On this Easter Tuesday, the Lord Jesus continues to shares with us the concerns of His Heart through the intentions of the Divine Mercy Novena. Today is the only day of the whole Novena where He directs our prayers towards a particular category of sinners – so it must be very important.
The orginal version of this intention mentioned heretics (those who teach doctrine contrary to the teaching of the Apostles) and schismatics (those who cling so much to heretical doctrine that they split away from the Church). Anyone who does these things does serious harm to the People of God and that harm can continue for centuries and draw immense numbers of souls away from God. Desperately they need God’s Mercy – to lead them to repentance and to help them undo the damage. Jesus Himself said, ‘Anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith in Me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone round his neck. Alas for the world that there should be such obstacles! Obstacles indeed there must be, but alas for the man who provides them!’ Matt 18:6-7
How often do we pray for the conversion of people like that in our world today – for people doing such harm today? It is within the top 9 on Jesus’ list. Where is it on our prayer intentions list? He is motivated both by love and mercy towards the sinner and by protective love towards His Body, the Church.
The later version of the prayer intention for today is for all of our separated brothers and sisters in Christ. The purpose of the intention makes far more sense within the earlier version (‘During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church.’). With the newer version, however, a whole new avenue of God’s merciful love opens up and bids us take on His Heart towards our separated brothers and sisters in Christ.The newer version also lends itself to greater harmony with today’s liturgy: St Peter is urging his listeners to respond to the Good News by receiving baptism and becoming members of the Church founded by Jesus Christ and under the earthly leadership of St Peter and his successors. In the Gospel is the haunting image of St Mary of Magdala searching for the body of Jesus.
Our separated brothers and sisters in Christ have a lot in common with St Mary of Magdala at this point in the resurrection narratives. Like them, she loves Jesus and does her best to serve Him with all of her resources of heart, mind, strength and temporal goods. Like them, she believes in many promises of the Lord, but some elude her – like, in her case, His promise of the resurrection. She is looking for a dead body, He wants to reveal to her the fulness of the active power and wonder of His resurrection.
Our separated brothers and sisters in Christ comprise all of those, for whatever reason, are living their faith without visible unity with the successor of St Peter. They are good, holy and dedicated people who often put us to shame with their Christian zeal. But those who have swallowed the notion that miracles ceased with the Apostles are looking for a dead body. And those who are unable to accept the channels of grace that are the Sacraments (especially the Body, Blood,Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ truly present in the consecrated bread and wine)- are unable to experience for themselves the risen life that Jesus died to give us. Doesn’t it make you weep?
There is so much, so much more, that Jesus wishes to offer our separated brothers and sisters in Christ, and like St Mary of Magdala He makes them aware that there is something missing in their lives -something not quite right – a nagging awareness that there must be something more to the Christian life – and He calls them lovingly by name to recognise Him fully. It is our privilege to pray and to offer sacrifices that they may be given the grace to truly recognise Him and follow Him into the fulness of His Body, the Church. It is our priviledge to echo His loving invitations to investgate the claims made by the Church founded on the rock of St Peter’s faith.
Dear Jesus, waiting patiently with so many treasures of grace, whole arsenals of A-grade spiritual weaponry, with all the power and spiritual nourishment necessary for extraordinary holiness, please pour out your great Mercy upon each and every one of our beloved separated brothers and sisters in Christ and grant to them all the precious gift of the Journey Home to the Catholic Church.
Jesus, I trust in You.
All holy Apostles and especially St Peter, pray for us.
St Mary of Magdala, pray for us.