God’s Mercy Every Day (Dec. 6, 2015)

In the words of Pope Francis, the Jubilee Year is a time to let God’s mercy awaken us to new life and give us the courage to look to the future with hope. I love Pope Francis’ emphasis on the mercy and compassion of God, because it expresses my own personal experience. Let me share that experience with younot to brag or make myself as “holier than thou,” but simply to say that Pope Francis is absolutely on target.

Many years ago, I went on my annual retreat at a time when I knew some things had to change in my life. I’ve honestly forgotten what they were because it was so long ago, but I have never ever forgotten God’s response.

Like anyone else, the prospect of change did not sit well. Back and forth I went: “Yes I doNo I don’t.” So many “What if’s” and scenarios of failure went through my mind. It was a classic case of Ignatian discernment of spirits: when the person is trying to move from good to better, the Evil One stirs up anxiety, sadness, confusion, frustration, and similar obstacles.

Finally, a few days into the retreat, I was sitting on the floor in a corner of the little hermitage, my back against the wall. In a spirit of total frustration I slammed the floor with my fist and literally yelled out: “(Cuss word), Jesus help me. I can’t do this alone!!”

At that moment, it was as though someone distinctly touched me, caressed me on my right cheek, much as a lover would caress a loved one. Deep within, I felt the words: “It’s OK, Herb. I understand.” At the same time, an extraordinary feeling of compassion and mercy washed over me. Actually, “extraordinary” doesn’t even do it justiceit was way beyond that. Had I not been sitting down, I would have collapsed. And the scary thing is that God deals with us according to our ability to endure. I kept thinking over and over that if this touch of understanding was so overwhelming, what must the whole reality be like!!

That was the moment that God’s mercy and compassion became more than just words. It is a reality for me. I don’t fear punishment, nor do I fear my sins and shortcomings (but I do take them seriously and continue the work of repentance). To use St. Paul’s words, God truly does under-stand that sometimes I do what I know I shouldn’t do, and don’t do what I should do. I pick up the pieces and continue the journey, totally confident in God’s mercy and compassion. God understands.if I leave you with nothing else from this reflection, let it be those words: “God understands.”

With love..

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