Once known as the “bloodiest prison in the United States,” Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as “Angola,” has become known as the “Land of New Beginnings.”
With 5,000 murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals, what has been the big change in the communal behavior in the prison? Faith-based programs. Prisoners are now allowed to express their faith in Christ freely throughout the prison.
One of the prisoners, Harold Brand, who was charged with second-degree murder, serving a life sentence since the age of 19 says the following:
“What changes us? The Love of God. The Bible says love covers a multitude of sins. Now that’s why we’re able to change, because of God’s love.”
There are so many examples of God's mercy and love being manifested in the Gospels as preached by Jesus: The parable of the prodigal son, owner of the vineyard, who has mercy on the later workers and pays them the same wage, The Good Samaritan, the One Lost Sheep. He preaches the blessedness of mercy in the Sermon on the Mount. He showed mercy to the woman caught in adultery. He dined with corrupt tax collector, Zacchaeus, and told Peter that we are called not to forgive seven times, but seventy-seven times, limitless.
When we look at the image of the Divine Mercy, we are reminded of God’s infinite love for us, and that blood and water in the image is gushing forth right towards us.
The “Love of God” that the prisoner, Harold Brand, spoke is always there and always at our disposal.
We need to remember that the floodgates of Divine Mercy are always gushing forth, but we have to be receptive to it. within us through our acknowledgement and confession of our own sinfulness, and our faith that Jesus Christ can truly save us from that sin. Because grace cannot flow within us when we choose sin instead.
In the Gospel reading of the repentant thief, we have the most perfect example of God's mercy. We see Jesus assuring the man that today, he will enter with Jesus into the heavenly gates.
But how is this possible? It is possible because the man had true contrition for his sin, and faith in Jesus and His power to save Him. He was receptive to Jesus as his Savior. He was receptive to Divine Mercy. Notice that Jesus does not say to the other man who did not repent that he will be with Him in paradise.
And so we with the chaplet and novena of the Divine Mercy, we pray for all sinners, like that man on the cross who didn't repent - especially those who are obstinate, and stubborn in holding on to their vices and addictions, in which they have been deceived as a source of happiness, that they will recognize their own sinfulness and the need for God’s Mercy.
We pray for the lukewarm; those who do not yet know Jesus. We pray for those separated from the Catholic Faith.
That’s the beauty of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. We pray for everyone. Through our prayers, we can pray that all poor sinners throughout the world, including ourselves, will trust more and more in the infinite depths of God’s mercy.
Let’s look at the vision itself.
On September 13, 1935, a thirty year old, pious and humble Polish sister of the Blessed Sacrament received a vision that the most beautiful city in Poland, Warsaw, would soon be decimated by God’s wrath for sins committed.
St. Faustina Kowalska after receiving the terrifying revelation prayed earnestly that such destruction would not take place on this beloved city. She learned soon after that her prayers could not appease the divine wrath of God.
St. Faustina would receive soon though the right words from God to appease His divine wrath:
“Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us.”
Because of the prayer, the angel chosen to bring forth this just punishment from God was not able to carry out the destruction. That prayer that the triune God showed her, contained the right words.
St. Faustina’s prayer was not as affective, because it didn’t contain the right words.
Formal prayer is often criticized by other non-Catholic Christians, for not being spontaneous and from the heart. And it is true, that we can go through the motions when we pray formulaic prayer.
However, sometimes we don’t have the right theology or the right words when we pray. This is where God intervenes, often through His angels and saints, and sometimes directly.
Jesus Himself taught us the Our Father, and most important of all prayers. It contains
1.) Proper acknowledgement of our littleness before God.
2.) Provides our consent to His will and authority, not our own, in manifesting the Kingdom.
3.) Requests forgiveness for our sins and those who have wronged us.
4.) Desires deliverance from evil.
The Hail Mary comes primarily from the words of the Angel, Gabriel. The prayer
1.) Honors the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, being conceived without original sin, “Full of Grace.”
2.) Honors her as the Mother of God
3.) Requests her prayers as Queen of angels and of saints, and Queen of the universe.
The Apostles Creed affirms our common beliefs as the Body of Christ and expresses our unity.
Now let’s take a look at the words of the chaplet. On the Our Father beads, we say, “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, or your dearly beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”
God’s divine mercy is possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. However, the faithful need to call upon the efficaciousness of that sacrifice to bring forth God’s mercy.
