SOL – April 2016

A Cursillo Day of Reflection on Mercy

“Parched and Drenched”

Pope Francis meeting with the European Cursillo Movement Rome by Claudette Dachowski
Parched and Drenched by Fr. Marc Montminy
Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy by Jim Fortin
Pope Francis’ Homilies on Mercy by Dcn. Geoff Ashman

Pope Francis’ Meeting with the European Cursillo Movement Rome –

April 30, 2015 –Claudette Dachowski

Pope Francis began his address by welcoming all of them to Rome for their Ultreya, a name that continues the ancient greeting used by pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago de Campostela, encouraging others to stick together and keep going onward!!

Ultreyas and other group meetings are truly fraternal gatherings of prayer, celebration, and sharing of our experiences of Christian life. Today’s Day of Reflection is no different- we gather as Christian brothers and sisters to pray, to celebrate Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday, and to share what Mercy means in Christian life today.

I would like to briefly share 5 topics that the pope discussed with the gathered Cursillistas:
1. You are called to witness
2. You encounter Christ in the Sacraments and in the Word and in the Church
3. Put the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy into practice
4. Evangelize through Friendship
5. Be faithful to the Charism, but go beyond to meet the challenges in today’s culture/values.

1. We are called:
We are called, chosen- we did not choose Christ, but He chose us (John 15:16) to continue today to bear the fruit of the Cursillo charism that was given to Eduardo Bonnin Aguilo and Bishop Juan Hervas y Benet of Mallorca in the 1940’s. They did it through paternal concern, recognizing that they needed to reach out to their peers who had a desire in their hearts for the Truth. Just as they were called to be pioneers/ missionaries, we are called to be missionary disciples, to take the initiative to courageously draw close to people, to share our lives and accompany them on their own journeys of faith with respect and love. We are NOT called to proselytize (to convert, recruit, or induce people to convert and join our faith, cause, institution, or party), but to witness and proclaim the Good News of God’s Love by drawing close to family, friends, acquaintances, etc, and also to the “faraways”.. By helping them to have a personal experience of Christ’s love we are all transformed and freed from sin. This is Grace!! A free gift from God that we freely accept with gratitude.

Through dialogue and sharing our lives, we offer friendly testimony as to what the Lord has done for us, with such tenderness and goodness, and MERCY.

2. We encounter Christ and our Merciful Father in the Sacraments and the Word and in the Church.
We encounter Christ in all the Sacraments, but especially in the Eucharist and Reconciliation. IN the Mass, the memorial of His sacrifice, He gives us His true Body and Blood, which He gave on the Cross to redeem Humanity.

In Reconciliation, Jesus welcomes us with all our brokenness and sins, and gives us a new heart that is capable of loving like He loves. Each time we return to the Sacrament and ask for forgiveness, He forgives, because He knows we are weak and sinful. “We have the joy of being sinners! All of us. He knows this. And He always receives us with love.”

We also encounter Jesus in the Holy Scriptures. When we meditate on the Word of God, esp. through lectio divina, we draw closer to Him and what He is asking of us. Pope Francis recommends carrying a small copy of the Gospels with us, much like our Pilgrims Guides , and read it daily, esp. while we’re waiting for the dentist, our cars at the garage, whatever! Becoming familiar with the Word and calmly thinking/meditating on it will keep us close to the Lord. We can listen better if we know His voice! (Sheep and Shepherd relationship)

Finally, we encounter the love of Christ in the Church which bears witness through various activities to the charity of God and the love of Jesu sin the works of Mercy.

3. The Works of Mercy:
The Pope asked the Cursillistas if they could recite the 7 Works of Corporal Mercy and the 7 Works of Spiritual Mercy, and he had them raise their hands if they couldn’t. Many raised their hands, so I won’t ask you to do this to keep face. I think many of us know the Corporal works, but not so much the spiritual ones.

Here they are:
Corporal- Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Clothe the Naked, Shelter the Homeless, Visit the Sick and Imprisoned, Bury the Dead.
Spiritual- Counsel the Doubtful, Instruct the Ignorant, Admonish Sinners, Comfort the Afflicted, Forgive Offenses, Bear Wrongs Patiently, Pray for the Living and the Dead.

Jim will be discussing these with all of us at some length, so I won’t take much time here, but Pope Francis encouraged them and all of us to study the works of mercy and PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE!!

4. Evangelize through Friendship:
Everyone in the Church should have the goal/desire to help others to discover and tough the infinite mercy of God. Some may think that God is too far away or that they’re too sinful and going to Hell for God to forgive them and love them. This is the work of persuasion, my friends, that we all need to pursue with our friends, in Cursillos, because God wants to “party with us!” Yup, He wants to party with us just He did in the parable of the Prodigal Son/Father. He throws parties when the sinner approaches. All of Heaven rejoices (parties) when one sinner repents!! Boo to you Billy Joel (Only the Good Die Young- he wants to laugh with sinners than cry with saints).

The Cursillo’s approach to evangelization was born out of an ardent desire for friendship with God, which is the source of our friendship with our brothers and sisters. From the very beginning, it was understood that only within authentic relationships of friendship would it be possible to prepare and accompany a person on his or her journey of conversion, discovery of the beauty of a grace-filled life in the grace of God, and finally becoming an apostle in daily life. That’s the charism that must be respected and nurtured.

The pope acknowledges that the current social norms of isolation and anonymity, and social networking which can be anti-social in many ways, can be a challenge to provide welcoming atmospheres to make friends, but we need to persevere and be persistent.

