Unconditional Love and Mercy

04-02-2022From the Pastor's DeskMsgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

Where were you? Didn’t you get my message? We hear these words as we read the Gospel (John 11:1-45) at the 5:00 PM Mass this Saturday and the 10:30 Mass on Sunday. Those thoughts and comments were directed at Jesus by the sisters of Lazarus who was sick and died. They sent a message to Jesus while he was suffering, but Jesus did not go immediately. He did not get there until Lazarus had actually died. When both sisters greeted him separately they said to Jesus, “If you had been here my brother would not have died.” When things are beyond our control and we feel powerless, our natural reaction is to look beyond ourselves. We look for Jesus in trying and desperate times. Our challenge is to see Him in the day in and day out experiences of our lives every day. That does not mean we pray for hours and hours. It means that we take the time through daily prayer and the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Confession, and the Sacrament of the Sick to be in His presence and welcome Him into our presence.

We joyfully take the time to be with the people who are an intimate part of our lives. We are grateful for all they do for us and with us. Our gratitude is expressed in words for particular things they do for us and with us. But most of all our gratitude is expressed simply and pointedly when we say from the depths of our hearts. “Thank you for you!” At times we can take people for granted. Sometimes we feel that we are being taken for granted. We do not act out of love because we know we will get the recognition and gratitude we think we deserve. There is no greater act of love than Jesus undergoing His passion and death on the cross for us. Not once did He cry out with words of anger and threats of eternal damnation. The depths of His pure and unconditional love are so clear as He hung on the cross in cruel, harsh, and excruciating pain and said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

We know love is never earned; it is a pure gift. One of the most powerful lines from a believer in God comes from St. Paul in Romans 5:8 where he says, “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” So often it is in our nature to feel we deserve attention, help, and even love because we have done good things and put ourselves out for others. We know we cannot live with that attitude and find true peace, joy, and happiness. That attitude makes us “look over our shoulder” to make sure we are getting the response we want or feel we deserve. Jesus found true life and peace by giving all He is and was for us even when there seemed to be total rejection and defeat. Pure love never gives up. It is put to the test when there seems to be no awareness of its presence. The two most common prayers we pray are the Our Father and the Hail Mary. In both of those prayers we express awareness of our sinfulness: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” How good and enlightening it is to pray those words with sincerity. We do not beat our breasts and grovel in shame but humbly recognize our weaknesses and faults and express our faith in divine mercy and life-giving love and forgiveness.

As Lent is culminating in our celebrations of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday we are invited to be part of these celebrations to express our gratitude for God’s unconditional love and mercy and to experience God’s unconditional love and mercy. I invite you to experience the love and mercy we all hunger for in the depths of our hearts. Jesus never says to us, “If you had only been here I could have given you my love.” He readily welcomes the opportunity to forgive our sins and even more raise us up with His life- giving, loving and merciful presence.

On Monday, Apr 11 we will have the opportunity to experience God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Confession from 3:00PM through 9:00PM. We are always invited to receive Jesus at the Masses we celebrate every day and every weekend as well as in our daily prayer time. Come to once again experience the open arms and heart of God Himself!

Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those
who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.