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by Matthew Kelly
by Father Bob Sherry
I overheard Walter and Isabel having a discussion yesterday. They were talking about the meaning of Easter. Walter is six and Isabel is four.
Isabel: “Walter, Easter is about Jesus raising out of the dead!”
Walter: “Well, I’ve heard about that, but for me Easter is about chocolate eggs and chocolate bunnies!”
Isabel: “No Walter, the reason you get those chocolates is because Jesus died on the cross and then after three days he raised himself out of the dead.”
Walter: “I know, but for me the most important thing is the chocolate eggs and bunnies.”
Isabel: “Well, you need to start to listen more at church about what these things are really about.”
Walter: “I don’t think so. I think I am just going to go my own way.”
This is a conversation that has taken place a billion times throughout history, with different words and in different contexts, in different languages, and with people of all ages. What is Easter really all about? What does it mean to you?
Christianity is beautiful. But we must make it our own, and find ways to live it that are joy-filled and practical. Only then does the world around us become intrigued with the Jesus of long ago and far away, and recognize that he really is the same Jesus of here and now.
Happy Easter! May God bless you and all those you love,
Mercy is a particular mode of love, such that when love encounters suffering, it takes action to do something about it. It is making someone else’s pain our own. Mercy is love in action.
— From “Beautiful Mercy” by Matthew Kelly and twenty-six other incredible Catholic authors
Mercy: We all need it. In fact, St. John Paul II repeatedly described divine mercy as the answer to the problems of the world. The great news is that God wants us to receive his mercy. Jesus himself told St. Faustina: “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy.” In his papal bull, Misericordiae Vultus (“The Face of Mercy”), Pope Francis says that mercy is “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”
However, receiving mercy is just the beginning. We must also do our part. As Pope Francis said, “[W]e are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us.” He reminds us that in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told us to “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful . . . for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:36–38). He goes on to say that we will specifically be judged on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy we perform.
St. Thomas Aquinas too specified that we must perform acts of mercy, standing in the Catholic tradition that teaches we are duty bound to perform works of mercy by the natural law (do unto others as we would have them do to us) as well as by the direct command of Jesus in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Following the Gospels, Pope Francis says that it is his “burning desire that . . . Christian people may rediscover and act on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.” One of the corporal works of mercy the Holy Father lists for us to perform is to “heal the sick.” Now, you might wonder how you can heal the sick if you are not a medical professional. The good news is that in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that same corporal work of mercy is noted as “visiting the sick” (CCC, 2447).
Another translation of this work of mercy is to “comfort” the sick. In all cases, the first step is reaching out to those in need. Whether they are physically ailing or “sick at heart” from social isolation, being forgotten, or missing the basic human need of friendship, just a visit can be healing. One beautiful aspect of this corporal act of mercy is that it does not require wealth, research, skills, experience, or even travel: There are lonely people near most of us in nursing homes, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.
You might still be wondering what you should do when you visit the sick. I know I did. I remember during my first year of seminary, I was on vacation and a neighbor came over and said that his elderly mother was on her deathbed. My neighbor asked me if I could “do something.” I told him I wasn’t a priest yet, but that I would be more than willing to visit with his mother. I really didn’t know what to do other than spend time visiting and praying with the family. What I discovered when I got there was that she was not at peace because she had not lived a holy life. My response was to turn to the Divine Mercy Chaplet and pray it by her bedside. Since the family did not know how to pray it, I prayed it out loud. What happened next was amazing. Right in front of all of us in the room, the dying woman went from torturous agony and fear of death to a peaceful and happy countenance. Immediately after the Divine Mercy Chaplet was finished, she passed away. I can’t help but think that the Lord took her soul to himself with a loving embrace at that very moment. To this day, the encounter remains one of the most powerful events I have ever experienced. It proved to me that visiting the sick and praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for them is extremely powerful.
Just being present and praying is all that is needed. Visit, sit with the person, and pray. That’s all there is to it! Jesus himself asked the same of St. Faustina: “Pray as much as you can for the dying. By your entreaties [that is, insistent prayers] obtain for them trust in My mercy, because they have most need of trust, and have it the least.” He also said that when we say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in the presence of the dying, “I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the merciful Savior.” “At the hour of their death, I will defend as My own glory every soul that will say this chaplet; or when others say it for a dying person, the indulgence is the same.” Saint John Paul II recognized the awesome power of this prayer by imparting a special apostolic blessing “to all the faithful who, during Adoration of Our Most Merciful Savior in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar, pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for the sick and for all those throughout the world who will be dying in that hour.”