He tells us that there will always be problems with developing authentic friendships, but we need to allow a sense of friendship to take root and grow- to maintain a climate of friendship and fraternity as we pray each week/month and share our experiences, successes and apostolic failures in Group Reunions and Ultreyas.

He shared a story about an atheist mother who came to Jesus on her death bed many years later because of the love of her committed Christian daughter who witness to her that she was happy because she believed in Jesus. She baptized her mother on her death bed, who fell into a coma and died 2 hours later! These are God’s miracles, not proselytizing.

So, Pope Francis tells us to be patient, sow in friendship because the process takes time. Crock pot vs. microwave, I always say.

5. Be faithful to the Charism of Cursillo, but go beyond
He advises us to be open to some changes in the process while remaining true to the Charism, because life is not easy. He mentions Argentina and how the work week has expanded into the weekends while wages and jobs are lost. He asked what Christians did during Naziism and Communism? They found ways to catechize and celebrate Mass underground, so he tells us to find ways to continue the Charism of Cursillo. Don’t let external circumstances stop us!!

He tells us to trust the Holy Spirit to keep the zeal and the fire of the Spirit alive. He will motivate and inspire us to go beyond our comfort zones and bring the Gospel to others, without proselytizing. Paganism is growing, and sadly, some Christian communities never speak about the life of grace, the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity, or the presence of the Living God among us, so we must evangelize at all costs- to show the beauty of the love of God who saves us and makes sense of our lives.

BE humble, gentle, trust the guidance of Holy Mother Church, the Blessed Mother, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus.

Don’t’ be so rigid in the charism that you make it a museum piece, which is not useful in today’s society. Interpret the charism, but keep it authentic and growing to meet the challenges of today’s world.

Pray for Pope Francis and Don’t Forget to Learn the 7 Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
Amen and De Colores.


Parched and Drenched – Fr. Marc Montminy

Josephine was 10 when slave traders abducted her from her family in the Sudan. The terrified girl forgot her name, so they called her Bakhita (“Fortunate one”).

She had a succession of owners, all cruel. One had Bakhita covered with tattoos. Designs were cut into her flesh and salt was rubbed into the wounds. She thought she would die. In 1882 an Italian purchased Bakhita, brought her to Italy and gave her to his colleague, Auguso Michieli—a kind master at last. While accompanying Michieli’s daughters to school which was run by the Conossian Sisters, Bakhita came to know the source of kindness. “I was definitely loved and whatever happens to me, I am awaited by his love.” She later wrote: “And so my life is good.”

In 1890, she was baptized Josephine Margaret. Then Michieli’s wife wanted to take her back to a long trip back to Africa. Josephine refused. Instead, she won her status as a free woman and, in freedom, she vowed herself to Christ.

For 50 years, Josephine Margaret tended the door at the Conossian convent. Her warm smile touched everyone. “If I were to meet the slave traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if this did not happen to me, I would not be a Christian today.”

With joy we enter into the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which Pope Francis calls “a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective”.

Pope Francis’ Motto, Miserando atque eligendo, “by having mercy and by choosing,” puzzled many. But Jorge Mario Bergoglio recounted that at the age of seventeen, on September 21, 1953, the feast of St. Matthew, he experienced the loving presence of God in his life and sensed the mercy of God calling him to religious life. Francis’ motto is found in a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable read in the Liturgy of Hours on St. Matthew’s day: “So Jesus saw the publican (Matthew) and because he looked upon him by having mercy and by choosing, he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (Matt. 9:9)

The translation is meant to provoke reflection. “He looked upon him by having mercy and by choosing.” There are different kinds of looking: a looking that is indifferent: staring at the floor; or a looking that is seeking: the shelves of a bookstore. Saint Bede suggests still another kind of looking: one that communicates and elects. We need to imagine the gaze of Christ, God made man. It is a powerful gaze: Christ’s looking acts upon me. From his eyes I experience mercy. By sin I am in debt. Mercy forgives that debt and wipes out what I cannot repay.

But further: “and choosing.” For Matthew sitting at the tax office, Christ’s gaze chooses and elects him. Perhaps the young Jorge experienced that same gaze.

It is reported that a student once asked the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead, “What is the earliest sign of civilization in any given culture?” According to the story, the questioner expected Mead to say a tool, a weapon, a piece of pottery, an artifact of domestic life, etc.

Instead the anthropologist answered: “A healed femur” (the big leg bone between the hip and the knee).

A Healed femur shows that someone took care of the injured person. Someone else had to step in to carry out the work of hunting and gathering until the individual’s fractured leg healed. For Mead, the first sign of civilization was the evidence of compassion.

Pope Francis has called for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy to make that primordial sign of civilization plain and far-reaching in the world again.

The pope has proclaimed a Jubilee of Mercy because, as he writes, “at times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives”.

Pope Francis tells us that this special Holy Year is a time “to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters”, and occasion to “open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters”.

We can do so when we recall how much God looked upon our wounds and misery with untellable, unlimited love and mercy. Let us pray for the grace to be effective signs of the Father’s mercy to others, with the assurance given by the Doctor of the Church Saint Francis de Sales:
“Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life;
Rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise
God, whose very own image 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.
Then “touched by (God’s) compassion, we also can become compassionate towards others.”

