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His Mercy is upon those who fear Him

Original Painting Divina Misericordia Jesus Trust Faustina Painter Eugeniusz Kazimirowski 1934
Original Painting of the Divina Misericordia. Eugeniusz Kazimirowski 1934
St Thomas mistrusted the promise of Jesus and refused to believe that He had risen. Our Lord showed Him great mercy and forbearance by giving Him the chance to repent. When he fell down on his knees and humbly professed His faith in Jesus “My Lord and my God”, Our Lord immediately forgave him. The apostles would have been familiar with all of the texts of the Old Testament proclaiming the steadfast mercy of God and would have rejoiced to see this shown in the living and risen Messiah.

St Alphonsus explains that the mercy of God is infinite, far beyond the mercy of even the greatest saint. He says:

Oh, if we could but understand the love that burns in the Heart of Jesus for us! He has loved us so much, that if all men, all the Angels, and all the Saints were to unite with all their energies, they could not arrive at the thousandth part of the love that Jesus bears to us. He loves us infinitely more than we love ourselves.

God seeks our good both here and for all eternity, and He longs to give us His gifts of grace far more than we desire to receive them. We might think that we are loving ourselves or doing ourselves good by our moral and spiritual weakness, but the Lord created us and loves us with an infinite love. He knows that the life of grace brings us far greater benefits than any earthly goods.

Even so, God will not force us to love Him because love can only be truly such if it is freely given. God created us with a spiritual soul precisely so that we could actually love freely and without compulsion. We are also able to reject God’s mercy by sinning.
If we insult God by sin, we must not insult Him further by abusing His mercy and continuing in the same sin. As St Alphonsus says again:

The sinner says: But God is merciful. I reply: Who denies it? The mercy of God is infinite; but with all that mercy, how many are lost every day! I come to heal the contrite of heart. (Is 61.1). God heals those who have a good will. He pardons sin; but He cannot pardon the determination to sin.

Or as he put it in another place:

Our Lord exercises mercy toward those who fear offending Him, but not toward those who use His mercy as a pretext to insult Him.

The Saint is referring here to the very words of Our Lady herself in the Magnificat “His mercy is from generation to generation upon those who fear Him.” (Lk 1.50) This fear is not a servile fear as we might have for a tyrant, it is the noble fear of offending the one who is infinitely good and benevolent towards us.

St Alphonsus gave an easy rule for putting into practice both the fear of God and trust in His mercy. He said that after we have sinned, we should not despair, we should hope for His mercy; but before sin, when we are tempted to sin, we should fear His divine justice. We might do well also to remember at those times of trial the words of Our Lady: “His mercy is upon those who fear Him.”

Resurrection and New Life Given by Christ

Rafael - ressureicaocristo01
Raphael. The Resurrection of Jesus (1499-1502) São Paulo Museum of Art

At Easter we conclude our devout following of the momentous events of Holy Week by proclaiming the gospel of the discovery of the empty tomb and of the risen Jesus Christ. The historical details make it clear that the resurrection is not simply a feeling or a conviction, but something that really happened.

The resurrection is also something more than just the coming to life again of someone who has died. The mysterious way in which Our Lord enters a room with closed doors, and the way that the disciples only gradually come to recognise Him, tell of a life that is greater than ordinary life on earth. Our Lord is risen and glorified and will never die again. He is alive for ever to bring life to all mankind. Just as His passion is effective for the forgiveness of our sins, His resurrection brings about a new life in us that is eternal.

On this day we give special thanks for our Baptism. On that day, we shared in the death and resurrection of Christ, and we were born again to the new life of grace. By living the life of Christ, we seek to preserve at all costs the life that Christ has given us and never to lose it through sin.

Regina Caeli

From Easter Sunday until the Saturday before Trinity Sunday the anthem that we sing to Our Lady is the Regina Caeli(“Queen of heaven”) This beautiful chant, dates back to the 12th century. In the above video, it is sung by the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos.

There are copies of the setting and translation available at the back of the Church and here is a link where you can download a copy of the music, text and translation if you wish.

Times of Services

Holy Saturday (15 April)

Please note that there is no 9am or 5pm Mass today.

12noon Święconka (blessing of food)

8pm Solemn Easter Vigil and Mass
With Blessing of Paschal Candle, procession, proclamation of Easter, and renewal of Baptismal promises.

Easter Sunday (16 April)

9.30am Easter Sunday Mass

11.30am Easter Sunday Mass (Traditional Latin)

Offering Ourselves in Union with Christ

The Crucifixion by Martin Bernat, c. 1480-1490, oil on panel - San Diego Museum of Art - DSC06599
Martin Bernat. The Crucifixion (c.1480-1490) – San Diego Museum of Art

This week, we celebrate the great events of Our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection, beginning with His entry to Jerusalem and ending with the joyful proclamation that “He is risen.”

