Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mercy and trustful surrender

Sometimes I think one of the most difficult things about being a Christian is not just the laying down of my desires on the altar and the picking up of my cross, but in getting outside of myself enough to even see which things are my desires and which are God's.

For the last year, I've been one of those people who walks in a church and almost immediately the tears start. They might not be constant... but I've learned to bring some kleenex! The words in prayer don't come very often. And sometimes as I am there, trying not to draw attention to myself, not to cry, and to focus, I'm just so taken in by the awesomeness of God... that the tears just won't stop. I've learned that its a different sort of prayer, and while it might not be the rosary, or the words I think I want to say to God, it's what I need at the moment. To just be in the presence of my Lord.

So today was one of those days. I was blessed to be able to attend the last hour of a Divine Mercy Celebration including confession, adoration, benediction and the singing of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I've never been to an event quite like this and it was a truly beautiful thing to see so many Catholics gathered in prayer. The church was packed! Such a great sight!

I've found the message of St Faustina and Divine Mercy to be compelling since I first picked up a pamphlet on it at my parish during high school. It was the first novena I ever prayed, and I recall at the time, finding the words of the prayer to be profoundly beautiful and packed with meaning. Fast forward 6 years from then, when I rediscovered it with a greater Eucharistic devotion. The very idea of the prayer- that we are offering Christ to God. That we, lowly, sinful, fallen people, can offer Him to God.

Wow. Talk about Mercy. He doesn't just forgive us our sin, He raises us up. He invites us to put our hands into His. To put our fingers into His side. To look in His eyes. He isn't a God lords His greatness over us. Instead, He calls us toward Him. He came down from heaven, not just to save us from our sin, but to open the gates of heaven to us as well. O happy fault of Adam, indeed!

For the rest of my story to make sense, some backstory from this week is involved.

The other night, I introduced my seventh graders to this devotion. We've talked about sin, and confession, and mercy, and the Eucharist before. But with the celebration of Easter last Sunday and the octave this week, it seemed the perfect time to bring it up again. The kids, as usual, had some fantastic comments and questions (I'm a fan of the socratic method... which means the kids also know that they can ask any question and I'll try to answer it or find out by the next week. Questions are encouraged!) So towards the end of this conversation, I played the song "Love Was Stronger" by Audio Adrenaline. It wasn't my original plan (I'd been intending to play Matt Maher's "Christ Is Risen") so I didn't have the lyrics printed for them, but as I was driving to run errands before class, the song came on the radio and fit the theme for the evening so perfectly, that I had to incorporate it in. (Sadly, we never did get around to the second song... guess we'll use it this week!)

Audio Adrenaline - Love Was Stronger Lyrics
From the album Love Was Stronger (Single)

I was a child of wrath
An enemy of the King of Peace
But love was stronger
Love was stronger

I tried resisting grace
The son of God still took my place
Cause love was stronger
Love was stronger

You are stronger than my sins, You carried
To the cross with resurrecting love

Love was stronger
Love was stronger

When You had called me in
My flesh was weak, my heart was dead
But love was stronger
Love was stronger

I was in a foreign land
You made me a citizen in You
Cause love was stronger
Love was stronger

I am the one who pierced Your side
I put every thorn on Your head
Through the feet and through the hands
I placed all of my sins
But love was stronger
But love was stronger

From the cover of
Fr Michael Gaitley's Consoling the Heart of Jesus

That last verse was were most of our focus went. And then I showed them several images of Divine Mercy, including my favorite, to the side. We talked about the image, read the Gospel account of blood and water gushing forth from the side of Jesus.

And then, I talked a little bit about Divine Mercy Sunday, the indulgence offered. They were more with me for the entire class period than they have been the rest of the year. I threw the lesson together somewhat quickly. It wasn't very well prepared and I didn't plan exactly where the discussion would lead. Three hours before class started, I decided we should talk about the Divine Mercy chaplet. And 2 and a half hours before class started I drove 45 minutes away to get the prayer card... and some glow-in-the-dark rosaries (they are kind of cool!)... and Holy Water bottles.

And it was the best lesson all year. Not because of my preparation, or planning, by any means. I'd been considering this lesson for over a week, but hadn't figured out any of the details. Two of the kids hugged me and thanked me. Seventh grade boys thanked me for talking about confession, and giving them a rosary and prayer card. Not exactly the typical response (though we do have super awesome wonderful students who generally are very eager to study the Faith).

And that brings me back to today. I was holding the crucifix from my rosary and reached up to hold the one around my neck as well. And then I looked down, and realized that I was holding two crosses. And it was then that I realized that I've been trying to carry two crosses. And that since I don't know which one God wants me to carry, I've been stumbling along, dragging them both, sometimes trying to drop one of them, but never, ever, offering God the other. So today I laid that cross on the altar. I asked God to take that cross away from me if it wasn't the one He wanted me to carry. Because if I can trust Him to make a single lesson work when I didn't know what to do, I can certainly trust Him with this much larger thing. Divine Mercy, indeed, to so willingly accept what I was so reluctant to offer!

O blood and water which gushed forth from the side of Jesus as a fountain of mercy, I trust in You! Jesus, help me to trust You more.

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