What is mercy?
Mercy is the form love that takes when it encounters misery.
It is first of all a form of love because it wants what is good for the one who is loved.
Mercy is rooted in profound respect and not in condescension.
Mercy reflects God’s true judgment on us as being not his underserving poor but his own beloved children.
What is mercy?
Beauteous Creation brought forth from the abyss of nothingness.
What is mercy?
The breath that turned muddy clay into a living human being.
What is mercy?
The leather garments that clothed sinful man and woman.
What is mercy?
The ark that saved Noah from the cataclysm of the flood.
What is mercy?
The everlasting covenant made with Abraham.

What is mercy?
The angel who stayed Abraham’s knife above his son Isaac.
What is mercy?
The forgiveness Joseph offered to his treacherous brothers.
What is mercy?
The hope of liberation promised in the burning bush.
What is mercy?
The miraculous passageway through the parted Red Sea.
What is mercy?
The manna in the wilderness for those facing famine.
What is mercy?
Flowing water to drink form a rock in the desert.
What is mercy?
The gift of the tablets bearing the ten commandments.
What is mercy?
The Ark of the Covenant.
What is mercy?
The certainly that filled Joshua to serve God alone.
What is mercy?
The tenderness that moved Ruth to stay with Naomi.
What is mercy?
The voice that beckoned Samuel in the nighttime.
What is mercy?
David’s defeat of the Philistine Goliath.
What is mercy?
The temple built by Solomon.
What is mercy?
Elijah’s unlimited jar of flour feeding the widow and her son.
What is mercy?
The tiny whispering sound Elijah heard on the mountain.
What is mercy?
The cure of Naaman the leper.
What is mercy?
The new eyesight given to Tobit.
What is mercy?
The intervention of Esther that saved her people from destruction.
What is mercy?
The valor of the mother of the 7 martyred sons.
What is mercy?
The compassion shown to Job.
What is mercy?
The comfort proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah.
What is mercy?
The wolf and the lamb grazing together.
What is mercy?
The voice that formed you in your mother’s womb.
What is mercy?
The new law written within our hearts.
What is mercy?
The spirit and flesh put on once-dry-bones.
What is mercy?
The preaching of Jonah, converting the great city of Nineveh.
What is mercy?
The angel’s announcement to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
What is mercy?
The courage convincing St. Joseph in his sleep.
What is mercy?
The healing of all those afflicted and sick.
What is mercy?
The silencer of the storm at sea.
What is mercy?
The expeller of demons.
What is mercy?
The paralytic’s ability to walk.
What is mercy?
The sight given to the blind.
What is mercy?
The hearing given to the deaf.
What is mercy?
The deliciousness of Cana’s wondrous wine.
What is mercy?
The multiplied loaves for famished attitudes.
What is mercy?
The thirst for the Woman at the Well.
What is mercy?
The garment’s hem within reach of the hemorrhaging woman.
What is mercy?
The buoyancy by which Peter walks on the water.
What is mercy?
The life restored to the widow of Nain’s dead son.
What is mercy?
The welcome given the sinful woman who washes Jesus’ feet.
What is mercy?
The miraculous change promised us all in the Transfiguration.

What is mercy?
• Feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty
• Clothing the naked and welcoming the stranger
• Healing the sick and visiting the imprisoned
• Burying the Dead,
• What is mercy?
• Counsel the Doubtful and Instruct the Ignorant
• Admonish Sinners
• Comfort the Afflicted
• Forgive offenses and bear wrongs patiently
• Pray for the living and the dead

Margot Fonteyn
Psalm 33: “Let your mercy, O lord, be upon us as we have hoped in you.”

Dame Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991) prima ballerina, danced her whole career for the Royal Ballet.

Like most of us, she also had a weakness. “She had very bad judgment of people,” her former assistant Colette Clark noted.

In 1937, Fonteyn fell madly in love with Panamanian playboy Roberto “Tito” Arias. They were married in 1955.

Fonteyn helped Tito smuggle guns (for which she was once arrested and briefly jailed) and overlooked his incessant philandering.

In 1964, Tito was shot and paralyzed, reputedly by the jealous husband of a lover. Fonteyn nursed him for the next 25 years, dancing well into her sixties to pay his debts and support his family. The day he died, another of his mistresses committed suicide by drinking swimming-pool chlorine.

Soon after, Fonteyn was diagnosed with cancer. She converted to Catholicism on her deathbed in order to be buried with him.

Our culture pathologizes such fidelity, labeling it co-dependency or love addiction. But Fonteyn never violated her duty to her vocation. She gave her all to Tito while also giving all to the dance—thus to us.

The parable of the sheep and the goats reminds us that we will not be judged on our ability to evaluate character. We will be judged on our capacity for mercy. We will be judged on love. This is mercy.

Andreas Widmer in his book entitled “The Pope and the CEO” talks about John Paul’s leadership lessons to a young Swiss Guard.

One day when Andreas was lonely and experiencing the pain of being separated from his family at Christmas time, Pope John Paul II approached him and told him that he would offer midnight Mass at St. Peter’s for his intentions.

That’s mercy.

To the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:3-11)—a criminal offense in that day, requiring not imprisonment but death—Jesus never uses the word adultery or adulterer, never asks, “How could you?” She doesn’t need her sin thrown back in her face; she needs a new beginning; and that’s what he gives her—not only on the day recounted in John’s Gospel, but in every moment of every day of the rest of her life. She is changed, not through the imposition of a scarlet letter, not through imprisonment or lifetime social banishment, but rather through what Pope Francis has memorably termed “the caress of Christ’s mercy” on her sins.