Notice the words, “I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved son.” We participate in Christ as priest, prophet, and king through our baptism. Our participation in the Mass makes the prayer of the Mass more powerful. Our meaningful “Amen,” when receiving the Eucharist makes a difference.
Many of the problems of the world are because our community is fragmented. So many do not know the Mass, understand the Mass, or attend Mass, and they disregard the importance of this sacrifice.
What that means is that we have to utilize the sacrifice that has been offered us as a means to receive God’s mercy when confronted the stark reality of his justice.
“For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” In essence, Jesus did not suffer and die in vain. That was a load of suffering for Him, and He still suffers, as the body Christ suffers, every time we sin.
Our Father in Heaven we plea has mercy on us, not giving us our just punishment that we could not never bear on our own. Thank you, Jesus. Jesus is our mediator.
In the Old Testament, the mediator was Moses.
In the Old Testament, it was the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, and the blood being spread on the doorposts, that was salvific for the Israelites. Because they sprinkled the doorpost with the lamb’s blood, and ate the lamb, the angel of death would “pass-over” their household, and they were free to enter into the promised land.
The sacrifice that the Divine Mercy chaplet references, is Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as the “Lamb of God.” This sacrifice atones for our sins and those of the whole world, but it is important for the people of the world to accept it and participate in it.
Hebrews 9:22 states "Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins."
What does this mean? Every time we receive the Eucharist worthily, we are saying, “Yes,” to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, as a means for our salvation, and “no” to the disobedience of Adam.
The Mass is the most powerful prayer in the Universe. We not only take in Jesus physically, but spiritually, and we become sacred tabernacles ourselves, as Christ in the world.
The Chaplet of the divine mercy is powerful and effective because of our willing participation in the sacrifice of Christ.
THERE IS NOTHING NEW OR INNOVATIVE IN THE PRAYER; IT IS HEART OF THE ANCIENT PRAYER OF THE MASS.
A communal prayer, because Mass is a communal prayer. We all participate in it. And when one member of the body of Christ is missing at Mass, the community of believers suffers.
On April 22, 2000, Pope St. John Paul II established Divine Mercy Sunday immediately following Resurrection Sunday. With respect to the wisdom of Holy Mother Church’s liturgical calendar, it makes perfect sense to follow the Resurrection of Christ with Christ’s divine mercy on His people.
Mercy is the lessening of the just punishments due to our sins. Divine Mercy is God's saving us despite our sinfulness.
Now the difficult part...........Let's look at what divine mercy is not:
1.) Divine Mercy is not condoning sin, or never using harsh words for the sake of being nice or merely keeping peace.
My daughter is living with her boyfriend. I don’t want to admonish her; otherwise, she's a good person. I’ll be merciful, and just let it go….
- If her salvation is at risk, would it not be merciful to remind her continually that she is living in mortal sin, despite the harsh words, and possible division.
OR: I don’t like that my son no longer goes to Church. But at least he’s happy. God will be merciful to him because he’s a good person.
- We can't be presumptive with respect to God's mercy. We are not people presumptive that all will be saved, neither are we despairing. We are people of hope, and must uphold the authentic Gospel.
-Remember- Jesus with the money changers. He must have seen something significant in their sin in which they needed to be reprimanded.
2.) Divine Mercy does not domesticate Jesus to the point that we eliminate His harsh words, and only recall His kind words. We can come up with our own personal Jesus that is basically a fantasy character of the Gospel of nice.
- Remember Jesus says in Matthew 25:41-46, after separating the sheep from the goats. "Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.........For I was hungry, and you gave me know food, thirsty, and you gave me no drink, etc."
Jesus must have suffered and died to truly save us from something horrific. Hell does exist, and Jesus speaks of it often. Is it not merciful to remind people of the existence of hell.
3.) Divine Mercy is not being overly inclusive to the point that we suggest all prayers from all religions are basically going to the same God. Jesus Himself is very merciful, but we cannot be presumptive that all people of all religions will be saved. That's called "indifferentism" and is contrary to the Catholic Faith. We still have to pray that they find the true Faith.
In other words, salvation is from Jesus Christ.
There is no peace, without truth. There is no mercy, without striving first for righteousness and justice.
Let us pray, brothers and sisters, that all will recognize their own sinfulness and need of the light of Christ. Let us preach the truth in season and out of season. And all along, let us pray for God's mercy on all souls in need throughout the universe, incluing ourselves. Amen.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!