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MOUNT CARMEL MAGAZINE
VOL 64. NO.3 JULY - SEPTEMBER 2016
We are pleased to commemorate, during 2016
The Year of Mercy
(December 8, 2015 - November 20, 2016)
The Canonisation of Sts Louis and
(October 18, 2015)
IN THIS ISSUE
The Parable of the Prodigal Son (1): Pondering the Father's
Trusting in God's Mercy: Scenes from the Life of St
Sts Louis and Zélie Martin (3): Sensitive to
Others, Welcoming and Generous
Voices of the Heart
Thérèse of Lisieux: An Apostle of Love
'Forgive us our debts as we forgive
on Mercy in the Writings of Teresa
The Little Way of Trust: St Therese and Divine Mercy
Springs of Living Water
The Quality of Mercy
: St Thérèse
and her Mission to Help Souls
Sts Louis and Zélie (3): Louis, Beloved Patriarch
of the Family
The Fire Burning in the Soul: The Missionary Spirit
of St Thérèse
Food for the Journey - Books
PRAYER OF POPE FRANCIS
FOR THE YEAR OF MERCY
Lord Jesus Christ,
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being
enslaved by money;
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us,
You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its
We ask you this through the intercession of Mary, Mother
Dante saw St Luke as the writer of the mercy of God, describing him as 'the scribe of Christ's gentleness'. For Luke, Jesus is the Spirit-filled prophet who proclaims God's message of mercy, gentleness and loving-kindness to the people of his own day. So it is not surprising that Luke portrays Jesus, right from the earliest days of his ministry, as the great healer: we see him reaching out with compassion and tenderness to heal Simon Peter's mother-in-law, and all those who came to him to be cured of various kinds of diseases. Luke did not, of course, give us only his Gospel: he also wrote the record of the early church and of Paul's missionary journeys in the Acts of the Apostles. These are the two complementary volumes of Luke's story of salvation history.
The missionary spirit of St Paul dovetails beautifully with the teachings of St Luke. We note that, on the day after the healing of Simon Peter's mother-in-law, the crowds tried to prevail upon Jesus to stay with them and not to move on elsewhere. But all to no avail. 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns too,' Jesus tells them, 'because that is what I was sent to do.' And Paul expands on this desire of Jesus to spread his message further afield, when he writes to his Gentile converts in his letter to the Colossians:
This, in brief, in a very brief nutshell, is the story of the Acts of the Apostles, where the final words of Luke's Gospel will be fulfilled: 'Thus it is written,' Jesus tells his disciples after the resurrection, 'that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to these things.' This is what Jesus says to his disciples as he sends them out to continue his own mission and to proclaim the gospel in the power of the Spirit beyond the confines of the people of God, so that his teaching can reach even to the ends of the earth.
At the very beginning of Jesus' ministry, after we have read about the temptations in the desert, he returns to his home town of Nazareth. He enters the synagogue, stands up to read, and there proclaims his message of mercy and compassion in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
In this episode, as told only by Luke, Jesus concludes with these words: 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' And here, Luke is distilling the teaching of his Gospel and Acts into this one single passage, this saying uttered on the lips of Jesus.
At first, the people receive the words of Jesus with enthusiasm. But this soon gives way to outright rejection. Why? It happens when Jesus appears to direct his teaching away from his own people and towards the Gentile world, for the examples he gives are those of the prophets Elijah and Elisha who were sent by God to beyond the confines of their own people. The rejection of Jesus by the people of Nazareth is all the more harrowing as the message he is giving, in these stories of the prophets, is that of God's mercy: the compassion shown to a poor widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon, and the healing given to Naaman, a leper in Syria.
This lesson of Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth was clearly a provocation for his listeners, who would have felt that he was saying that the message of God's mercy was being taken from them and given to the Gentiles. But it is, of course, a gift for everyone. The good news is that mercy is not given only to the people of Israel, but that it extends beyond them as well - the message of comfort and forgiveness reaching even to the whole Gentile world. And so, Paul will be able to reassure his Gentile converts:
Our God is a God of healing, compassion and love. Jesus gives us the good news of the gospel, as we see in this passage from Luke: 'The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the good news preached to them '
No one must ever forget that this message of mercy is not just for
the people of God - indeed, not just for the disciples of Christ -
but for all, 'from every tribe and tongue and people and nation'.
THE PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON
The author is a Carmelite nun in the community of Quidenham, and a frequent contributor to Mount Carmel with her articles and reviews. In this article, the first of two parts, she explores the Parable of the Prodigal Son, so relevant for the Year of Mercy - a story that invites us never to despair, but to own our wretchedness and present it to God who loves us as he does his own Son.
A man had two sons
'There was a man who had two sons ' And the younger one asked his father to give him his share of the inheritance. In the culture of first-century Palestine, for a son to ask his father to give him his share of the property while the father was still alive was a grievous affront. Nevertheless, the father allowed his younger son to take his inheritance. The son now proceeded to squander it in a far country, which eventually led to his being reduced to serving a Gentile as a swineherd. For a Jew, there could have been no greater disgrace, no place further from 'home', as it were; and what is more, he had nothing to eat. When he finally hit rock-bottom, he 'came to himself'. This is the first part of the story.
