Sunday, September 25, 2016

Padre Pio and My Pilgrimage of Mercy

I was privileged to go to Rome this spring on pilgrimage.
I went with my fellow Padre Pio prayer group members to witness Padre Pio being named  “Apostle of Mercy” for this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

We came at the invitation of Pope Francis, who invited all Padre Pio Prayer Group members from around the world to come to a private audience for the ceremony.
(Who knew there were 400 million prayer group members?  And 60,000 would end up coming to the same private audience?)

We had many incredible experiences – some deeply personal and private – but the core of each experience I had on that pilgrimage, (really the core of each experience of God I’ve had in my entire life), can be summed up as an experience of Mercy.

How can we understand God's Mercy and how do we experience it, because His Divine Mercy is manifested on multiple levels and in innumerable ways?

Truly, the fact that even the universe, (or this planet that we live on), exists at all is due to the gracious kindness of a God who seeks to shower us with love. Not out of any need on His part, but as an expression of Who He is! This God of Love, cannot help but be loving, creating and continually pouring out Himself in endless wonders and beauty! And the culmination of all His creation is humankind - us! Imagine!

I know it’s hard to fathom when we are barraged with so many lies, both outside and within, that tell us 'that just ain’t so'!  Many travel literally around the world, spending thousands to see the wonders that God has created – and they are glorious!!!!!  Think of the Grand Canyon, the Tuscan countryside, or the isles of Greece – yet, they are nothing in comparison to a human being - for we are "created in His Image and Likeness" (cf. Gen 1:27)!!!! So often we fail to see the beauty looking back at us in the mirror – the beauty and the glory of our own creation. Scripture tells us all will pass away-- all save one creation of God – us!  For while our bodies will turn to dust, our souls have been created immortal! 

When God created us He breathed into us life, intelligence and a will – giving each of us the ability to freely choose Him and recognize Him as our creator or not. Because He is ever-giving, life-giving Love, it is His essence to pour forth Goodness, Beauty, Truth and Glory upon us -- we --who are the crown of His creation (cf. Gen 1: 29-31)  -- even to giving each of us a guardian angel to care for us and to bring us joy! Isn’t this Mercy?!

So often we miss God's goodness as we busy ourselves as we struggle and fight to accumulate more, to make more money, to achieve more… or we neglect God and relationships because it is takes too much work and interferes with our comfort and ease.  Yet, all that will remain is God and the human beings in our paths that we so often overlook and dismiss. So often we judge each other and ourselves as unattractive, unworthy, unacceptable or not worth our time... So many times we can’t see the glorious beauty of God’s creation that is right in front of us! For each of us is a completely unique, unrepeatable masterpiece who expresses God in a way no other soul ever has or will!  

Linger over this  -- ponder this -- and ask God to reveal to You this Truth.  It is something that we can never fully fathom this side of eternity.  It is something we must grow deeper in knowledge of every day as we endure everything around us (and Satan's voice within) that tells us otherwise.  But, to grasp onto this Truth even a little is life changing!  

In the face of this tremendous Truth, how it must pain Our Father, Our Savior and Our Advocate to see us belittle and judge each other and ourselves after He created us in His Image, became man so that we could become sharers of His divinity, and most marvelously, suffered an excruciating death to redeem us and then humbled Himself even further to become food for us!  So He can "remain with us always unto the end of time" (Mt 28:20) and so WE CAN BECOME ONE BODY with Him both NOW and FOREVER in Heaven!

The word Mercy literally means: misericordia - Misery Heart. A Heart of Misery. A Heart that is miserable in that it feels our pain, and bears our sins and its punishments out of love for us.  It is a heart that desires to be loved as it has loved. A Heart that is miserable when we reject Him. 

To describe this love to us, Jesus revealed that His Heart is burning and on fire to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque, saying:
Behold this Heart which has so loved men, that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself in order to testify to its love.  In return, I have received from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and their sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for Me in this sacrament of Love.

Similarly as members of His Body, St. Paul said, "We make up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ" (Col 1: 24).  Not because anything was lacking in Christ's ultimate sacrifice, but because the suffering of Christ lacks our participation in it for the redemption of the world!  How incredible is that?! 

We are designed not only to be a reflection of God, but to also be co-redeemers with him!  

Yet, so often we feel the exact opposite.  Because I know the depth of my sinfulness, it is extremely easy for me to judge myself.  I get caught up in shame of what I’ve done and what I’ve failed to do. The times my words have hurt and killed another and the times I’ve been neglectful of those in my care!  How easily do I hear and accept the words of Satan condemning me – telling me I’m no good or that what I’ve done and the mistakes I’ve made are beyond repair (after tempting us to sin in the first place). How often do I fail to trust in God's love and forgiveness of me?

It's this terrible pit of darkness, self-condemnation and regret that Satan prepares for us and tempts us to stay locked into -- that's exactly the opposite of what God wants us to give us.  He understands our weakness and therefore, became sin to conquer it and to free us from its slavery and punishments.   If we can open ourselves even a little, God’s Mercy reaches in to save us. We don’t deserve it. We don’t earn it. Yet, still He cannot but help to freely give it, for that is Who He is!

He could not stand by as sin enslaved us and led us to live eternally separated from Him. In the face of the horror of sin and its mortal consequences, God does "rend the heavens and comes down" (Is 64: 1) to not only save us, but to become ONE with us in all things save sin! (cf Heb. 2: 17; GS 22.2). God’s Mercy is not only expressed in Jesus, it is Incarnate in Him. He is the full expression of God's Mercy manifested to us! He is Mercy enfleshed, so much so, that it even His Name, Jesus, which means, “God saves!” (CCC 430). Jesus is the Face of the Father’s Mercy as Pope Francis told us at the beginning of this Jubilee year! For God IS Love and Mercy itself!!! (Diary 1074). Evident in the fact that Jesus, in response to being crushed, broken and pierced by our sins, looks on us with tenderness and compassion! Even in the midst of our darkness – even while we are hammering nails into His hands and feet – even when we mock and deride Him, He cries out in prayer and love for us: "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do!"(Lk 23:34). 

