In the Fatima prayer at the end of each decade of the Rosary (O my Jesus, forgive us sins, save us from the fires of hell, and bring all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of Your Mercy.) we pray for those most in need of God’s Mercy. Today’s intention for the Divine Mercy novena reveals a massive group of souls that we don’t usually consider as needing God’s Mercy – but according to the Sacred Heart of Jesus they are who we need to pray for most.
Who do you think it is? It’s not the atheists. It’s not the big sinners. It’s not those who have messed up their lives big-time. It’s not the tyrants and the dictators. They certainly need the Mercy of God, and usually respond quite well to it. However, it is those who do know Jesus and yet only let Him into the periphery of their lives who need His Mercy most. Let’s find out why.
Jesus calls them lukewarm souls. In any weather, only food and drink that is cold or hot is satisfying – but anything lukewarm is repulsive. If souls are cold, there is good hope of conversion, or at least dialogue that leads to conversion. If souls are fervent (hot) they edify everyone. It is those who know that Jesus died for them and yet only think about praying when they are in difficulty; those who are vitally interested in working out the bare minimum they have to do to get through the pearly gates, those who go to church but live their lives without any reference to the teaching of Jesus at all, those who show up for Christmas and Easter to keep their membership current but could never be accused of being Christians for the 363 days of the rest of the year; they are the lukewarm.
The frightening thing is that we are all horribly lukewarm. We know ‘The servant who knows what His Master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash.’ Luke 12:47 . Hanging our heads in shame we know that we have not put our all into resisting sin, serving those in need and working to bring the Gospel to others. We need His Mercy. With it positive change is possible.
The problem is that we don’t look at things from Jesus’ perspective. Looking at our lives through our own lenses will always produce an attractive result. Think of Jesus. He went through agony, betrayal, terror, rejection, scourging, tortures and crucifixion to win us the ginormous gifts of pardon for our sins and eternal happiness in heaven. In return what do we do? – we fidget our way through Mass, get there late, leave as soon as we have received Holy Communion and forget about Him as soon as we are in the carpark outside. When Jesus was in agony, He prayed all the more intensely. We have trouble setting aside 10 minutes a day for prayer. Bruised and bleeding, Jesus answered the Sanhedrin with the truth that He was the Son of God even though He knew it would lead to his death. A conversation about abortion or euthanasia starts up in the workplace and we cowardly say nothing. Our response to His great love and mercy is so paultry – and He ardently desires that we respond to Him generously and with passion.
May He show us His Mercy and grant us the power to move from lukewarmness to fervour.
Just as the intentions for the two Fridays within the Divine Mercy Novena are in contrast (Sinners, Those in Purgatory) so are the intentions for the two Saturdays of the novena are in contrast (Those of big commitment , Those of very small commitment.) and the intention for the lukewarm is in the most important place of all – the final preparation before Divine Mercy Sunday begins. This intention gets us into a much needed humble place prior to us celebrating His mercy.
The liturgical readings for today help us enter into this intention more deeply. Presented to us in the Acts of the Apostles are the rulers, elders and scribes of the time of Jesus who know the Old Testament backwards and who regularly read of God’s miracles there. However, when faced with the cripple healed through the name of Jesus they have no answer. They believe to some point, but refuse to take the next step. Being not cold (total unbelievers) nor hot (eagerly spreading the news of the miracle God has performed), they are in-between, and far closer to cold than to hot. It is for souls like these that Jesus bids us pray today.
Even in the Gospel, we see Jesus Himself speaking to the Eleven. They have spent three years side by side with Jesus, and have been privileged to hear the fulness of God’s message through Him. If your children have gone in the wrong direction, to sweep their actions under the carpet is not going to help them go in the right direction. So Jesus, with great love admonishes His beloved Eleven for refusing to believe the eye witness reports of His resurrection. They, of all people, who knew His divine power and heard His predictions of His resurrection, should have been able to believe without having seen. He offers them pardon and lovingly invites them to be His witnesses throughout the whole world. As with them, so with us, we need the Mercy of Jesus to forgive us our mediocre response to Him and to empower us anew to be His witnesses.
All holy Apostles, transformed by God’s Mercy and the power of the Holy Spirit, pray for us.
Jesus, I trust in You.
Dear Jesus, please change us from lukewarm disciples into fervent ones.