SPIRITUAL REFLECTIONS

Below are the Spiritual Reflections prepared for the 2016 Christus Rex Pilgrimage. The Spiritual Reflection are intended to assist you in your internal preparation for the Pilgrimage. Take a moment to sit down in a quiet place, perhaps before an image of Christ the King, and take your time to read and meditate on these words. Even if you can’t attend Pilgrimage this year, please take part in these reflections and unite yourself spiritually with those Pilgrims who will be walking.

“Teach me, O Lord, the secrets of your mercy, that I may fully profit by them.”

God’s love for us assumes a very special character, one that is adapted to our nature as frail, weak creatures: the character of mercy. Mercy is love bending over misery to relieve it, to redeem it, to raise it up to itself. It almost seems that God, in loving us, is attracted to our weakness, not because it is lovable, but because being infinite goodness, His compassion to compensate for it by His mercy. He wants to heal our imperfection by His infinite perfection, our impurity by His purity, our ignorance by His wisdom, our selfishness by His goodness, our weakness by His strength. God, the supreme, eternal good, wants to be the remedy for all our ills, “for He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust” (Ps 102:14).

Since our greatest evil—rather, the only real evil—is sin, infinite mercy would be the remedy. Assuredly, God hates sin, but, although He is forced to withdraw His friendship, that is, His grace, from the soul of a sinner because of the offence, His mercy still finds a way of continuing to love him. If He can no longer love him as a friend, He loves him as a creature, as the work of His hands; He loves him for the good that is still in him and which gives hope of his conversion.

God’s mercy is so immense that no misery, however great, can exhaust it; not even the most infamous sin, provided it is repented of, can halt it. This sad power is reserved to one thing only: the proud will of man by which he disdainfully shuts himself up in his wickedness, not wishing to admit how great is his need of God’s infinite mercy. In such a case, in spite of the immensity of divine mercy, the solemn words of the Gospel are fulfilled: “God has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart, He has put down the mighty from their seats…the rich He is sent empty away” (Lk 1: 51-53).

“O Lord, you are compassionate and merciful, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy. You will not only always be angry, nor will you threaten for ever. You have not dealt with me according to my sins nor rewarded me according to my iniquities. For according to the height of the heavens above the earth, Your mercy surpasses my merits. As a father has compassion on his children so have You compassion on them that fear You. For you know our frame, You remember that we are dust. Everything all pass; but Your mercy, O Lord, is from eternity until eternity to them that fear you” (cf Psalm 102).

There is no limit to God’s mercy. He never rejects us because of our sins, He never grows weary of our infidelities, He never refuses to forgive us, He is always ready to forget all our offences and to repay our ingratitude with graces. He never reproaches us for our offences, even when we fall again immediately after being forgiven. He is never angered by our repeated failures or weakness in the practice of virtue, but always stretches out His hand to us, wanting to help us.

Even when men condemn us, God shows mercy to us; He absolves us and sends us away justified, as Jesus did the woman taken in adultery. “Go, and sin no more” (Jn 8:11). By His words and example, Jesus has shown us the inexhaustible depths of God’s mercy: let us think of the Prodigal son, the lost sheep, Magdalen, and the good thief. But He has also said to us: “Be you therefore merciful, as your Father is also merciful” (Lk 6:36). How far does our mercy go? How much compassion do we have for the faults of others? The measure of our mercy towards our neighbour will be the measure of God’s mercy towards us, for Jesus has said: “With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Mt 7:2).

God does not require us to be sinless that He may shower upon us the fullness of His mercy, but He does require us to be merciful to our neighbour, and moreover, to be humble. In fact, to be sinners is not enough to attract and divine mercy; we must humbly acknowledge our sins and turn to God with complete confidence. What pleases God, said St Thérèse of Lisieux, “is to see me love my littleness and poverty; it is the blind hope I have in His mercy. This is my soul treasure.” This is the treasure which supplies for all our miseries, weaknesses, relapses and infidelities, because by means of this humility and confidence we shall obtain the divine mercy. And with this at our disposal, how can our wretchedness discourage us?