In 1990, a drifter named Robert Knighton was convicted for murdering Richard Denney, sixty-two, and his wife, Virginia, sixty-four, in rural Oklahoma. Knighton made off with $61 and an old truck.

Richard Denney was the adoptive father of Sue Norton, a woman from Kansas. Virginia was Sue’s stepmother.

When Knighton’s trial began, Sue sat in the courtroom, confused.

“I should feel anger and want vengeance, but I was also taught that I need to pray for him and forgive him.”

During the trial she learned of Knighton’s childhood: a mother who had been married six times; reformatories and prisons starting at the age of 12.

The day after the trial ended, she asked to meet with Knighton. He was six feet tall, shackled and angry. She took a deep breath and said. “If you are guilty, I forgive you.” She offered her hand through the bars. He pulled back. She grabbed it and started praying.

“I learned that forgiveness is a gift to ourselves, not for the forgiven.” She began to write to and visit him. “Executions just turn more families into victims,” she insisted. She lost friends.

Knighton became a Christian on Oklahoma’s death row. She was present at his 2003 execution, his only friend among the witnesses.

God offers us limitless mercy. There is no offense, no wound, no darkness that God’s mercy cannot forgive, heal and illumine.
As the Psalmist says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, not requite us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:10-12).

The divine mercy is never exhausted by those who seek it.

The only thing that can be said to limit the mercy of God is a stony heart. When a person refuses to ask for God’s mercy or avail himself of the sacrament instituted to effect forgiveness and reconciliation, he cuts himself off from the infinite stream of divine mercy flowing from the heart of Jesus.

Pope Francis has said: “God never tired of forgiving us! The problem is that we ourselves tire, we do not want to ask , we grow weary of asking for forgiveness.” We become hard-hearted and lose confidence in God’s mercy.

Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska writes:
I want to be completely transformed into your mercy and to be your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes pass through my heart to my neighbor.

Help me that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.

Help me that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help, O Lord that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, that my feet may be merciful so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the suffering of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May your mercy rest upon me.

O my Jesus, transform me in yourself, for you can do all things.


Spiritual & Corporal Works of Mercy – Jim Fortin

So, here we are: Our Lenten Season ended a little over a week ago. I was reading an article from Catholic Spiritual Direction a couple days ago. An Article by Liz Eastler titled: “Mercy not Sacrifice.” The article posed these questions: “We have fasted, given alms and prayed. Have we taken on penance and sacrifice just because that’s our Catholic Lenten practice? What of our prayer, fasting and almsgiving? If they are merely a checklist, punch list or bucket list, something to get through and stop afterward, something we did so as not to appear out of step, something with which others could congratulate us with, or we could congratulate ourselves with, I submit then that our mercy does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (cf Matthew 5:20). The Same scribes and Pharisees by the way that after Jesus called Matthew to “Follow Him”, He then went to Matthew’s table, surrounded by us, nope I mean tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees questioned why Jesus, the Teacher, The Rabbi, was eating with us – you know, those type of people. Jesus’ instruction or command to them was: “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’

This is a very powerful statement and gives us insight into the Heart of Jesus. And so, I have a similar question: Here we are a week after we have celebrated the “High Holy Days” of our Faith. Our Church celebrated the Chrism Mass, The Easter Triduum, culminating with the Easter Vigil Mass – The Mass of New Light, of welcoming those who have been Candidates into New Life through the Sacrament of Baptism, and Catechumens into the full Glory of our Church. So, I am going to ask a question that my friend Anthony frequently will challenge us and asks in our Small Group: Did You miss it? Did we go through the Lenten Season and the rituals for naught? Or, did we end up on Easter with our hearts truly changed, and having grown closer not only to Christ but to “Our Neighbor?” I’m not sure what the answer is for you, but as for me, I know there were times when I felt like I definitely made progress, in my relationships, but then I know I probably didn’t leave it all on the table for the Lord, or my neighbor. What happens now? Easter is over, the Season is finished, oh wait a minute, The Easter Season has really just begun and culminates on Pentecost, May 15. And if that is not enough, the Jubilee is not over yet either. The Year of Mercy goes through Sunday, 20 November 2016, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. So there is still time – Time to come into the Light, to “seek the Kingdom of God, and His Mercy, as well as learn to give Mercy. So, no matter where we are on this journey, there is still time. I have another friend that in speaking of ministries, he says: “Nothing happens until somebody leads.” Well, the same holds true for our Faith Life – Christ is leading us, but nothing happens until we have a change of heart.

The truth is the more mature I get, ok, my friend Bill will say, “Jim just admit it you are getting old,” the more I start to understand that this life isn’t all about me. I’m pretty sure my wife could attest to this, and maybe you can too, but the older we get the more our desire increases to grow closer to Christ, and work on our relationship with each other, and our neighbor. Like if you attended the Easter Triduum services, maybe you felt like you were in alignment with God, His Plan, and your relationships. But one of The Good Friday messages of “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” challenges us to forgive ourselves and others as the Father through His Mercy and Grace forgives us. Still in our fallen-ness, we struggle. . .

And yet, St. Peter tells us about the Power of God’s Promise, in 2 Peter he says: “His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power.* Through these, He has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. He continues:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How do we increase in “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?”

The Prophet Sirach gives us a little insight: “Happy those who meditate on Wisdom, and fix their gaze on knowledge; Who ponder her ways in their heart, and understand her paths; Who pursue her like a scout, and watch at her entry way.”

