It was a normal day, where I read the daily readings and did some homework for one of the classes that I am currently taking to finish my degree at Northwest Christian University. I didn’t notice too much from the readings today, other than the call to deeper conversion and courage in the face of persecution. However, when I got to our communion service this morning, I realized that there was a greater call to unity that is happening in the readings today. Thanks in large part to our retired pastoral ministry director, Milly Pungercar. She was leading the communion service this morning, and she pointed out the call to unity that was in the first reading. On first reading it for me earlier this morning, I couldn’t get past the word “Christian” and realizing that even Christians are not called by only that name anymore. We are called by the name “Catholic” or “Protestant” or even “traditionalist” or “liberal”. She pointed out that we are called to be unified, and sometimes that is hard. We have to give up some things that are part of our culture in the interest of unity. When the first “Christians” came to Antioch, they had to unify a Greek and Jewish culture around a faith that was based on a Jewish Messiah. This could not have been easy, but they relied on the Holy Spirit and it was done in the name of Jesus Christ and the good news spread all over the world because of the power to unify that came from God. I received a picture a lot of years back that I thought was beautiful, but never really understood what made it so great. It has never really been a part of my life, other than the fact that it was located under the bed in my room ever since the frame it was in broke. Recently, our family moved into another home that is much bigger and more comfortable for us, and I took this picture out and really noticed it for the first time. Keep in mind, I have had this picture for probably 20 years, and have been thinking about putting it in a frame again for the past few years, but have never found the right one. It all came together, not perfectly, but it came together this past week.
The Virgin Mary said to Saint Juan Diego, over 500 years ago, the words that should still resonate to us today…”Am I not your Mother?” The words that I hear her saying to me today are, “Is He not your Father?” The reading from the Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for today ended with the words, “You are my son, this day I have begotten you.” I heard them for the first time, as if he was talking to me. It was a verse from the Acts of the Apostles, but it was quoting the 2nd Psalm.
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD,
he said to me, “You are my son;
today I have begotten you. (Psalm 2:7)
My pastor reminded us recently while we were praying the Liturgy of the Hours that when we read the Psalms, we can read them as if they are the words of Jesus talking to God. This morning, however, I heard the words of the Father talking to me, because of the fact that I am his brother, makes me the adopted son of the same Father. With all the duties and benefits of a son, but most importantly a relationship with Him as a loving Father, who not only created me once, but is giving me breath and life even at this moment to be able to share this message with you.
Before I started writing this morning, I went over to the church to pray in front of the Divine Mercy image. I wanted to pray for the words to share with a group of young adults that are getting together for a retreat at the end of this week. I noticed that as I knelt down in front of the image and contemplated whether I should pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy before beginning to write out the words that I would share, I heard the familiar word that God had spoken to me before in my heart when I knelt down to pray. The word was, “Go!” The emphasis added was my own. He actually said it in my heart, as if a Father was saying you should just go to work and get it done. As I walked out of the church, it was if he was saying to me, “You trust me to give you the words and I will be faithful to supply them, if you would only just ‘Go’.”
So, what does any of this have to do with the “Divine Mercy”? There are four books that I have read over the past few years. Two of them I read as a retreat and then shared them with a Confirmation group in a youth ministry setting, and two of them I just read. The last two, I admit, because I read them over a longer period of time, so I feel called to go back and read them both again. All four of them I will recommend to you, but for different reasons, but all to the same end. Let me explain…
The first book is the “33 Days to Morning Glory”, which is a book/retreat that leads you to Marian Consecration. It is written by Father Michael Gaitley, and it is based on the Marian Consecration retreat by Saint Louis de Montfort. The second book is “Consoling the Heart of Jesus”, which is based on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola and can also be done as a retreat. I actually took my staff retreat days two years ago to sit in the Adoration Chapel at Saint Mary’s and do this retreat. It was also written by Father Michael Gaitley. The third book is “The One Thing is Three”. It is subtitled, “How the Most Holy Trinity Explains Everything”, and it is a thorough and intense study of how the Holy Trinity explains everything, even though the author, who happens to be, Father Michael Gaitley again, says that his knowledge of the Trinity is nothing compared to the great wealth of knowledge of the great Saints like Saint Thomas Aquinas. He does an amazing job explaining that everything relates back to how God relates to us. Finally, the last book recommendation is “You Did It To Me”. It is also subtitled, “The Practical Guide to Mercy in Action.” You probably guessed it by now, if you didn’t already know it, it was written by Father Michael Gaitley. You could read all of these books in order or pick one and pray about how to read it and then follow the direction that the Holy Spirit will guide you to consume these great works of mercy. They all lead you to the same place, which is a greater understanding of how God is working in the world through his mercy to transform us all into living works of mercy.
This is the way it works for me, and I believe Father Michael would say that same. It is the Marian Consecration (33 Days to Morning Glory) that leads us to Divine Mercy (Consoling the heart of Jesus), and the Divine Mercy that leads us to a relationship with a loving Father (The One Thing Is Three), and the relationship with the Father that allows us to share his love with others (You Did It to Me). It does not have to follow this pattern for you, but that is the way that the Holy Spirit has been revealing the truth to me about his Divine Mercy, and I challenge you all to learn all you can about his love, because it is good to be known as the sons and daughters of our benevolent God.
Finally, I will leave you with a talk that was given by Father Michael Gaitley entitled “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told”, because in it you get a glimpse of how and why God wants to use us to be messengers and ministers of his divine mercy…