“But in you is found forgives…the Lord with whom there is mercy” (Ps 129:3-4,7).

There is no limit to God’s mercy. He never rejects us because of our sins, He never grows weary of our infidelities, He never refuses to forgive us, He is always ready to forget all our offences and to repay our ingratitude with graces. He never reproaches us for our offences, even when we fall again immediately after being forgiven. He is never angered by our repeated failures or weakness in the practice of virtue, but always stretches out His hand to us, wanting to help us.

Even when men condemn us, God shows mercy to us; He absolves us and sends us away justified, as Jesus did the woman taken in adultery. “Go, and sin no more” (Jn 8:11). By His words and example, Jesus has shown us the inexhaustible depths of God’s mercy: let us think of the Prodigal son, the lost sheep, Magdalen, and the good thief. But He has also said to us: “Be you therefore merciful, as your Father is also merciful” (Lk 6:36). How far does our mercy go? How much compassion do we have for the faults of others? The measure of our mercy towards our neighbour will be the measure of God’s mercy towards us, for Jesus has said: “With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Mt 7:2).

God does not require us to be sinless that He may shower upon us the fullness of His mercy, but He does require us to be merciful to our neighbour, and moreover, to be humble. In fact, to be sinners is not enough to attract and divine mercy; we must humbly acknowledge our sins and turn to God with complete confidence. What pleases God, said St Thérèse of Lisieux, “is to see me love my littleness and poverty; it is the blind hope I have in His mercy. This is my soul treasure.” This is the treasure which supplies for all our miseries, weaknesses, relapses and infidelities, because by means of this humility and confidence we shall obtain the divine mercy. And with this at our disposal, how can our wretchedness discourage us?

‘O Lord, even if I had committed every possible crime, my confidence would remain unshaken, for I should then feel—after sincerely repenting of them—that all the multitude of my offences would vanish as a drop of water in a fiery furnace’….“Show us, O Lord, Your mercy, and grant us our salvation” (Ps 85:7).

“If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, Lord who would survive? But in you is found forgives…the Lord with whom there is mercy.”

C.S. Lewis believed that every inch of the universe is a battleground between Christ the King and Satan, and that the battle between good and evil goes on in our own lives, it is constant, and it requires sustained effort. Not an inch of progress can be made in that battle without the grace, the life of God, flowing through our being, like blood flowing through our veins.

The prayers that ring true for a pilgrim are words like “Lord have mercy”, and “God be merciful to me a sinner” and psalm 129: “If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, Lord who would survive? But in you is found forgiveness…the Lord with whom there is mercy.” Because we do not cooperate with God’s gifts of grace as much as we ought. The pilgrimage to Bendigo is an opportunity to cooperate with God’s gifts of grace if we but participate in a good and wholesome manner, remembering it is a pilgrimage and not a bush walk or something similar.

C.S. Lewis said, “Once you examine the actual claims of Jesus and His eyewitness followers, there are really only three alternatives for who He really is – Jesus Christ was either a liar, a lunatic, or our Lord the King”. His claims of which Lewis spoke, are most clearly expressed in seven of His statements of Saint John’s Gospel: “I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall not hunger”; “I am the light of the world, he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”; “I am the gate; if anyone enters through me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture”; “I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep”; “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in me shall live even if he dies”; “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, but through me”; “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser”.

It is only in the light of this Faith, that any sense can be made of human suffering, of the limits of our earthly life, of our pilgrimage through it to the mystery of death, the ultimate divine mercy. In light of this faith, death is not a dark mystery, but the pilgrimage passage to final fulfilment and perfection.

Christian hope teaches us that eternal life is real and reminds us of Christ the King’s divine mercy. When one looks at the names on very old tombstones in very old cemeteries, few if any people living today have a personal knowledge of those long long passed away. Persons who once thought, felt, and willed, who were once animated, unique and alive, who imagined and remembered, they have not vanished with the last of human memories. “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God; secure in His protection”. It is because of this faith, this mercy that we can pray for our departed and our intentions on pilgrimage and trust in the mercy of God. Amen.