8th Apr 2013
The Most Divine Taste of Heaven: Those Merciful Tears that Prepare Us to See the Holy Face
by Kathryn Jean Lopez
“Let women have abortions for whatever reason they choose, but make it a world they would like to bring a child into — even a child with an intellectual disability.”
That commentary from a mother who loves her child with Down Syndrome and extolling the joy she brings her life stayed open on my computer for a few days as a reminder of the misery all around us.
It was written for the website of The New York Times, which made it all the more depressing. In a state with miserably high abortion rates, where the Catholic governor insists access to abortion is somehow the problem, a mother writes beautifully about wanting to make the world one worthy of a child but staying with that miserable conclusion that a woman should be free to end the life of her child for “whatever reason” she chooses. The word “choice” is always questionable, given how many women seem to feel like they had no real “choice” in the first place, that her “choice” was the one that was expected — either because of lack of support or professional and cultural expectations.
That we could ever live as though we were satisfied with such circumstances is a miserable reality for which we should be ashamed. In the name of independence and freedom, we make women feel as though they need to end the lives of their children. In the name of health care reform now, we insist that it is such a prerequisite for freedom that women medicate their fertility as if it were a disease to be prevented, that the “right” to do so now trumps religious freedom. Businesses and religious-service organizations now increasingly find themselves in court as they try desperately to secure protection for religious freedom — a freedom that is at the heart of the American experiment but is now considered an impediment to the institutionalization and codification of sexual-revolutionary values.
And while we say what we say and governors push legislation that would compound the evil and lawyers argue for something better, women walk the streets today grappling with a choice they really shouldn’t have to make. They suffer the pain of that missing child. Men, too, are hurting, knowing the tragedy to which they contributed, the support they failed to provide, the voice they didn’t have or neglected to exercise. Relationships are broken. There is anger and bitterness.
Thanks be to God, there also is mercy. That’s the wonderfully consoling news. That is the news that is going to change the world.
During the Easter octave, our new pope, a man who clearly has a gift, talked about our tears and how they prepare us to see Jesus. He actually urged us to pray for “the gift of tears.”
During one of his daily Masses at St. Martha’s House, where he has been living, he talked about Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb. She wept because she did not see Jesus. She did not yet realize what had been done, that she had been saved, and that she would see Him again.
“All of us have felt joy, sadness and sorrow in our lives,” Pope Francis reflected. “Have we wept during the darkest moment? Have we had that gift of tears that prepare the eyes to look, to see the Lord?”
“We too can ask the Lord for the gift of tears,” he said. “It is a beautiful grace…to weep praying for everything: for what is good, for our sins, for graces, for joy itself.”
This Holy Father understands the misery of the flock he guides. Continuing where his predecessor left off, he seeks to walk the world to our Father, so that we may bask in His mercy. Pope Francis talked another day this past week about the consolation and peace that comes from encounter with Christ. He explained how it begins:
First wonder, then spiritual consolation and finally, the last step: peace. Even in the most painful tests, a Christian never loses the peace and presence of Jesus. With a little “courage” we can pray: “Lord, grant me this grace which is the hallmark of our encounter with you: spiritual consolation and peace.” A peace that we cannot lose because it is ours, it is the Lord’s true peace that cannot be bought or sold. It is a gift from God. This is why we ask for the grace of spiritual consolation and peace of mind that starts with this joyful wonder of our encounter with Jesus Christ.
It is the joy of being Christian — the knowledge that whatever we suffer, we are loved by Unconditional Love himself. Even as we fall, he is there, the Creator of the world, to help us up. It’s the deepest reality, and it’s the reality that this pope has been fixed on inviting us into every day of his pontificate.
Mercy! Mercy! Mercy! I stood in St. Peter’s Square for his first Angelus as Pope Francis begged us to never tire of asking God for his mercy, because God never tires of bathing us in His love and forgiveness. As he kept up the pleading, I thought: If he thought we were ready for it, he would be shedding tears. Instead, he lightened his plea with humor, again showing his appreciation for humanity and our burdens. His camera-ready case was a reflection of God’s pleading with us, continually knocking, relentlessly inviting.
As Archbishop Augustine DiNoia put it in an Easter Vigil homily at the Domincan House of Studies in Washington, D.C., “We see that no one has ever desires anything more than God desires to share the communion of his Trinitarian love with us. This desire gave rise to a plan, a design, of grace and salvation.”
Divine Mercy Sunday, the blessed gift of Blessed John Paul II at the culmination of our Easter celebration, has been described as an “exclamation point on the joy of the Easter Octave.” It’s one with the power to be a balm to every other day of the year. It is “essential for the true joy and reality of Easter to penetrate our hearts and for us to relate to the Lord as He desires and deserves to be loved,” as Father Roger J. Landry of New Bedford, Mass., writes.
Relatedly, Pope Francis has been talking a good deal about the Sacrament of Confession. He himself credits a confession when he was a teenager as having changed his life — and the life of Church history, as it turns out. There was an “astonishment” to the encounter, he explained: “I realized that God was waiting for me. From that moment for me, God has been the one who acts first. One is searching for him, but he is looking for you first.” He has described the experience as being “pierced by God’s look of love.”
“Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to divine mercy,” Sister Faustina Kowalska, known as an apostle of Divine Mercy, wrote in her diaries. As Pope John Paul II put it during her canonization Mass in 2000, “It is not a new message” — it is the message of Easter, and all of Salvation History — “but it can be considered a gift of special enlightenment that helps us to relive the Gospel of Easter more intensely, to offer it as a ray of light to the men and women of our time.”
In “this world that offers us so many saviors, it is only the name of Jesus that saves,” Pope Francis said this past week.
Have mercy on us and on the whole world, we pray in the Divine Mercy devotion. He will. We just must ask. We must let Him in.
That gift, by the way, Pope Francis has, is not savvy media skills or the gift of simplicity and wisdom, though he certainly has those. It is a gift offered to each one of us: The gift of faith.
Faith, recently wrote Father Peter John Cameron, O.P., the editor of Magnificat, is “recognizing that I need to be given something.”
It is not easy to love with a deep love, which lies in the authentic gift of self. This love can only be learned by penetrating the mystery of God’s love. Looking at him, being one with his fatherly heart, we are able to look with new eyes at our brothers and sisters, with an attitude of unselfishness and solidarity, of generosity and forgiveness. All this is mercy!
Be with this Unconditional Love. Trust this Savior. Ask Him for His mercy, for it is yours. The world needs you to have it and share it.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a nationally syndicated columnist. She is a director of Catholic Voices USA and blogs on Catholic things at K-Lo@Large.
(The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Catholic Pulse or the Knights of Columbus.)