Mercy Sunday is upon us, the day we celebrate God’s great mercy, which includes a willingness to forgive us even after we have crucified
his only begotten Son.
The resurrected Christ appears to Peter and the other
disciples after they have denied him and abandoned him. Without scolding or
berating them he restores them to his good favor, Christ also goes after the
two disheartened disciples who leave Jerusalem for Emmaus because they lost
faith in him; he brings them back. He does this in his mercy and his mercy
Is God mercy? Is mercy essential to God’s divine nature?
Some have defined mercy as requiring someone in need of
mercy, with some sort of sin, imperfection, or fallenness. Mercy in this case
would require inferiority of the one receiving mercy from the superior merciful
one. If that were the case, then God would not be mercy because there is no
neediness, sin, imperfection, or superiority-inferiority in the Trinity, and
therefore there would be no mercy in him.
Yet Jesus Christ gives us a different concept of mercy. He commands:
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Matthew renders the
same passage as: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is
perfect” (Matthew 5:48). In both places, mercy is presented to us as generosity
toward others independent of their response, which means to love everyone,
friend and enemy, just and unjust, “expecting nothing in return… and [so] you
will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35). This is the way the Son imitates
the Father, and how we are to come to share his divine sonship and enter the
inner divine life of the Trinity.
This concept of mercy does indeed apply to God. The Father,
with mercy, eternally shares all that he has with the Son expecting nothing in
return (cf. Matthew 11:27; John 3:35; 5:26; 13:3). Intra-Trinitarian mercy
implies no superiority over the one receiving mercy. It implies no sin,
imperfection, or fallenness. Certainly the sinner needs mercy and forgiveness,
but so does the woman who receives the merciful invitation to marriage from
Christ to become his bride. In this way the Blessed Virgin is grateful and
rejoices in God her merciful Savior (cf. Luke 1:47) even though she never
This is important for us, because Christ reminds us:
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). If we
wish to receive the mercy promised us on Mercy Sunday—complete
forgiveness of all our sins if we go to confession, receive Holy Communion
worthily, and trust in his Mercy—we too need to be merciful, “even as
your Father is merciful.” This means our mercy toward others needs to be
conferred on others without any arrogant sense of superiority over those to
whom we are merciful.
Being like the older brother of the prodigal son will only
keep us out of the heavenly celebration (cf. Luke 15:25-32). Haughtiness,
superiority, pride, and looking down on others are all out of place with conferring
the kind of mercy that allows us to enter into Christ’s divine sonship with the
Father. Certainly we need to be merciful toward those who have harmed us, but
in doing so we understand that God has forgiven us million of times more (cf.
God’s generous mercy extends to all, whether sinner or not,
because he mercifully created us and he has invited us to share in the eternal
marriage feast of the Lamb and his bride. So, let us love one another as he has
loved us, entering into God’s eternal mercy by humbly being merciful ourselves.
Fr. John R. Waiss
Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Mary of the Angels,
Jesus Christ has risen, Alleluia, Alleluia! What joy it brings us to know that our
great Friend and Lord has not only died out of love for us, he has conquered
death itself and in return for our love he has rewarded us with Life!
Easter is about an encounter with the person of Christ: Mary Magdalene at the tomb,
the holy women returning from the tomb, the two disciples on the road to
Emmaus, the apostles in the upper room, and Thomas a week later. Easter should
mean that each one of us have an encounter with the person of Christ too,
whether in “the scriptures” or in the “breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:32-35).
Then our hearts will also “burn within us” with joy, and it will fill us with
confidence to be able to transform the world.
If through prayer, Scripture reading, and the Eucharist we have truly encountered
the risen Christ, then it will fill us with joy and confidence. So let people
know—with your smile and cheerfulness! Let people see our Lord within
you—not with a sullen seriousness, but with a joyful optimism! We know
that God has poured out his mercy on us in Christ Jesus, let us rejoice and be
glad, and then let your family, friends, and everyone else know that God loves
them too: for God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of
the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). As Pope Francis says: “The joy of the gospel fills
the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of
salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With
Christ joy is constantly born anew” (Joy of the Gospel, 1).
Thank you for all your prayers, time and help, and financial support for St. Mary of
the Angels. You are in our prayers.
Have a Happy and Blessed Easter! ¡Santas y felices Pascuas a todos! Szczęśliwy i błogosławiony Wielkanoc! Wesołego Alleluja!
St. Mary of the Angels Priests, Deacon, and Staff
In the first Gospel, we reenact our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem,
when he rides in triumphantly, seated on a donkey. This was
foreshadowed when David had his son Solomon mount his royal donkey and ride
into Jerusalem to take possession of his kingship. So now God the Father has
his Son mount a donkey so as to ride into Jerusalem to take possession of his
eternal kingship. This would fulfill also the prophecy of Zechariah: “Rejoice
greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your
king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an
ass, on a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9).
St. Josemaría loved this scene of the Gospel, where Christ
manifests his humility by riding the gentle donkey. He would imagine himself as
that beast of burden, offering his King the use of his life and strength: “If
Jesus’ reign in my soul, in your soul, meant that he should find it a perfect
dwelling place, then indeed would we have reason to despair. But “fear not,
daughter of Sion; beloved, your king is coming, sitting on an ass’ colt” (John
12:15). Don’t you see? Jesus makes do with a poor animal for a throne. I don’t
know about you; but I am not humiliated to acknowledge that in the Lord’s eyes
I am a beast of burden: ‘I am like a donkey in your presence, but I am
continually with you. You hold my right hand’ (Psalm 72:23), you take me by the
bridle” (Christ Is Passing By,181).
