Saturday, January 2, 2016

Vigil for the Year of Mercy

We welcome the New Year, the Year of Mercy, in a spirit of praise, for praise is that form of prayer which recognize that God is God. Praise lauds God for his own sake and glorifies him simply because HE IS. This posture of praise is the most apt way to greet our Incarnate Savior. This posture of humility is the most apt way to worship our Triune God.

Psalm 42 
"As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night, as they ask daily, 'Where is your God?'
Those times I recall as I pour out my soul,
When I went in procession with the crowd, I went with them to the house of God,
Amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival.
Why are you downcast, my soul; why do you groan within me?
Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God."

From our privileged place within the ark of Christ's holy Church, we wait like Noah for the sign of God's loving covenant to save us from the killing flood of sin. The Lord has gathered us to himself and kept us safe. It is the Lord who has filled us with the desire for himself, our souls yearning for holiness. Even as the flood waters subside, we find ourselves thirsting for the living water, for an encounter with the living God like the kind that the woman at the well longed for without knowing. 

Where can we turn to see the face of God? In our trust and abandonment, we await the Lord as the farmer awaits the great harvest that begins with the scattering of so much simple seed. He then goes to sleep at night and rises again in the morning, day after day, until the seed grows without his knowing how it happens. To know that we cannot force the seed of desire to sprout at our pleasure is to truly rest before the Creator of our lives. To claim God's provident care is the Christian's exalted glory. That glory is the fruit of humility and confidence.

For forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert. The Lord led them in their lengthy vigil, preparing them to enter into the Promised Land. Never did they go without food, without water, without protection. God's calendar and schedule are not our own. We wait in faith. We follow as disciples. We rejoice in the way God's will unfolds.

Our life is in God's hands. Even if an enemy is to come while we are asleep and to sow weeds through our wheat, we will wait. During our exile we humbly bow before God's sovereignty We will let weeds and wheat grow together until the time of harvest. Then we will gather the wheat into our barns, and burn the bundles of worthless weeds. For God's purpose rules in every circumstance. His greatness shines in the smallest details. The Lord overlooks nothing. And so, we throw off every temptation to fuss and fret, like the anxious Martha. We wait this eve in contemplation with Mary at the feet of the Master.

Lord Jesus, free us from all worry and anxiety. Refashion our hearts and our minds in your own divine image so that we may love the Father's will as you love it. Make us perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect so that we will live only for you.

Luke 18:2-7
"There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, 'Render a just decision for me against my adversary.' For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, 'While it is true that I neither fear God nor repect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and stirke me.' The Lord said, 'Pay attention to what the dishonest judge saiys. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?'"

We, who have no right to God's mercy, call out to him day and night. Like the Canaanite woman who beseeched Jesus to free her daughter from the torment of a demon, we beg for some scrap of mercy. How the Lord delights in such obedience of faith. What at first seems like refusal on the Lord's part is in fact an invitiation to greater ardor. Jesus blesses us with the chance to show him how much we rely on him and how little we can depend onourselves. When we set our hearts on Christ, no matter how tumultuous the struggles of our lives, Jesus responds with the fullness of himself. We come before him, especially in the Blessed Sacrament, constant in prayer to receive not a crumb, but the very Bread of Life. The Eucharist empowers us to pray always without losing heart. It empowers us to live sacramentally every moment, every circumstance as we offer up our lives in living sacrifice.  It transforms us into Christ's likeness; we lack for nothing.

Jesus comes to reveal to us the Father. But how little fear we have of God. How little respect we have for our fellow human beings. Like the prodigal son, we eagerly get so caught up in our own ambitions, our own gratifications, our own self-indulgence. Our wanton ways lead us far away from the Father. And yet, the "happy  fault" of Adam wins for us the gift of the Redeemer who reclaims us in our sin. Through it all, the prodigal son's father keeps faithful, attentive vigil...watching on the road for a glimpse of his wayward child. His heart yearns for the slightest sign of the son's desire to return to his household. And then the father runs with all his might to meet his repentant son, to shower him with his mercy, and to restore him to his love.

Saint John Paul II wrote that "the father's fidelity to himself is totally concentrated upon the humanity of the lost son, upon his dignity." Our return to the Father in Jesus Christ reveals to us the depths of our dignity as human persons. The disordered and dis-integrated condition of our lives is integrated into our identity as a child of God. That experience of priceless mercy inspires us to show unfailing Christian justice to all those we meet, expecially the poor, the needy, the oppressed, and the marinalized. Saint John Paul II reminded us that "man attains to the merciful love of God to the extent that he himself is interiorly transfomed in the spirit of that love towards his neighbor." As we return from our wayward way because of the redemption won for us by the cross, may we keep vigil like the prodigal father, ready to run out to all those lost and disillusioned. May we be generous in enrobing them with the compassion that reconciles us to the Father. May we keep vigil like the prodigal father, ready to forgive our loved ones just as our Father has forgiven us.

Lord Jesus, may this New Year be marked by our profound desire to be reconciled to you in every way. May we remain close to you through our faithfulness to the sacraments. Fill us with an authentic spirit of repentance. Free us from our resentments, our grudges, and our regrets. May Christlike forgiveness be the hallmark of our lives. May we witness to our faith by proclaiming the dignity of all human life in our every thought, word, and deed. May our experience of your mercy make us generous in our acts of justice for the afflicted of the world, to that all may live in the freedom of your kingdom.

(Our acknowledgment to Father Peter Peter John Cameron, O.P. and Saint John Paul II for the words that inspired us in our vigil)

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