Stay with this image for awhile and ponder this!  Allow yourself to hear Jesus speak these words to you. 

What wondrous love is this????
What incredible good news, for"God demonstrates His great love for us through this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5: 8).

This Jesus, this God of unfathomable Mercy, is Whom Padre Pio fell in love with and Whom He gave his life to. He let Jesus “have the run of him” and who could ever imagine all God would do in His life? From bearing Jesus’ wounds as visible marks in his body for 50 years, to bilocating, to healing, to being able to read souls… But, it was for none of those things that Pope Francis chose him as an Apostle of Mercy – rather, he spoke about his life of prayer and his dedication to pouring forth God's Mercy through the Sacrament of Confession –at times up to 19 hours a day!  Imagine! 

The Pope said of Padre Pio at the audience: “Through “the apostleship of listening” ...[in] the ministry of Confession he became the living caress of the Father, who heals the wounds of sin and revives the heart with peace." [emphasis mine].

Do we experience this in the confessional? Do we believe we are truly forgiven and made new? If we don't, is it because we are believing the lies of Satan, who seeks to identify us with our sin and our failures, instead of realizing we have been made children of the Almighty Father at our baptisms? (cf. Eph 1: 4-5).

Jesus told St. Faustina, 
Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down up on your soul… Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust.  If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity. (Diary, 1602).

Do we trust Him? If not, let us ask ourselves why and consider what more He could have done to prove His love for us?!

"How painfully distrust of My goodness wounds Me! Sins of distrust wound Me most painfully" (Diary, 1076). 

The Pope continued: 
[Padre Pio] was able to do this because he was always connected to the source: he ceaselessly quenched his thirst with Jesus Crucified, and thus became a channel of mercy.  He bore in his heart many people and many sufferings, uniting it all to the love of Christ … living the great mystery of sorrow offered up in love. In this way his little drop became a great river of mercy, which brought water to many deserted hearts and created oases of life in many parts of the world.  
What could God do with "our little drop" if we refuse him nothing?  What could God do with us if we completely trust in Him, "Who is mighty to save"(Is 63:1) and "whose Mercy is endless and whose compassion inexhaustible"? If we enter into this Mercy that is offered to us in every confession (and allow ourselves to receive it) it changes us!  It transforms us – pouring light and healing and forgiveness onto the darkness, sickness, the ugliness and the death caused by our sin -- even unto making us a "new creation"... for"the old has passed away" (2 Cor 5:17) – we are to remember our sins no more!  We are forgiven and freed!!!!! 

What if we never tire of running to Jesus in prayer as Padre Pio did– looking beyond ourselves to Christ Who is looking upon us with compassion and tenderness?

What if we LIVED a life of prayer (even when we don't feel like it - even in our darkest hours -- even in the midst of great pain and doubt)?

The Holy Father continued his address to us with these words:
Padre Pio used to say prayer is a “force that moves the world”… it is not a nice practice for finding a little peace of heart; nor is it a means of devotion for obtaining useful things from God. Were is so, then it would be an act of subtle selfishness….No… it is something else… it is instead a spiritual work of mercy, which means bringing everything to the heart of God…it is a relationship.. it is an intercession needed just as bread is… it is as Padre Pio like to say “the greatest weapon we have, a key that opens the heart of God”… it is the Church’s greatest strength, one which we must never let go of, for the Church bears fruit only if she does as did Our Lady and the Apostles, who “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14)… Padre Pio, who called himself “a poor brother who prays”, wrote that prayer is “the highest apostolate that a soul can exercise in the Church of God” (Epistolario II, 70). 

It is only in prayer that we can see ourselves as we truly are – which is similar to saying we are able to see ourselves as the Father sees us. It is also only in prayer that we can begin to see others in the same way and respond to their needs as the Father calls us.

Lord, help me to pray!  Help us to pray and so see You look upon us with such love and forgiveness that it transforms us, because we who "have been forgiven much, love much!" (Jn 7:47).  This experience then leads us into a life You created us to have, for You tell us: “I have come so that you will have life and have it to the full!” (Jn 10:10).

If we, too, like Padre Pio, live in prayer - "ever connected to God" - how much more could we reflect the LOVE you have for us and so in turn love one another as You first loved us? By opening ourselves to the LIFE and GRACE of our All Powerful Trinitarian God, Who loves us more than we can fathom, what more could God be able to do with us?

What could we do for the world if we lived this union with God in prayer: 
"Who is able to do infinitely more than we could ask for or imagine"(Eph 3:20)?  How would our world be changed?

What if we, too, answered Jesus' call to us and became Apostles of Mercy? What if the fate of the world depending on it? 

Dear Jesus, through the intercession of Padre Pio, help us to experience your love so we can love ourselves and others in the same way you love us. Help us to give you free reign in our lives so that You"can live and move and have your being"in us (Acts 17:28).  

Help us to more fully enter into this Year of Mercy -- this time of Extraordinary Grace and Mercy -- and through the "force that moves the world" - through prayer -  may we help bring forth torrents of Divine Mercy (of healing and grace and conversion) upon the world! 

May we, through “the greatest weapon we have, a key that opens the heart of God” help You save the world!  

Let us begin! 
Let us begin again each time we falter. And then, begin again and again... 

"For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jer 29:11).

Janet Moore © 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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