” . . . or even just the desire . . .”

I just started reading Pope Francis’ book, The Name of God is Mercy, and I’m already hooked.  Here’s a little bit from the “To the Reader” section by the editor, Andrea Tornielli.  He’s describing Pope Francis’ comments on part of the first draft.

Pope_Francis_greets_pilgrims_in_St_Peters_Square_before_the_Wed_general_audience_on_April_16_2014_Credit_Daniel_Ibanez_CNA.jpg“We discussed the difficulties of acknowledging ourselves as sinners, and in the first draft, I wrote that Francis asserted, ‘The medicine is there, the healing is there–if only we take a small step toward God.’ After reading the text, he called me and asked me to add ‘or even just the desire to take that step.’  It was a phrase that I had clumsily left out of my summary.  This addition, or rather, the proper restoration of the complete text, reveals the vast heart of the shepherd who seeks to align himself with the merciful hear of God and leaves nothing untried in reaching out to sinners.  He overlooks no possibility, no matter how small, in attempting to give the gift of forgiveness.  God awaits us with open arms; we need only take a step toward him like the Prodigal Son.  But if, weak as we are, we don’t have the strength to take that step, just the desire to take it is enough.  It’s already enough of a start for grace to work and mercy to be granted in accordance with the experience of a Church that does not see itself as a customs office but as an agent that seeks out every single possible way to forgive.”

Remember that God loves you

This is so important to know and remember.

A Year in the Word: God Loves You. Remember That!

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The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love. He will sing joyfully because of you.

—Zephaniah 3:17

So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:6-7

More than anything in the world, I wish I could convince people that God loves them. It’s the reason I’m a missionary, the heart of every talk I give, the subtext of every chat I have with a small child: I want every person I meet to have a sense of the passionate, all-consuming love of God that I’ve had some small taste of.

As Christians, we hear that message over and again, but it’s been castrated, whitewashed and ground down until it means nothing. “God likes you,” or perhaps, “God is mildly fond of you.” Love has become some vague sense of approval instead of the stern-as-death, burn-away-your-sins, wild rejoicing love Scripture tells us of. And “God is friendly” doesn’t change lives. It doesn’t heal broken hearts or pull addicts from the miry pit or give anyone a reason to wake up in the morning. It doesn’t make saints.

So if there’s one thing I want us to come away with at the end of the Year in the Word, it’s a conviction that we are deeply, powerfully loved in a way that has to change our lives. There isn’t much you find more often in Scripture than this and many of my favorite verses (Isaiah 49:13–16; Isaiah 62:4–5; Song of Songs 4:7; Romans 5:8; Isaiah 54:10–11 to name a few) are just God finding yet another way to tell your heart how inestimably precious it is to him.

You read the rest here.

“Let Him find you everywhere he may look . . .”

In this Year of Mercy, it is important for you to remember that the Shepherd is looking for you, not just everyone else.  We are all, in some sense of another, lost sheep.  Let Him find you.

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“The Gospel tells us that the Lord went in search of the lost sheep.  How are we to understand this search?  . . . Now if anybody seeks anything earnestly, it is not in one little corner only, but in every corner and place till he finds it.  And so God seeks you–let him find you everywhere he may look, in all circumstances of your life.  Whatever shame comes on you, know that that is the place in which God is looking for a gentle and meek soul; therefore suffer yourself to be constantly trodden underfoot until you have well learned your lesson of meekness.

“God is looking for a poor man; therefore if anyone will take from you your money, your property, or your friends, let him do so, that you may be found poor by God, who is looking for you in just such a state.  . . . Whatever happens to you from friends or from foes, nay from your very mother or sister–no matter how it comes or from whom, all whatsoever that comes to you prepares you for God’s searching and finding.”  (John Tauler)

Year of Mercy: start with yourself

I came across this post about the Year of Mercy and immediately thought of all of you.  Sounds like great advice to me.  (Originally posted at In the Heart of My Home.)

Year of Mercy: Start with Yourself

January 7, 2016

I’ve been looking forward to this new year, eagerly anticipating the calendar change, setting my hopes on a new digit in the “year” column making all things new. I’m not sorry to see 2015 slip away. I hear the drumbeat, steady and rising, propelling me forward: We can do better. We can do better. We can do better.

There are logical places in the calendar year that are invitations to hope. The beginning of the school year is a fresh, unwritten page. Advent brings with it the knowledge that the universal church begins again. The most wide-open space of all is New Year’s Day. Christmas has all the feel of the culmination of the year, and most mothers find the week after Christmas a natural suspension of time for rest and recovery after the effort of making a holiday merry. We tie up loose ends. Then, we look ahead in hope.

But if the year just passed has been a bit of a struggle, hope meets fear at the turn of the year and they wrestle for the vision that will shape the next 366 days (this year has a lovely grace day bonus). Fear threatens it all. What if this year is no different from last year? What if I am forever stuck in this place of discouragement? What if we can’t do better?