The elaborate rites that we celebrate in Holy Week do indeed recall the historical events as they happened, but it is important to understand that we are not simply remembering something that happened a long time ago. In the sacred Liturgy, the sacrifice of Christ our High Priest is offered to the Father as an act of worship which is effective in making present for us, here and now, the graces which He won for us.

The liturgical celebration can never be reduced to a form of entertainment, or a social gathering. We come together in union with the whole Church, to offer our sacrifices to the Father in union with Christ, begging for the graces that we need.

To participate fully in the sacred Liturgy, we need to enter with mind and heart into the great offering that is made by Our Lord and devoutly to adore and thank the Father, to repent of our sins and plead for His grace.

How Our Lord Redeems us in His Passion

Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary - Raphael

In the Holy Mass, we offer the sacrifice of Christ, our priest and victim who, by His death on the cross, takes away our sins. As we say “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.”

We need to understand that this is not a mere legal fiction, as though God decides to “let us off” a punishment that He has imposed without necessity. It is not as though Jesus comes into a courtroom and arbitrarily takes the place of a guilty man without doing anything else for him.

It is not simply like that because sin causes real damage which needs to be put right and repaired. Sin damages our relationship with God, weakening or destroying our friendship with Him. Sin harms our relationships with each other, being responsible for all the evils which we see or hear of every day, from the discord and difficulties we sometimes find among our families and friends, to the terrible sufferings of war and terrorism which we see recounted on the television screen.

Sin also causes damage to our own spiritual life, breaking down the sanctity which God has given us at baptism and countless times since by His many graces which are rejected in sin.

Since sin causes all these kinds of damage to us, it requires a real atonement and cannot simply we waved away. Our relationship with God must be restored: and this can only be done by Him. Our relationships with others must be healed, and we must be healed interiorly by a new infusion of grace.

This healing is brought about by Our Lord. In fact, every work that He carried out was redemptive for us because He loves us continually and infinitely. His preaching, teaching and miracles all served to bind up the wounded and make the weak whole. This love continued through all His hidden life and all of His public ministry.

By offering His life for us, Christ loved us to the uttermost. (cf. Jn 13.1) This offering was made at the last supper and completed on the wood of the cross. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, assumed our human nature and redeemed it by taking on Himself all of the damage caused by sin. We meditate on this especially when we think of the first sorrowful mystery of the Rosary, the agony in the garden.

On the cross, Our Lord’s prayer was “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” This prayer was supremely efficacious and was heard and answered. Through the pleading of Christ on the cross, our sins were forgiven and “By his wounds we are healed.” The sacrifice of Christ redeems us and reconciles us with the Father.

That is why on Good Friday we sing of the glory of the Cross as a triumph in the words of that magnificent hymn of Venantius Fortunatus “Sing my tongue the glorious battle.” In response to the magnificent and triumphant offering which Christ made to redeem us, we must live as the redeemed, washed in the blood of the lamb, singing His praise both in our words of prayer and in the deeds of our lives by which we try to preserve intact the life of grace that Christ has won for us at such cost.

Consoling the Heart of Christ

Gethsemane Carl Bloch
Carl Heinrich Bloch. Kristus i Getsemane (1873) Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle

On Laetare Sunday a note of joy enters our penitential season. This is fitting because the purpose of our penance is to grow in the love of Christ which brings joy to the depth of our soul even if we suffer through worldly troubles. Our purpose in this life is to know, love and serve God in joy and peace of spirit.

Our Lord humbled Himself to come among us as a man, and still more, to be present until the end of time in the most Blessed Sacrament. He even gives us the privilege of helping Him in His work for the salvation of souls, and of reparation for our sins and the sins of others, by consoling His heart with our prayers, penances, and good deeds.

In the garden of Gethsemane, an angel from heaven strengthened and comforted Our Lord during the agony He suffered through His awareness of the damage of sin. Our own prayers and good actions were also foreseen by Our Lord and consoled Him along with the angel.

This consideration can help us to be generous by making the effort to meditate on the Stations of the Cross, or by spending a little time in Church before or after Mass to savour the presence of the Lord. Our own generosity in loving Christ is cherished by Him for eternity.

Our Lord Repairs the Damage of Sin

Antolinez. Immaculate Conception (c.1665) Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

During Lent, we do penance for our sins. It makes sense, then, to reflect on what sin is, and why we want to do penance and overcome sin.

Sin is any thought, word, action or omission which offends against God. If a sin is of itself a grave matter, carried out with full knowledge and with the full consent of the will, it is a mortal sin which kills the grace of God in the soul. Other, less serious sins are venial sins which harm our friendship with God.