The Book of Psalms puts it like this: “
“On the day of my distress I seek the Lord;
by night my hands are stretched out unceasingly;
I refuse to be consoled.
When I think of God, I groan;
as I meditate, my spirit grows faint”

Both of the above quotes: Sirach and Psalms have a particular word in common, but used very differently. The word is Meditate. As I develop this thought in the next couple of sentences, I want you to notice the symbolism and parallelism to the title of this Day of Reflection – “Parched and Drenched.” I was listening to a Christian Radio Show, called Haven Today, the host, Charles Morris discussed the word meditate. And so we can use it as in the first quote from Sirach “Happy those who meditate . . . “ Like we just think, sit, and ponder the wisdom and knowledge of God, or as in the quote from Psalms: “When I think of God I groan; as I meditate. . .” This use of the word is significantly more serious. Did you know that the Arabic word for Meditate is Hagaah. One of the meanings or translations of this word is “moan, groan, growl and to ROAR” So, it is not like: “Let us sit and Hagaah on the Word of The Lord, but rather, like a Lion in a hot dry desert, who is Parched: Let us HAGAAH (Roar) as one who has HUNGER with Pangs, DRY, THIRSTY and PARCHED. Yes, let us Meditate on the Word of the Lord!

I would like to turn now and focus on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. If you are like me, most of us were probably pretty familiar with the Corporal Works. This may be obvious, but the Corporal Works of Mercy have to do with “Works for Our Bodies,” and the Spiritual Works have to do with “Works for our Spirit.” Look at Corporal Works.

The Corporal Works of Mercy
• Feed the hungry
• Give drink to the thirsty
• Clothe the naked
• Shelter the homeless
• Visit the sick
• Visit the imprisoned
• Bury the dead

Ok, but One of the websites I read called “The Divine Mercy.Org,” in talking about the Spiritual Works of Mercy says this: “Works of mercy can be directed not only toward the needs of the body, but the needs of the soul as well. Indeed, the most serious form of poverty of all can be the poverty of the spirit, not only because it drains life of all energy, joy, and sense of purpose, but also because it is the one kind of poverty that can last forever.” If there is “poverty of the soul,” that is in direct contrast to the Lord’s words in Chapter 9 of John’s Gospel when speaking of His “sheep:” “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

The Spiritual Works of Mercy
• Admonish the sinner
• Instruct the ignorant (This and the next work are extremely pertinent categories today, when so many people are confused by what the Church teaches on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, etc.)
• Counsel the doubtful
• Comfort the sorrowful
• Bear wrongs patiently
• Forgive all injuries
• Pray for the living and the dead

Our Catholic Tradition is filled with many examples of people who have gone before us and are wonderful examples of people who have demonstrated the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Maybe they are “Saints” or in the process. For instance, we could talk about American journalist, social activist, and Catholic convert Dorothy Day, who shares her conversion story in the autobiography: “The Long Lonliness.” As controversial of a life she may have lived, I just thought I would share a few quotes from her: “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?” “Don’t worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.” “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” Yikes, that one hurts!

How about Mother Teresa, or Blessed Teresa of Calcutta? founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation, which in 2012 consisted of over 4,500 sisters and was active in 133 countries. Most of us are pretty familiar with her story. Despite her Corporal Works of Mercy, she suffered the barrenness of feeling God’s presence. She has been quoted: “Where is my faith? Even deep down … there is nothing but emptiness and darkness … If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul.”

We could continue to talk about the many examples of “saints” in our Faith, but what about us?

About 4 years ago, my wife and I would drive down to Milton, MA, and go to this monthly event called LIFT. They would have Praise and Worship Music, a witness, and Adoration. One of the witnesses shared a talk that started out with the premise: God wants you to be a Saint, in fact, we are all called to be saints.

As Post Cursillo Coordinator, I have to tell you we have a pretty good sampling of our community. So, I’m going to ask you a question, how many of us are currently “small grouping?” The reason I ask this is because honestly, after the weekend, the Blessing really is in the Small Group. I made my Cursillo 8 years ago, and have been small grouping ever since on a weekly basis. I’m missing my group this morning, but that is a fairly rare occasion. One of the things my small group has done for me is I have come to know “small letter” “saints” in the making. In this weekly process I group with a brother that made his Cursillo back in 1976. He puts into practice Corporal Works of Mercy: He is head of the state NH. Kairos. This prison ministry is a direct outgrowth of our Cursillo movement. He not only feeds the body of these men and women, but the soul of the imprisoned and their families. Right now he is leading a Kairos Retreat, by the way at the Sarto Center. This retreat is bringing together all those throughout the State involved in this program. I ask you for your prayers for their retreat and all those who serve those imprisoned in our State. I know they are praying for us. In my small group I have men that visit the sick and bring them Eucharist. Yes they are fulfilling both the Corporal and Spiritual Works. Our Small Group is a Safe place where one of my brothers will say: “I feel totally accepted here.” No matter what we share, and sometimes it isn’t pretty, sometimes we admonish one another, and other times Counsel the doubtful and Comfort the Sorrowful. In this day and age where anything goes, and we are told we have to be “tolerant,” I have a wife and a friend Phyllis here today that is on a Parish Committee that works to get the True Catholic Teaching out to our Parish Family about such topics as abortion and Covenantal Marriage between one woman and one man, as well as other social issues. These are all examples of people who Live the Corporal and Spiritual Works and “saints today in our midst”.

So what about You? I go back to the beginning and pray that each of us will “Meditate” and you all know what I mean on God’s word and His works in our lives, so that we may help others to have Life, Life in Christ and have it abundantly.