As important as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy may be, it is not the only way to help the sick and the dying. Each of us has special gifts. On one occasion, after I was ordained as a priest, a man asked if I had the time to visit his sick mother and anoint her because she was near death. I did not have my holy oils with me, so I went to a local church, where the pastor allowed me to use his holy oil. I discovered that the elderly woman was a devout Catholic, wore a scapular, went to daily Mass, and prayed the Rosary faithfully every day. Her faith was extremely edifying to me. During my visit, she informed me that she always knew that a priest would come to anoint her as she lay sick, preparing for death. She told me that she had even observed the First Five Saturdays devotion, which focuses on making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. For those who observe this devotion, Our Lady made the promise that they would not die without having received the graces necessary for salvation. I was practically in tears as the elderly woman told me this story and how she had known a priest would come to her. I was that priest! Our Lady was faithful to her promise, and I felt honored and privileged to have been the one called upon to perform this work of mercy for a sick person.
It is so inspiring to hear the many ways people visit with and heal the sick—spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Pope Francis has laid out our task; it is up to us to share this same love we have received from God with others. In fact, this is the very definition of mercy! Mercy is a particular mode of love, such that when love encounters suffering, it takes action to do something about it. It is making someone else’s pain our own. Mercy is love in action. And there is no better way to put our love into action than to visit the sick and share with them our love (received from God).
There are many ways in which you can reach out and share your mercy with the sick and the dying. For instance, volunteer with a Meals on Wheels program to deliver meals to homebound individuals and visit with them while they eat. Or you can ask your parish priest if he knows of fellow parishioners who would welcome a visit. Sometimes they are even closer to home, so do not forget about members of your own family who might need a visit, or even just a call or an e-mail to show that someone is thinking about them.
We all know that visiting the homebound, elderly, or chronically ill can be challenging at times. It takes many of us out of our comfort zone and can be both physically and emotionally draining. This is where you have a real opportunity, because not only are your presence and your willingness to be a friend and to listen precious gifts that mean far more to them than you can imagine, but you too will receive a gift beyond measure. You will grow in the virtue of compassion, and have the satisfaction of knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life. Without being a medical professional, you visited, you healed, and you gave comfort!
Is life a vacation or a pilgrimage?
Tourists and vacationers usually plan their trips in advance, with most details figured out so there are no unhappy surprises. In contrast, a pilgrim sets out on a journey without knowing the final destination or outcome. A pilgrim trusts in God the whole time. Some of us live our entire lives planning things, as though we are in control, whereas others know that our lives are not our own.
The two recent Dynamic Catholic Pilgrimages—one to Italy (Rome and Assisi) and one to the Holy Land—were filled with PILGRIMS. And the joy and blessings received were a result of the their attitudes and God’s graces. It was an honor to be the pilgrims’ chaplain.
As we just celebrated the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I heard some familiar words of Jesus in a new way. In past years, I understood Jesus’ words, “Father, into your hands I comment my spirit,” to mean, “Father, I have completed my work on earth; bring me home.”
But this year, after these two pilgrimages, I sense that Jesus’ words from the cross should be part of my every Morning Offering. In fact, I want to repeat and apply these words many times throughout each day to remind myself to trust in God. If I think for one second I am in charge of my life, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal.
Life is a true pilgrimage. Daily—in fact hourly—I must commend my spirit into the hands of my father.
On these two recent pilgrimages, the pilgrims arrived ready to let God lead them and fashion them into better versions of themselves. And the pilgrims who arrived late because of flight delays or cancellations or missed connections, really felt their spirits tested.
One does not need to “go on a pilgrimage” to live life as a pilgrim, but it sure helped us. During this Easter season will you allow God to guide your pilgrim life? Will you commend your entire spirit into his hands?
Are you a tourist or a pilgrim?
My husband, Tim, and I recently attended the Passion & Purpose for Marriage event in Mobile, AL. I must say it was even more than I anticipated!
When I first learned the event was coming to our area, I immediately convinced my husband to attend with me. Before he could change his mind, I ordered the tickets. (Getting my husband to spend 4 1/2 hours in one place, other than work, is nearly impossible.) A few days before the event, I could sense that he was not excited—perhaps reluctant—about going. But at the event, it took about five minutes for me to tell that Tim was really interested in hearing what Dr. Allen Hunt had to say.
This event was exactly what Tim and I needed in our lives. Tim opened up to me, took part in every exercise Dr. Hunt suggested, and showed me a part of his heart that I have not seen in a long time.
I definitely encourage ALL married couples—whether they are newlyweds, or they have been married for many years—to attend a Passion & Purpose for Marriage event. God has blessed Dr. Allen Hunt with a wonderful gift, and we are extremely thankful that Dr. Hunt travels the country to share his incredible message with others.
Want to share your story? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Making time for each other isn’t that difficult if you think about how to anchor the time around already established routines at home.
Life is short, and the holidays fly by. Don’t waste this time texting your friends about how crazy your family is making you (even if it’s true). Do your best to be present to them, seek to understand and to love.
Waking up early is a war. It is a battle against the self. You are your enemy. And there is only one way to win the war: Discipline.
When you choose to be the-best-version-of-yourself, when you exercise virtue and strength of character, you impact the world more than you will ever know.