeper relationships with our God.
What analogies could be used to identify your relationship with our Lord? I would suggest to you that if it’s something boring easy or nonchalant then you are lying to yourself about who God is and what he wants from us. Our Lord is a Consuming fire waiting to burn away our selfishness and all that is not of Him. Our Lord is luring us to relationship with Him.
Climb the Mountain…
Fight the Battle…
Run the Race…
Cast yourself into the Fire…
Enter the Romance…
God is Calling…
Only God deserves complete self-abandonment by a man, since only God can wholly contain what God wholly created! Nevertheless, the reckless venture of passionate love, for all its tragic drama, may be the best school for the love of Christ. Witness St. Augustine.
Not too many people can say this but I once spent 10:30pm on Christmas Eve until 6:30am Christmas day in front of an abortion clinic singing Christmas Carols and praying with a few slightly liberal nuns. (Don‘t ask me why liberal nuns were there. I always wonder myself and no it was not a dream. I know this because when I dream of nuns they are always in full habit and kneeling.) Inbetween some of the prayers, we started a conversation and one of them mentioned she was close friends with a famous dissident theologian: Fr. Charles Curran. She told me how great a person he was and what a great contributor to the Church he was and how he had gotten so mistreated and misjudged by the Church. (He was disciplined for his teaching about contraception.) One of the things she said was, “To make a man give up his duties as a Priest and stop teaching because he has “different” beliefs is close-minded. That’s not what “my Jesus” is like.” “My Jesus” It is almost an unbroken rule that if someone starts talking about “My Jesus” and they emphasize the word “My” then what follows will be a load of bull. There is only one Jesus and usually to emphasize the word “my” in front of His name means their idea of who He is differs from the real thing.
I take serious offense to this. Why? Because Jesus changed my life. Jesus was the Son of God who called the apostles, healed Peter’s mother in-law, raised Lazarus from the dead, fed the 5,000 and then died and rose again all because He loved us so passionately. That same Jesus calls, heals and feeds me on a daily basis and he quite literally raised me from a death of sin and darkness. I take offense because I know who Jesus is and I know that He lives today and isn’t just some sage who preached about love and butterflies and then died. He doesn’t just live on in us He lives! He is Life! I take serious offense to this because I know He can change the lives of everyone who meets Him but they have to meet Him, the real Him.
Jesus is not so much mine; I am His. And I want to know the real person because the real, living Jesus changed my life.
Are you worried that your idea of who Jesus is isn’t real? In a certain sense we all go through this. The more we get to know Him the more it changes.
Here are just a few ideas to help you to get to know the real Jesus:
Pope John Paul the Great
Dave VanVickle is a Catholic speaker and writer focusing on the Universal Call to Holiness and Authentic Catholic Spirituality. He is currently employed as the Director of Evangelization for the parishes of the Catholic Community of Wexford, PA.