God Bless!.


Pope Francis’ Homilies on Mercy – Deacon Geoff Ashman

This talk is based upon the book: The Holy Year of Mercy. Which is a collection of 8 of Pope Francis’ homilies on the theme of Mercy. These homilies weren’t written about Mercy because of the Year of Mercy, if anything you could make a case that the Year of Mercy came about because Pope Francis noticed that he kept giving homilies about Mercy!

I want to begin though, by sharing one take-away I received in reading this book. We often think of the word Mercy alongside the word Justice. I would define these words as Justice is getting what you deserve – either as much good as you deserve, or as much bad you deserve.

If you have a job, you have an agreed upon wage. You do the work, you get the paycheck in the correct amount. That’s justice. If you drive too fast, get pulled over and are given a speeding ticket. Again, that’s justice.

Mercy is when you get more good than you deserve, or less bad than you deserve. A Christmas Bonus at work, that’s Mercy. The police officer giving you a warning instead of a ticket, that’s Mercy.

Last December I was heading off to the Post Office with a large package I was mailing for Christmas. I knew it would be busy inside, and I’m not the most patient of people.

From the parking lot there was another person ahead of me with just some letters in her hand to mail. As we approached the front door, seeing that I was struggling with the large box, she held the door open for me and I got in line. She then gets in line behind me.

I immediately say, “Oh my goodness, you’re certainly ahead of me.” And I gave her my place in line. She was very grateful saying how kind that was of me since I had gotten in line ahead of her. I said, “I only got in line before you because you were nice enough to hold the door open for me.”

So my question, was letting her ahead of me in line Mercy or Justice? I think that’s pretty obvious that it’s Justice. She deserved to be ahead of me in line.

At St. Matthew’s parish twice a year our pastor leads a group of missionaries to the Dominican Republic to build aqueducts so that people living in remote villages will have access to clean water. Is going down there Mercy or Justice? We might at first think, “That’s easy. Mercy! After all, “Give drink to the thirsty” is a Corporal Work of Mercy.”

I don’t think that way any more. To me, if there are people on this planet, our brothers and sisters in Christ who don’t have access to clean water, helping then get clean water isn’t providing them with more than they deserve, my definition for Mercy.

Providing something so basic as drinkable water, something everyone deserves: that’s an act of Justice.

During this Year of Mercy and hopefully for the rest of our lives, we are called to love. To go beyond Justice, and to love and to live with the merciful heart of Jesus.

Luke 7:36-50
This passage describes the scene when a Pharisee invites Jesus over to his home for dinner. While there, a woman, a sinner, comes and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, and anoints them with oil.

In his mind, the Pharisee begins to question whether Jesus is a prophet or not. If he is really a prophet he’d know about this woman and would want nothing to do with her.

Jesus uses this as a teaching moment to talk about a creditor with two debtors. One owed a large amount, the other owed much less. Neither could afford to pay, so the creditor forgives both loans. Who would love him more for doing so? The Pharisee correctly answers. “The one who was forgiven more.”

Pope Francis describes the Pharisee as someone who invokes only justice, and in doing so, he errs. His judgment of the woman distances him from the truth. The Pharisee stops at the surface, incapable of seeing the heart. He invited Jesus for a meal, but never really welcomed him. And he certainly didn’t welcome the woman. How is God asking us to see people differently? To see them through Jesus’ eyes of mercy.

There’s a beautiful YouTube video out there called “God’s Glasses”. A guy is having a really bad day. People cut him off in traffic, takes his parking space, are being rude to him at the coffee shop. But them someone leaves him a pair of eye glasses labeled, God’s Glasses. As soon as he puts them on he sees what all these people who had treated him abruptly are going through in their life.

Through God’ Glasses he sees little signs that say this person just lost their job, or has cancer, or their mother just died. He then sees the people in a much more merciful, understanding, and loving way. We are all called to see the world through God’s Glasses. We are all called to act in such a way that reflects our ability to see the world through Jesus’ eyes of mercy.

Matthew 28:1-10
This passage tells us of when on Easter morning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to Jesus’ tomb, but instead of seeing his body, they meet with an angel who tells them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen.” After showing them the empty tomb the angel sends them back toward Galilee.

The Marys depart quickly with fear, and great joy. The soon meet up with Jesus who tell them, “Do not be afraid, go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

“Go to Galilee” Pope Francis points out that Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began.

Jesus is calling them to review everything that has happened on the basis of the cross and its victory, and to do so fearlessly. Imagine being given this second chance, what a supreme act of Gods’ love and of his mercy.

Pope Francis asks us to consider, Where is our Galilee? Where did our journey with Jesus begin? And can we imagine going back there, but not as we were, but as we are now, with a clearer sense of who Jesus is.

Does this remind anyone else of Cursillo? So many of us who have experienced Cursillo would say that it is a “Galilee” for us; a place where we started or restarted our journey with Jesus.

And that in our 4th Day, we are given that same kind of second chance, to go back to our environments after the Cursillo weekend is over, not as we were, but as we are coming off the weekend.

What an act of love, what an act of mercy. To get that second chance with a renewed understanding of who Jesus is. Pope Francis says that “To return to Galilee means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience. To return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched us at the start of the journey.

John 2:13-25
Next we have the story of Jesus making a whip of cords and driving out the money-changers from the temple, overturning their tables. To those who were selling pigeons Jesus tells them, “Take these things away, you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

Now you might be thinking, “Huh? What’s merciful about that?”