Cease striving. He’s God. (Ps 46:10) He can make all things new. Lean in and trust Him. All those things you hope for this new year? All the ways you want it to be better than last year? Put them at the foot of the cross. Trust Him with them. Then, resolve to live anew in His mercy.

Mercy makes all the difference.

We stand before the threshold of a new calendar year, having just thrown open the jubilee doors and stepped into the Year of Mercy. This is the year the church has set aside to wash us in compassion. This is the year the church has set aside for us to do the works of mercy that bring relief to the souls and bodies of our neighbors. Mercy is like oxygen, though. You can’t extend it to others without first being merciful to yourself. None of those resolutions, none of your fondest wishes for this year to be different stand a chance unless and until you live mercy inside your own skin.

That fear of being forever stuck? It is fueled by your unwillingness to meet the merciful Jesus and surrender. May I suggest just three resolutions which you might try, three resolutions which can open the floodgates of grace in the year of mercy?

Give the first five minutes of your day to God. Longer would be better, because this time is His lavish gift to you and you really do want to fully unwrap it, but start small. Give Him five minutes. Spend five minutes, first thing in the morning in His word. Flip open a bedside Bible. Pray Morning Prayer on the Divine Office app. Read the Mass reading of the day and a very brief devotion on Blessed is She. There are many, many aids out there to help you settle into the habit of listening to God before anything else. Those five minutes will fuel your day. Those five minutes will bring about the change you so desperately want.

The second resolution requires a bit more planning and perhaps more courage. Go to confession once a week. Frequent confession helps us to identify those sins we commit over and over again. Beyond identifying them, confession helps us to see the patterns which nurture the sins. For instance, I go to confession and I confess (again) that I am irritable and short-tempered and fearful. In the course of conversation in the confessional, the priest recognizes that for me, sleep deprivation is the near occasion of sin. If I don’t want this year to be the same as last year, I’m going to have to sleep more and sleep better. Further, I am going to have to exercise and to eat right because those two things affect my sleep and my mood and so they affect how I live in the world.

The third resolution is more difficult. It’s the Year of Mercy. Our first instinct is to ask how to bring mercy to others. May I suggest that the best way is to extend mercy to yourself first? Loving Jesus and loving others as Jesus loved us begins with accepting ourselves. My struggle this year has been with disappointment, and that disappointment has been a fire fueled by judging too harshly.

We cannot fully love others unconditionally until we love ourselves unconditionally. We cannot love ourselves until we extend to ourselves genuine mercy. If inside our heads, we have a running critical dialogue with ourselves, chances are we are going to judge others just as harshly. We find ourselves lacking, we see our faults, and then we look around and we begin to identify the faults of others in order to make ourselves feel better. That paradigm keeps us stuck in last year’s muck. When we accept ourselves and when we resist the urge to try to be superior to our neighbor and instead extend grace and mercy, we are open and receptive to Him. At last, we will have the strength and grace we need to effect real change in the new year.

 

And when you cannot stand it

The Year of Mercy begins today.  May you see His mercy for you wherever you look.

Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life;
rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise,
God, whose very own you are,
will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will carry you in his arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same understanding Father who cares for you today
will take care of  you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

St. Francis de Sales

The greater love of God

“God looks with greater love at a soul which returns to him through humility than at a faithful soul which is well pleased in its virtues.”  (St. Mary of Crucified Jesus)

The self-gift of God

None of us are excluded from God’s gift of Himself.

Creation is shot through with the self-gift of God . . . Grace is the initiative of God, his self-offer that is prior to any kind of movement towards him by the creature.  It is sheer gift, bestowed wherever human beings do not finally close themselves against him and refuse his love.

The gift of God is for the poor, the needy, the empty.  It is for those who are too poor to recognize or identify their need.  It is for those who do know their need, and hunger and thirst for him.  It is for those who do not even suspect the depth of tenderness with which they are loved, yet are potentially open.  God is most known as God when he gives to the undeserving, when he fills the hungry with good things, lifts up the downtrodden, transforms hopeless situations and brings life out of death.  His gift is most typically not the crowning of our achievements, but wealth for the bankrupt and power at the service of the weak. (Maria Boulding)

Seeing ourselves as God sees us

” . . . we are used to seeing ourselves as the world sees us–broken, struggling, failing, and frustrated.  But when God looks at you, an eternal and boundless love wells up inside him and he sees past every doubt, every fear, everything you think is shameful or broken about you.  When God looks at you, he sees something more beautiful, remarkable, and amazing than you could ever even wrap your head around.  In the words of St. John Paul the Great, ‘We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son’ (Pope John Paul II, 2002).”

(Gregory K. Popcak, Broken Gods)