Blog # 469 Living out our Baptism
Since the year 2000 the Second Sunday of Easter has been designated by the Holy Father as Divine Mercy Sunday. The Feast calls our attention to two of the most fundamental articles of our faith: God's revealed identity as Love, and the fundamental characteristic of all love, which is mercy.
We believe God is totally loving, and consequently totally merciful. To desire and to petition God to be merciful is similar to a desire that water be wet. Our petitions for God's mercy are petitions that we might realize the extent of God's mercy and that we would be worthy to receive it.
In the Feast of Divine Mercy we recall and celebrate the content and consequence of our faith in God's revealed identity as Love, and that the fundamental characteristic of all love is mercy. We do this in the light and power of the love Jesus brought to earth from the Father, manifested and shared with us in the Resurrection of Jesus. In the Resurrection, his victory over death, Jesus conquered the greatest physical evil that is possible for us ( the destruction of life itself), and also the symbol of all of our possible spiritual woes, (sin of any kind).
Each year on the first Sunday of Lent, we pray in the opening prayer of the Mass: Father, through our observance of Lent help us understand the meaning of Your Son's death and Resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives. Now on the second Sunday of Easter we are invited to identify and affirm possible ways this prayer might be realized in God's mercy..
The meaning of Our Lord's death is not totally confined to the physical pain and suffering He endured. Rather, and more importantly, the pain and suffering was an experience and expression of the obedient love Jesus had for the Father and the extent of love the Father and Jesus had for all people.
The physical pain suffering and death endured by Jesus was inflicted on Him by others and by the natural limitations of His humanity. However all of it was endured and embraced by Him in obedience , and thus transformed into an experience and expression of obedient love. In a similar way death and some particular type and degree of suffering inflicted by others and by the limits of our humanity will occur in us. It seems to me in many cases, if not in the majority, Christian believers endure such sufferings to 'make up for' or in reparation for sin.
The motive and experience of reparation for sin was definitely part of the motivation of Jesus in His suffering and death. But it was not the total motive and experience. To understand the total meaning and experience of the Passion of Jesus we must include as an essential factor His total
love for the Father. In turn, if, as our Lenten prayer requests, we are to reflect the meaning of Jesus' death and Resurrection we can expect the grace we need to have the same attitude and response to our death as Jesus had to His. Implied in our prayer, then, is whatever degree and kind of suffering we might be given to endure, at any moment, and throughout our lives, even to the moment and type of death we will experience.
From my experience of observing people and relating to people who suffer from simple headaches on up to arthritis cancer and death, I think this insight into our faith with regard to our Christian response to these evils is rare. As a result much suffering is not identified and experienced in union with Jesus as obedient love and thus is not experienced as transformed into love, and through our unawareness and lack of knowledge God's mercy is curtailed.
It does not seem to be that people reject such an insight but rather they are not aware of it or have never had it pointed out to them. Almost as sad as this is with regard to the sufferings and death of Jesus and our own, it also seems to be true in regard to the good things in the life of Jesus and ourselves to which it applies, such as His prayer and ours, His joy and ours.(Jn. 15: 11). All that we do, not only what we suffer, can and should be done and desired in union with Jesus to His Glory and to that of the Father. (Jn. 17: 23 "...I living in them")). The experience that qualifies us for this comes to us through Baptism, in our new identity with Jesus as members of His Body the Church sharing His life.. The strength and guarantee it can be done comes in the gift of His total obedient love for the Father, shared with us by faith.