A couple of weeks ago, Fr. Michael Zgonc spoke at the Men of St. Joseph Mass and Breakfast. He talked about when he was a kid, a bunch of other kids egged his house. Fr. Michael’s dad was able to determine who these kids were, rounded them up with their parents and really chewed them out.

I kept waiting for Fr. Michael to then say, but then he forgave them. He didn’t. Instead Fr. Michael explained to us that there is of course that Corporal Work of Mercy we call “Admonishing the sinner”, and he added that his dad was showing mercy to the rest of his family by pointing out that they didn’t deserve to be treated so disrespectfully.

This Gospel passage is quite similar to Fr. Michael’s story. Jesus was indeed admonishing the sinner by pointing out the unfair trade practices they were performing. These money changers were giving people a terrible rate of exchange. And the people selling the pigeons, these were like homing pigeons. After the people bought them, they had to release them as an offering to God.

Well, the pigeons would fly right back and be sold again and again to other pilgrims to Jerusalem. Jesus was also treating his father mercifully by making sure that his Father and his Father’s house were treated more respectfully.

But Pope Francis points out an even better example of Mercy. This cleansing that took place… Do we allow Jesus to “cleanse” our hearts and to drive out the idols, those attitudes of jealousy, worldliness, envy, hatred, those habits of gossiping and tearing down others? Do we allow Jesus to cleanse us of all the behaviors that are against God, against our neighbor, and against ourselves? We need to trust Jesus enough to allow him to feel at home in our lives so that he can enter in, to cleanse our hearts, not with a whip, but with his mercy.

John 20:19-31
This is another post-resurrection story. The story of doubting Thomas. Ten of the Apostles are gathered together in a locked room for fear of the Jews. Jesus appears before them and says, “Peace be with you.” As the Father has sent me, so I send you. And then he breathes on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.”

Later in the week, Thomas listens to the other Apostles telling him of Jesus’ visit. Thomas is not convinced until Jesus and his wounds appear to Thomas as well. Blessed are those, blessed are we who have not seen and yet believe.

Imagine that moment when Jesus appears before the 10 Apostles. And he greets them lovingly, mercifully with the words, “Peace be with you.” Imagine the joy the Apostles must have felt. “Jesus is alive – and he is not mad at us!” Pope Francis focuses on the wounds of Jesus. He quotes Sr. Bernard “Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of Christ’s heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high.”

What’s really extraordinary here, is that Jesus despite witnessing first hand the Apostles at their worst – their denials, their fears – he still chose them to be his messengers. He has now just entrusted them with the power of the confessional. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.

Their behavior during the Passion has somehow managed to earn them a promotion. God’s mercy is that great. Jesus knew that the Apostles who had just received tremendous forgiveness from Him, would be the very best distributors of His forgiveness to others – and to us. Pope Francis reminds us that the mercy of the Son of God knows no bounds, and extends to everyone, without exception.

Mark 1:40-45
Next we have an example of the healing power of God. A leper approaches Jesus and says, “If you will it, you can make me clean.” Jesus, moved with pity stretches out his hand, touches the leper and says, “I do will it, be clean.” And the leprosy left him at once.

When someone came down with leprosy, they lost everything. They were considered unclean. They lost their health, they lost their home, they lost their family. They were sent away, outcasts from the community. Out of touch with the community. And when Jesus heals this man, everything is restored: health, home, family. Reunited with his community.

Pope Francis focuses his homily on the sense of touch. Jesus heals different people in different ways, but with the leper the sense of touch is crucial. Because part of the disease meant the loss of human touch, of having to go around yelling “Unclean, unclean” so that others would scatter away from you, as you approached.

The Jewish people were very careful about remaining ritually clean. When someone was clean, if they touched a dead person, or blood, or a leper would make you unclean. Contact with the unclean, makes the clean also unclean.

I used to heat my house with wood. If you’ve ever cleaned out a filthy wood stove, by the end of it you’re filthy too. But with Jesus and his incredible mercy, just the opposite happens. His cleanness makes whatever he touches, no matter how unclean it might have been, clean as well. When Jesus touches the dead, the bloodied, the leper he doesn’t become unclean – his love, his mercy makes them clean instead. Jesus’mercy is so often demonstrated through that sense of touch, which unites Jesus with whomever he touches.

Every time we receive a sacrament, we are “touched” by God himself as he strives to better unite us to him, and to make us clean.

Pope Francis challenges us with a question, “When we help, do we do so from a distance, or with tenderness, with closeness? Goodness is contagious. Do we make eye contact, to draw people closer, and when appropriate do we touch, embrace others as a loving gesture communicating mercy. Obviously, we need to be very careful in the whole area of touching others, but sometimes just a simple handshake or a high-5, can transform us into an instrument of mercy for someone starving from the lack of human contact.

John 4:5-42
This passage is the well-known story of the woman at the well. It’s mid-day and Jesus is resting near Jacob’s Well. A Samaritan woman approaches the well with her empty water jar, and enters into a life-changing conversation with Jesus.

He knows all about the woman and tells her about life-giving water. Whoever drinks this water from Jesus will never thirst again. This sounds almost too good to be true to the woman, but eventually she begins to believe all that Jesus has said and leaves her water jar and rushes off to tell others about Jesus.

Mercy abounds is this story. The fact that Jesus would enter into a conversation with a woman, a Samaritan woman shows that Jesus set aside any sort of barriers between gender, nationality, or race, Jesus and his mercy is for everyone’s benefit.