Let’s let Christ reign over us through our work and study, in our friendships
and family relationships. Christ reigns by offering him our life in service,
just as did that donkey for Christ.
The second Gospel-the Passion of our Lord-also is about Christ’s kingship.
Christ marches into Jerusalem in order to be enthroned on the Cross. As St.
Josemaría writes in the Way of the Cross:
“Sentence is about to
be passed. Mockingly, Pilate says: Ecce Rex vester! Behold your King! (John 19:14). Infuriated, the chief priests
reply: We have no king but Caesar (John 19:15)… Offering no resistance, Jesus
gives himself up to the execution of the sentence. He is to be spared nothing,
and upon his shoulders falls the weight of the ignominious cross. But, through
love, the Cross becomes the throne from which he reigns…
Lord, where are your friends? Your subjects, where are they? They have left you. This running away
has been going on for twenty centuries… We, all of us, flee from the Cross,
from your Holy Cross.
Blood, anguish, loneliness and an insatiable hunger for souls… these are the courtiers around
your royal throne” (From station 1, meditation 4 and station 2)
Christ freely embraces the Cross, because by the Cross he redeems us and the whole world.
Holy Week is a wonderful time to accompany him, to experience his great love for
you and me. Don’t be afraid and let his love conquer you. Let him rule over
your heart and soul, over your body and your time. Then you will experience the
joy of Christ’s kingship, the joy of the Cross!
Happy Holy Week!
Fr. John Waiss
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8), such “that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Purity of heart is essential in order to see God because the union of a man and woman in a lifelong marriage reflects the image and likeness of God as a Trinity of persons. All sinful lust distorts marriage and thus distorts God’s image and likeness; and we cannot see God through a distorted image.
The Holy Trinity is an infinite, eternal, all-loving, and merciful God. Marriage reflects this through a lifelong, unconditional, mutual, and faithful gift of self between one man and one woman that is open to new life. Take away any of those qualities and God’s image and likeness becomes distorted.
For this reason, our Lord goes on to explain in the Sermon on the Mount:
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32).
All divorce distorts how marriage reflects God’s love. Divorce says that the love between a man and woman in marriage is not forever—“until death do us part”—which should reflect God’s love as eternal. That is why God says: “For I hate divorce, says the LORD the God of Israel” (Malachi 2:16), “Because the LORD was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:14). So, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).
God knows that marriage is not easy. To love another imperfect human being means sacrifice. For this reason St. Paul tells us that “those who marry will have worldly troubles… the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided… the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:28,33-34). So it shouldn’t surprise us that marriage is difficult. Yet with the crosses found in marriage we find Christ and the pathway to holiness.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Married persons need to keep themselves pure too. To put limits or conditions on their total, unconditional self-giving would also break and distort the image of God’s unconditional self-giving in the Holy Trinity. For a married person to say, “I give myself totally to you… except for my fertility,” or to say, “I accept you as you are unconditionally… with the condition we don’t get pregnant,” destroys spousal love by introducing a contradiction. Birth control is a form of adultery, as St. Paul goes on to say: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).
Purity of heart is thus absolutely essential to see the true God and to have a happy marriage. Let us pray that each one of us in our particular state in life can exemplify this to others—especially to our young people—so that they can follow this example of true love and see God fully.
Fr. John R. Waiss
Blessed are the Pure of Heart—Having Eyes Only for God
the Sermon on
the Mount, our Lord links together the
sixth beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”
(Matthew 5:18), with the sixth and ninth commandments—Thou shalt not commit adultery nor covet thy neighbor’s wife. As Christ says: “You have heard
that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that
every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with
her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Here our Lord equates lustful looks to
adultery, making both mortal sins that keep one from being able to see God in
heaven or in other people here on earth.
Is this exaggerated? Is looking at pornography
really a sin? Does it really hurt anybody?
To answer this, consider a young couple,
boyfriend-girlfriend, walking down the street together, holding hands and
enjoying each other, when an immodestly dressed woman comes walking by. The
young man, being weak in this area, takes some glances at her… then, turning
his head, his eyes latch on to her… as he does he runs into a telephone pole!
Now how would his girlfriend react? Hurt? Angry? You
bet! But why? Because he was
unfaithful to her with his eyes. His actions said to his girlfriend:
“Guess what, Honey, you’ve got competition and you happen to be losing that
competition right now.” Such a response would kill their relationship.
What does the act of looking at pornography say to
God or to our Blessed Mother? “Guess what, God, you’ve got competition and you
happen to be losing that competition right now.” It can kill our relationship
with him, which is why it is a mortal sin. That is why our Lord goes on to say:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out
and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of
your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right
hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you
lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew
So, if your smart-phone causes you to sin, replace
it with a dumb-phone; it is better for you to go to heaven without a
smart-phone than to be thrown into hell with a smart-phone. The same could be
said of FaceBook or Internet access at home or cable television—whatever is an
occasion of sin for us—it would be better to go to heaven without.
Some may think: “This approach is so negative. Do
we have to go through life with blinders on?” No, of course
not. Our struggle can and should be very positive.
Let’s revisit our example. We see the young couple,
boyfriend-girlfriend, walking down the street together, holding hands and
enjoying each other, when again an immodestly dressed woman comes walking by.
This time the young man doesn’t look. He pretends that he doesn’t notice this
voluptuous woman… rather he turns his head to look into his girlfriend’s eyes.
Now how would his girlfriend react? Happy… proud! His actions said: “I only
have eyes for you.” The action said more than “I love you dear” hundreds of
times over. We say the same thing to our Lord and Our Lady when we turn away
from pornographic images or thoughts—it is a positive act of love for them.
Purity of heart is absolutely necessary to be able
to love, to be able to see God in heaven.
Fr. John R. Waiss