Divine Mercy: The Ultimate Mulligan


I do not play golf, but an old friend of mine does and, one time, when I asked him what his score was, he asked me, “Which one, the real one or the one with mulligans?”  Confused, I asked him what a mulligan was, and he told me that, in informal golf among buddies, opponents sometimes allow an unfortunate golfer who has just made a poor shot an extra stroke, not counting that poor shot in the scorecard.  Obviously, such an action would be grounds for disqualification in a real golf tournament, and would never be allowed in an “official” round of golf.

Imagine a baseball player being allowed an extra strike, a basketball player given an extra foul shot, or a football kicker being given an extra chance to hit a winning field goal.  None of these things would ever be allowed in the world of sports, because they would be called cheating and unfair.  However, Heaven does not play by our rules, and Jesus loves us so much that His rules often make no sense at all to anyone who believes in “playing by the rules.”

The Story: Words and Image

Many years ago, in the early 20th century in Poland, Jesus appeared to a humble, un-educated  nun named Sister Faustina, who is now a saint. He asked her to write down everything He said, and to have an image of how He appeared to her created for all to venerate and appeal to.  She wrote His words in notebooks, which were converted into her diary, which is now sold all over the world in many languages.  The image she had created is now venerated across the globe by millions of Catholics.  I have personally attended a gathering of over 20,000 people at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts on Divine Mercy Sunday, which has been designated as the Sunday after Easter Sunday. The beautiful image is of Christ with His left hand over His heart, from which  red and white rays emanate. The red ray symbolizes His precious blood that saves us, and the white ray symbolizes the waters of Baptism. Devotion to Divine Mercy includes the recitation of a Chaplet, usually said at 3pm, the hour of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, which is designated as the hour of Divine Mercy.  John Paul II was the strongest promoter and supporter of this lovely devotion, and it is no coincidence that Sister Faustina was canonized on his watch.

The Message:  Contrition, Trust, Faith, and Love

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos once said that “No one was ever lost because his sin was too great, but because his trust was too small.”  The Message of Divine Mercy is simply that  Jesus loves us infinitely more than we can possibly hurt Him. Because of this infinite love, Our Lord will always give mulligans to those who come to Him in sincere contrition and sorrow for their sins, and with a true intention to change their ways, as well as forgive others. We may not understand such an endless willingness to forgive, but that is only because we have never truly experienced such an endless desire to love.  In short, God’s love and mercy does not play by our rules, because the only rules that count are those created and applied by God.

Gabriel Garnica, 2016

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Christian Feet


We are aware that the Last Supper is a transcendental event in the history of our Church, marking the Institution of the Holy Mass and the establishment of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  While all four Gospels describe parts of the Last Supper, only the Gospel of John ( 13:2-7) describes the Washing of the Feet, whereby the Priesthood was established with the Disciples becoming the first priests in following Christ’s powerful example of humble, loving service.  Focusing on this beautiful part of the Last Supper, we may use the phrase Love Christ Always as a way to remember three points made here.

Language

There are over 50 phrases in the English language which involve the feet or legs, expressing positive, negative, or neutral concepts that may serve as reminders regarding what being a true Christian is all about.

We call ourselves Christians, but do we drag our feet to help others, sidestep standing up for our Faith instead of stepping forward, or walk on eggs because we are more concerned with offending others than with offending God?  Do we often put our foot in our mouth by speaking for ourselves and not God?  Do we dip our toes in our faith instead of jumping in with both feet?  Do we keep others on their toes by challenging them to be closer to Christ?  Do we shoot ourselves in the foot by not practicing what we preach, or do we always try to put our best foot forward, standing firmly on what we believe and being willing to walk the walk instead of just talk the talk?

Cleansing

We are all aware of the ancient practice of foot washing, a custom made necessary by the fact that people wore sandals or were even barefoot resulting in very dirty feet.  It was customary for the lowest servant of the host’s household to wash the feet of visitors.  This punctuated Christ’s powerful example of humble service and disarmed any argument that we need not humble ourselves to reach out to others following Christ’s model.

While some scholars believe that the washing of the feet came after the meal itself, most scholars agree that it occurred either before or during the event, but most certainly before the actual breaking of the bread and blessing of the bread and wine.  Is this cleansing before partaking of Christ’s Body and Blood not parallel to confession before Communion?

If we think about it, the washing of the feet required obvious humility by the one washing, but also required some humility on the part of the one being washed, since it was an admission that the feet were, indeed, in need of washing.  Does not confession require humility on the one being cleansed of sin, since it demands an admission of sinfulness?  Just as Christ washed the soles of the feet at the Last Supper, so too He washes the souls in defeat at confession!

