Learning to Imitate

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/07/31 at 12:00 AM

In the Łagiewniki District of Krakow, Poland, is the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy. While the modern, new basilica, which was dedicated in 2002, dominates the Sanctuary grounds, the real heart of the place is the convent chapel.

In the convent chapel is both the resting place of St. Faustina Kowalska, to whom our Lord entrusted His great message of Divine Mercy, as well as the image of our Lord as He appeared to St. Faustina that she had painted according to His directions.

Of course the image of the Divine Mercy is now famous throughout the world, and we are very blessed to have a nice replica of it in our narthex. That there are always lighted candles burning before it attests to our parish’s love for this beautiful devotion.

When I saw the original Divine Mercy image this past May, I had a hard time tearing myself away from it because it imparted such peace and gave me such confidence in God’s mercy.

This image shows our Lord’s countenance to be serene and kindly; He looks at us in a way that is in no way threatening or frightening. Rather, in this image Jesus looks at us as if He’s inviting us to partake of His mercy. He is truly meek.

It’s an amazing thought that our sovereign Lord, that Christ our King is meek. As we consider our Lord’s omnipotence, His almighty power, perhaps it seems strange that He is at the same time so meek and humble of heart.

When we think of a king who can defeat armies of chariots, horses and warriors, as the prophet Zechariah declares of Him in the first reading, we usually think of mighty and powerful men, not men characterized by meekness.

Yet Zechariah also tells us that our Lord, our just savior, will enter Jerusalem meekly riding on a colt, and proclaiming peace to the nations.

And in the Gospel today Christ makes the claim that He is “meek and humble of heart,” and that He will give us rest from our labors and burdens.

Moreover, in our Responsorial Psalm we are told that: “the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.” The Psalmist proclaims that: “The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all His works.”

And so He is. Despite His almighty power, our Lord is meek and humble of heart. And this is important, for it is His meekness and humility that allows us to trust in His mercy, which is the greatest of His attributes…and the quality of our Lord that we all must rely upon.

Truly, in Christ alone can our souls find rest. And if we stay true to Him in this life, we will find in Him rest for all eternity when our life here on earth is ended. That’s the promise of His mercy.

But we have to want that mercy, and we must never presume upon it. In a general sense, if we wish to be recipients of our Lord’s mercy, we must be meek and humble of heart too.

To be meek is to not to say that we should be weak. Rather, the essence of meekness is not to cause harm. Meekness is a form of selflessness that avoids harming others and helps us to endure injury with patience and without resentment.

Most importantly, meekness is submissiveness to God, and not to the world. It is a humble receptivity to God and His divine will rooted in our confidence in God. And when we cultivate meekness in our hearts, we find freedom from pride, arrogance, and anger.

Of course, in addition to cultivating a sense of meekness within ourselves, if we wish to receive God’s mercy, we must be sorry for our sins!

St. John Chrysostom once wrote that, “God turns Himself away, not so much from those who sin, as from those who aren’t stricken with fear after they sin.”

In other words, it is not our sins that keep us from God’s mercy. It’s our lack of contrition that keeps us from His mercy. But even contrition for our sins is not enough if we wish to enjoy fully the benefits of our Lord’s mercy. We must repent! We must change our lives!

In the Act of Contrition, we pray: “I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.” If we want to receive our Lord’s mercy – which He so willingly bestows – we must do all three of these things!

Firstly, regular confession should be a part of our lives as Catholics, even if our sins are not mortal. I promise you: when we die and stand before our Lord, we’re going to be so grateful for all the good confessions we made during our lives when we see how important they were to our salvation.

And so, my dear brothers and sisters, please come to confession. God’s mercy is waiting for you there! Examine yourselves well and come confess your sins humbly.

Do not be afraid. We priests are sinners in need of mercy, too. We understand your weaknesses because we share them! Most of us also understand that it is a great privilege to sit in place of God and dispense His pardon and peace to those who come to confession.

Even if your sins are great or numerous, even if you commit the same terrible sins over and over, please never hesitate to come confession. God never deserts us, no matter how often we fall into sin. Like a good and loving father, He always welcomes us home.

Yet, once we’ve made a good confession, it is important that we do our penance – and do it well. But even beyond the penances that assigned to us by our confessors, penance for our sin should be something we do regularly.

Every day we should look for little penances we can take on discreetly and offer those actions in reparation for our own sins, as well as for the sins of the whole world.

Just as sin is so displeasing to God, the quiet penances we take upon ourselves that God alone knows about are so pleasing to Him. Not only do they mitigate our purgatory, but they help us grow in virtue so that we will merit a higher place in Heaven.

Lastly, in addition to confessing our sins and doing penance for them, we must have a firm amendment of life never to commit those sins again. This is often the hardest part because sin is generally pleasurable in some way, and we often grow very attached to our sins!

So true repentance requires a real death to self. It requires, as St. Paul tells us today, that we learn to live according to the spirit rather than the flesh. The good news that St. Paul tells us is that we are not “debtors to the flesh.” In other words, we need not be slaves to sin.

While it is the nature of sin to enslave our passions, through the courageous and diligent practices of prayer and penance, and with a faithful and humble reliance upon God’s grace, we can learn to master our passions and overcome our habitual sins.

Keep in mind, brothers and sisters, that God wants you to be victorious over your sins. Thus, He gives us every grace we need to overcome them. But we must be steadfast in our desire and in our striving to overcome them. Half measures will never work, but humility will.

In imitation of our Lord, may each of us be meek and humble of heart so that we may indeed merit His mercy for all eternity.


© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
To enable the audio, lease go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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