Often, people who do not go regularly to confession, say that they can’t think of any sins that they have committed. They know that they haven’t committed murder or robbed a bank and perhaps feel a little aggrieved that anyone might trespass upon that feeling encouraged by our culture that we are all to be affirmed and congratulated, and woe betide anyone who suggests we are not simply wonderful human beings.

Those who examine their conscience every day and frequently use the sacrament of confession to grow in grace and the love of God are aware, humbly and positively, of the call of our Lord to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” They are sorry for that unkind word, that piece of gossip, that failure to give time to prayer. They question whether perhaps they could have got to Mass when it was a bit difficult, whether they could have given more time to a relative who needs them to visit, whether they might have avoided that television programme they knew was going to offend against Christian chastity.

Sin is not simply the breaking of an arbitrary rule. The commandments of God are given for our good, and our holy mother, the Church, teaches us through the ages how the moral law of God is to be observed in the practical circumstances of everyday life.

God teaches us these things through His Church because He loves us and knows that sin hurts us in various ways. Sin damages our friendship with Him, weakening the life of grace that He has generously given us to grow and flourish in all that is good. Sin harms our relationships with each other, disrupting our frienships, making us less able to build others up for the good, wasting our energies that could make the world a better place. And sin injures us in our soul, disfiguring the image of God which we were given at our conception, and weakening or destroying the supernatural life of grace that was given to our soul when we were baptised.

We think of the nature of sin and its damage during Lent as we consider and ponder prayerfull the sacred passion of our Blessed Lord, which culminated in His redeeming us by His death on the cross.

Jesus Christ is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world: the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament down the ages, and the hope of the whole human race. By His perfect sacrifice on the cross, Our Lord makes possible the healing of all the wounds of our sins, and the sins that are committed by ourselves and others until the end of time.

Our Lord rejoiced to offer His life for us on Calvary because He loves us. He desires our happiness, both here in this world as we are formed more closely in His likeness, and in eternity where He has prepared for us to be happy with Him for ever. During Lent, we do penance for our sins so as to be more open to receive this majestic and superabundant generosity and love.

The Triumph of Jesus, an Example for us

Duccio - The Temptation on the Mount
Duccio – The Temptation on the Mount. (1308-1311) Frick Collection, New York
Our Lord allows the devil to tempt Him and resists those temptations. By doing so, He demonstrates His power and authority over the evil spirits. The evil spirits exist and are malevolent, but we need not fear them if we are clothed with the power of Christ through our Baptism, and through sanctifying grace. They can only directly harm us if we are foolish enough to let them in by dabbling in the occult. We must keep far away from any such things.

Our Lord also shows us by example that we must resist the temptations of the capital vices of gluttony, avarice and pride, and the evil works which follow in their wake.

St John Chrysostom explains that temptation is brought to its fulfilment through suggestion, delight and consent. First we become aware of something that seems attractive because of its pleasure, power or some other apparent attraction. The next step is to turn over that temptation in our mind and heart and to revel in its attraction. Then, if we fail to cast it aside, we might consent to it and commit ourselves to it.

For us, the source of temptation is not only the direct assault of the suggestions of the devil: these may in fact be quite rare because we are so weak that we almost create our own temptations. The disordered desires consequent on the weakness of original sin which we inherit, do most of the work very often.

Jesus Christ, being truly God made man, does not suffer from this moral weakness and therefore His temptations are limited to those external suggestions which He permits the devil to make in order to show us how to triumph. We do not believe that our Lord was subject to disordered desires and addictions because His humanity is perfect and united in the one divine person of the Word made flesh.

The weakness we inherit is the reason for our daily spiritual life being described by the Fathers and Saints as a spiritual battle. We need to fight against sin and against temptation, to overcome, to be strengthened, and to grow in virtue, the habit of doing what is right and good. As the Saints say, in this battle, we are never beaten as long as we do not lay down our arms or leave the field. The arms which we bear are not physical weapons, but the spiritual weapons of of prayer, fasting and charity. A warrior also needs some protection. For us, the armour of God that protects us, is His grace which is He grants to us generously when we ask for it.

Lenten penances are a kind of training for this struggle. We deny ourselves legitimate things such as food, in order to be able to deny ourselves the attractions of sin. This is not to deny our human nature, but to affirm its genuine meaning. We are made in the image and likeness of God and we are fulfilled by our friendship with God. Lent is a time for us to grow in the joy which comes from a heart that is at peace with the Lord. St Paul’s words to St Timothy encourage us in this holy season:

To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. (1 Tim 1.17-19)

Ash Wednesday

AshesAsh Wednesday (1 March 2017) marks the beginning of the penitential season of Lent in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Masses on Ash Wednesday will be at 12noon and 7.30pm at St Austin’s and at 10am at St Anne’s.

Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence on which we are bound to abstain from meat and to have only one full meal.