Action

The final point to be made here is by no means the least important.  In fact, some may argue that it is the real point of this entire discussion. A popular interpretation of John 17:14-19 where Our Lord says that His followers are “not of the world” is that Christians should be in the world but not part of it.  Many have wrongly seen this as suggesting that Christians seeking salvation have no choice but to tolerate the unpleasant moral dirt of this world but should try to isolate themselves from it so as to not be tainted by this world’s pathetic moral state.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. We only need to see the example of Christ, who was born in dirt and died in dirt, whose entire life was a series of humiliations, and who spent His entire ministry reaching out to the most wretched segments of society in love.  Would we have asked Mother Teresa to stay away from the terrible poverty, squalor, and odor that she embraced on a daily basis in loving service?  So, we see, that the true Christian will surely get his or her feet very dirty, both in personal sin and in the grime of this world.  True Christians, being human, will sin and need confession to cleanse their souls. They will also serve the most unpleasant and need cleansing of this good dirt only found in following Christ’s example.

As the Parable of the Talents vividly reminds us, the only way that we will give God a return on His investment in us is by going out and making a difference in a very dirty world, and certainly not by hiding in a church or under a bed lest we become tainted by the moral squalor around us.

Conclusion

As we consider The Last Supper, let us remember the Washing of the Feet, whereby Christ reminds us that we can only return home to Heaven by being willing to walk outside of our comfort zone and take Christ to others in a very morally dirty world.  Being a true Christian is not only about playing one in Church, where we recite liturgical scripts and prayers only to go home and keep our feet as clean as possible.  Ultimately, as saints like St. Paul and Mother Teresa so vividly demonstrated, being a true follower of Christ is about walking the walk to the very foot of the Cross. As St.Therese, The Little Flower, taught us, we must bear the scars of fighting for our Faith when we present ourselves before God, and that includes very, very dirty feet spent serving others in love.

Gabriel Garnica, 2016

 

 

Backbiting: The Silent Assassin of Souls


WordpressBackbiting

Of all the sins that we all fall into from time to time, certainly backbiting, the ultimate sin of the tongue, may be the most insidious.  Backbiting is simply speaking about others behind their backs.  The implication, of course, is that we are not speaking about that person’s wonderful traits or actions but, more than likely, their perceived faults.

Slander is most often used to describe lies spoken about others which hurt their reputation or good name. It is clear that spreading lies about others is a serious sin, and most people would admit to that.  However, backbiting does not care whether what is said is false or true.  The mere act of spreading anything even remotely negative about another behind their back is wrong because such an act harms three souls and the environment in which such a sin is committed.  First, backbiting harms the reputation of the one spoken about, and does so without giving that victim any recourse or means of responding to the claim. Some will claim that where the so-called victim has committed an evil or wrong act, there is no reputation or good name to care about.  However, that is not our decision to make. Like so many sins, we get into spiritual and, by extension, eternal, trouble any time we start making ourselves judge and jury of what is or is not proper and moral.  When we hear of something negative about a person, we should simply pray for them and stop the spread of the rumors right there. Let us not throw gasoline on a raging fire and claim that the fire was already set before we added our contribution!

Secondly, backbiting harms the souls of any who hear our words because it exposes them to not only the harmful information but, just as importantly, it infects their ears and minds with negativity about that person through our gleeful efforts.  Those who hear us are thus tempted to continue the process and, through human nature and weakness plus the implication of our actions, the listeners are encouraged to spread the harmful news as well.

Third, backbiting harms the environment in which it is spread because it creates the impression that people can be torn apart by words behind their backs, and that there are those in the situation that have the right to point fingers at others which, by implication, implies that those pointing fingers are not guilty themselves of some or most of what they are accusing others of doing.  We should create and enforce a zero tolerance for backbiting in our lives, and in that way we will be spreading God’s love and charity instead of the devil’s hate and evil.

Finally, of  course, backbiting endangers the soul and salvation of the one backbiting.  It would truly be a tragedy is we did our best to be clear of all sins commonly discussed, yet fall because we fail to discuss and avoid backbiting.  Many saints have stated that we will be ordered to make restitution for the harm our tongues has created, be it on this earth or after our death, in one way or another.  It seems to me that we should start by avoiding and then make sure we do our best to dismantle the backbiting we have turned into a past time.

2016  Gabriel Garnica