Editor’s Note: Today, the Solemnity of All Saints, Pope Francis is in Sweden, marking the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and to work toward unity in the Church. In a National Catholic Register article, the pope marks out a path for Christians toward holiness and to spread God’s Mercy, the Six New Beatitudes for the Modern Era. Also, the Sisters of Mercy have put together an Election Day Novena prayer for unity and healing in our divided nation and to Make Mercy Real.
The artist Fray Juan de la Miseria captures one of the main expressions of Our Holy Mother, Saint Teresa’s spirituality, on the scroll of her most famous portrait: Forever I will sing the mercies of the Lord from Psalm 89. That is ultimately what she called the story of her life, her autobiography, which she originally titled, Sing the Mercies of the Lord.
There can be no mysticism without Divine Mercy on two levels.
One: What is mysticism? Mysticism is not the alternative spirituality of secularism because secularism is very superstitious; it is pre-pagan and pre-Christian. It’s made up of all kinds of pseudo-forms of mysticism or counterfeit spirituality by people who are so taken by the ghost chasers, the supernatural, the different shows about the supernatural, the witch-hunt trials, movies about occult themes or horror movies that glamorize evil; such films make it exciting and adventurous. For example, films like The Matrix has lot of depth, but ultimately, the movie comes from New Age perspectives and ideas, yet it has often been interpreted with Christian overtones. A lot of people want mysticism, but true mysticism is based on nothing less than God’s Divine Mercy.
Two: What is mysticism for us as Christians? It is not some kind of esoteric psychic adventure or escape from reality or self-realization; it’s not any of those things. For Christians, mysticism is an immersion in the Merciful Love of God, in the Merciful Love of the Lord.
The foundational piece of mysticism for Christians is to recognize that we are sinners. The majority of secular society does not believe that. The great venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen would say, “Many in our culture today think that we are immaculately conceived, that there is no such thing as sin.” As one of the Popes of the past century mentioned, “the greatest sin of all is the denial of the existence of sin because then we can open the doors to practically anything and excuse it, justify it and tolerate it, in the name of being part of the intellectual elite, the progressive, and the open minded. We don’t know what doors we are opening.”
Spiritual maturity starts with conversion and having the humility to recognize our sins; we all know that we can be baptized and go to Holy Communion regularly, and not be changed. We can be as rude as ever, as grumpy, grouchy, and gossipy as ever because the Sacraments are not magic. Secularism can be fascinated by magic, but God doesn’t operate on those terms -the devil does, but God doesn’t. The sacraments are always respectful of a person’s free will and of the reciprocity of that person’s response; there is never an imposing of power or an imparting of knowledge, unless there is a surrender of faith. This is the big difference between Eve and Mary.
Eve sought after knowledge and power for her sake. Mary says, “I believe…be it done unto me according to Your Word.” Mary didn’t need to understand. She said, ‘I don’t know how this is going to happen, I don’t need to know, and I don’t even need to be the one to do it,’ but “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done undo me according to Your Word.” She was not seeking knowledge and power for her own sake but to be the instrument of God’s knowledge and power in the world.
The difference between humility and pride boils down to the spiritual battle and conversion. Conversion is necessary for Christ to work in us. For the Sacraments to have the effect in us, for us to be able to grow up, we need conversion. Conversion opens up new capacities within us that were previously untapped. Conversion taps into something supernatural inside each of us, giving us an ability and an openness for experiencing a richer quality of life on another level.
The Psalms say, “Taste and see how good is the Lord.” In Adoration we say, “You have given them bread from Heaven containing all sweetness within it, all that is delicious.” The Eucharist contains all that is delicious about Divine Love in Christ, and we’re part of that love relationship. The meaning of who we are, the dignity of the human person is all wrapped up in discovering and tasting the beauty and purpose of our very existence from the inside out.
Conversion brings us to a new awareness of what it means to be made in God’s image, in a way that can take on life altering meaning. Coming to know the relevance of God’s truth for our lives brings about conversion. This knowledge brings about a metanoia…a metamorphosis…a transformation.
This metanoia, this being transformed, as St. Paul says, ‘by the renewal of our mind,’ is so deep and profound. Our goal in life is to be transformed by the renewal of our mind so that we may know what is God’s will. God’s will is what is good, pleasing, and perfect. God’s will is what is true, good, and beautiful, and not that which is conformed to this culture and age.
Metanoia is a deep and all embracing change of mind and heart at the root of our understanding, at the root of our desiring; how we relate to what is most important and what is essential about life; how we relate to the ultimate things of what is the good to be sought after, and the evil to be avoided.
Scripture talks about this revolution as a new birth. Jesus says, “Unless you are born again of the spirit, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” When we are born again of the spirit, the true self, which is a gift of the spirit, begins to emerge. This gift of the Spirit enables us to attain mature spiritual adulthood “to the extent of the full stature of Christ,” as Saint Paul writes. By the gift of the Spirit, we are given a new birth that enables us to develop to the point of attaining full spiritual adulthood; we are no longer infants.
In Ephesians, Saint Paul explains that to be a spiritual infant “…is to be tossed by waves and swept away by winds of every teaching arising from human trickery, and from their cunning and deceitful scheming. Living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into Him, to the full stature of Christ.” What we see in Jesus as Risen Lord, what we see before that in his Transfiguration is speaking something about us…about our ultimate purpose and destiny. We’re going to have resurrected bodies if we persevere in faith, through the grace of God. Everything we see about Christ, the supernatural destiny is going to be given to us…we’re going to share in it.
St. Paul says that we, as the imago Dei, the image of God, the human person is the imago Dei, and we are predestined to be filled with all the utter fullness of God. That is straight from St. Paul in Colossians; we are predestined to be filled with all the utter fullness of God. That’s just not pious hyperbole, it’s not just emotionalism or exaggeration, this is a reality…that the saints in a special way embody for us. They show what’s possible for all of us, and even if we don’t finish the course in this life, God will fill us with the utter fullness of Himself in the next life if we persevere in faith and in grace.
A lot of times, we don’t notice the growth. Sometimes we wonder if we have even grown! We might say, “I’m confessing the same stuff! Have I even grown in anyway?” It feels like we’re going in circles like the Israelites in the desert; they kept on going in circles, and only the younger generation found the Promised Land. Sometimes we can feel that way. We wonder…is there growth? Growth is an imperceptible process often times, but with conversion and the Merciful Love of God, it will happen.
Saint Teresa, pray for us.
(SOURCE: Cristo Rey Retreat, SF, October 2015) Teresa 4- transcribed by Sandra Larragoiti
Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved
‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth. Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’