'One day of humble self-knowledge'
Anyway, he made his way home. And what humiliation and dejection he must have experienced as he trudged along, returning ragged and hungry to the home where he had once planned such a glorious future! In Semitic society, a father would on no account go out to meet his son - the son must come to the father. And certainly a dignified landowner would never hitch up his garments and run! But the father in this story seems to have been actually watching out for his good-for-nothing son.
When he became sure that the woebegone figure approaching really was the son he had lost, he 'had compassion' on him. Instead of looking on from a distance and waiting to see what his son would do, the father entered into his son's sorrow and dejection, and desired only to share his own joy with him. To do this, he did not hesitate to run out and meet him, thereby sparing him any possible censure; and he welcomed him home as his cherished and honoured son. The young man did try to deliver his prepared speech, but the father cut him off, so eager was he to get a party under way. We can only imagine the feelings of the son.
The elder brother
Once again the father spared no thought for his own dignity, but came out to his son and 'entreated him'. He tried to draw him into the love and happiness of the banquet, but met with a chilling response. The elder son expressed his resentment at the way he had been treated: he had served his father faithfully, he said, yet he had not received the payment he considered he deserved; 'you never gave me so much as a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.' One wonders what sort of friends he had! To him, the prodigal is just a bad lot, deserving punishment and rejection. He needs to blame his father for being unjust, because this elder son cannot bear to allow his father's uncompromising, unconditional love to displace his own sense of what is right.
'You are always with me'
The father, on the other hand, responds gently, addressing him with the specially affectionate word teknon ('child'). 'Teknon,' he says, 'you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.' Here, we may be reminded of some of the sayings in John's Gospel: 'Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands ' (Jn 13:3); 'All that the Father has is mine' (Jn 16:15); and 'I am not alone, for the Father is with me' (Jn 16:32). And the father in the parable goes on to refer to the younger brother as 'this your brother', affirming the bonds of relationship. 'It was fitting to make merry and be glad,' he says, 'for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'
The missing ending
The context in which Luke sets this parable is criticism of Jesus by the Pharisees and the scribes. They have been saying: 'This man receives sinners and eats with them' (Lk 15:2). In response, Jesus tells the Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. The father's plea to his elder son to come in and join the party forms the end of this discourse. Clearly, the elder son represents the people at whom the parable was directed: those who prided themselves on their righteousness. It was up to them to supply the missing ending, and rejoice. But did they?
An invitation to relationship
God, who is just as much our mother as our father, loves every one of his children equally, just as the father in the parable loves both his sons equally: 'for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust' (Mt 5:45). Can we dare to believe that the Father of Jesus loves us as much as the father in the parable loves both his flawed and unsatisfactory sons? - indeed, that he loves us as much as his own Son? And can we learn to love in response, as we are invited to do? God offers us total, unconditional love and forgiveness, and an invitation to intimate relationship with him, regardless of our manifold failures, selfishness, meanness and inadequacies. God's love is not tempered by human notions of prudence or justice: he is, as Thérèse could see, unstoppably, extravagantly merciful.
In him we see the Father
This can present a difficulty for us, for we should like to be worthy of what we receive. We may seek to derive some comfort from thinking that we are not, after all, as bad as we might be. However, the closer we come to God - and the more we see ourselves in the light of his infinite goodness - the more we realise that our little notions of good, bad, better and worse are neither here nor there. The only words left to us are: 'Lord, have mercy '
'The Lord and the Servant'
The servant wanted only to do good, and yet things went so wrong! Julian explains that the servant is Adam, and that Adam is every man or woman. But the servant is also Jesus. 'When Adam fell,' she says, 'God's Son fell Adam fell from life to death'; and 'God's Son fell, with Adam, into the deeps of the Maiden's womb'. And why did he fall? 'For to excuse Adam from blame in heaven and earth' (RDL, p. 140). Such is the divine compassion for the predicament of fallen humanity, that God's Son makes the journey to the far country where we are lost, to be one with us in our plight, and to show us that in God's sight we have incurred no blame, no wrath, no retribution.
'We are his crown'
This means that in whatever far country we may have got lost, we need never despair. And when the father of the Prodigal says: 'this my son was dead, and is alive again', the light of the paschal mystery shines through his words. Jesus, our brother, has achieved the victory over whatever enslaves and imprisons us, and offers us his hand so as to raise us up with him. Now he stands before the Father - no longer as a servant but 'on an equality, richly clothed in blissful fullness, with a crown upon his head of precious richness. For it was shewed that we are his crown - the crown which is the Father's joy, the Son's worship, the Holy Ghost's liking, and endless marvellous bliss to all that are in heaven' (RDL, p. 143).
MOUNT CARMEL VOL 64. NO.3
JULY - SEPTEMBER 2016