The thirst he was seeking to satisfy was not someone with a parched throat, but with a parched soul. By the end of this encounter with the Samaritan woman we are all asking Jesus for this drink that will quench our thirst forever.

Pope Francis though, invites us to focus on one thing in particular that the woman did. She originally went to the well to fill her water jar, a seemingly important task.

But she never completes this task, instead after talking with Jesus she leaves the empty water jar behind and rushes off to tell others about Jesus.
What a great act of mercy Jesus has very subtly done for the woman. He’s helped her reprioritize her life.

That empty water jar symbolizes everything we think is so darned important in our lives, while the only thing that really matters, is our relationship with Jesus Christ. I like to ask people, “What’s the one thing we take with us when we die?”

It’s certainly not our stuff, the only thing we take with us when we die is our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we worship and recognize him as our savior here on earth, then someday he’ll be welcoming us to spend eternity with him so that we may continue to worship him in heaven.

What things that we think are so darned important do we need to leave behind? Jesus is willing to mercifully help us reprioritize things in our lives. He’s just waiting for us to let him do so. Just imagine what he can do through our lives once we let go of all those unimportant things we’ve been embracing so tightly.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Here we have the parable of the weeds among the wheat. The servants of the landowner plant good seed but at night the enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat. The servants suggest pulling up the weeds but the landowner tells them to wait until harvest time, then gather the weeds to be burned, and then finally, to gather the wheat.

This seems like fairly practical advise any good farmer would make. But it’s actually an example of incredible mercy. An example of incredible patience. The servants are so quick to judge. We know who the weeds are, we’ll judge them right now and they’ll be gone forever. The landowner however hopes that come harvest time, there are no weeds any more. He hopes that all that bad seed has somehow become good seed, all those potential weeds have somehow become beautiful stalks of wheat instead. We might be thinking, wait a minute. These weeds were planted by the devil. They represent evil in the world. We can change evil into good? Nope, not us, but God can. And he wants to give the bad seed every possible chance to become good seed.

Pope Francis tells us, “what we need is to take on an attitude of hope grounded in the certainty that evil does not have the first nor the last word. And it is thanks to this patient hope of God that the same weed, which is the malicious heart with so many sins, in the end can become good grain.” And he reminds us that “In the end we will all be judged by the same measure with which we have judged; the mercy we have shown to others will also be shown to us.”

John 11:1-45
And finally we have the story of Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha, friend of Jesus, whom Jesus brings back from the dead.

I always find it striking that in this story after Jesus finds out that Lazarus is dying, he waits two more days before going to see him; and that by the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been dead for 4 days.

Back then, it wasn’t all that uncommon I guess, for people to be accidentally buried alive. Even more recently, within the past couple of hundred years, some people were buried underground, with a string attached to a bell that was above ground so that in case they woke up, they could ring the bell and have people dig them up.

In the time of Jesus, it was believed that after three days if you were still dead, then you were really dead.

By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus had been dead for 4 days so that when Jesus raised him from the dead, no one could say that perhaps Lazarus was merely unconscious. He was dead, completely dead, and Jesus miraculously raised him from the dead.

From this, we of course learn that God will fulfill his promise told to us by Ezekiel, “I will open your graves and raise you from your graves.” From this we know that God’s power, God’s mercy is so great that those who are dead might regain life.

To the world there’s nothing more hopeless than “dead”. But we know that with God, there is still hope even in death. What Pope Francis wants us to realize though is that “dead” doesn’t just refer to the time when our earthly life ends.

We all have some aspect of our lives right now that may be “dead”. We have “dead” places in our hearts. Past hurts we can’t get over, no matter how hard we try. Attachments to sin we can’t let go of, addictions, the inability to forgive someone. All parts of us that are “dead”. Only the Mercy of God can help us come out of our own tomb and raise those dead parts of our lives, back to life.

A beautiful quote from Pope Francis, imagine God saying this to us, “Come out! Leave that tomb you have within you. Come out. I give you life, I give you happiness, I bless you, I want you for myself.”

We’ve covered a lot of material here:
1) We are called to go far beyond justice, and to strive to see the world through the merciful eyes of Jesus, and to serve others with the merciful heart of Jesus.
2) We are called to “Go to Galilee”. To return to where we first started our journey with Jesus, but with new insights and with the conviction to work for, and to act more mercifully.
3) We are called to allow Jesus to mercifully cleanse our hearts, using not a whip, but with his own tender, loving, merciful heart.
4) We are called to persevere, that despite our own fears and weaknesses, God mercifully continues to believe in us, continues to desire to work through us to spread his love and mercy throughout the world.
5) We are called to serve others, not from a distance but close up. The healing power of touch, the human need for touch, reaching out to those who have been cut off from the community. To spread God’s mercy so that no one feel unclean, or separated from the love of God.
6) We are called to allow God to mercifully reprioritize our lives. What “important” tasks do we put before our relationship with God? God’s love and mercy for us is so great that he will help us see that his loving relationship with us, and our loving relationship with him is the only thing that really matters, because it is the only thing that really lasts.
7) We are called to be mercifully patient with ourselves and with others. To never lose hope. To know that there isn’t any “bad seed” out there, there aren’t any “weeds” out there that God’s love and mercy can’t transform into good seed and good wheat.
8) And finally, we are called to live every day knowing, that death has no power over God. We need to trust God enough to allow His merciful heart and love to bring back to life any part of our heart, any part of our soul that is “dead”. For God’s mercy wants to give us life, wants to give us happiness, wants to give us eternal life.