This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
This past weekend, the Circle of Life Youth entered into a weekend of prayer, workshops, works of mercy, and an openness to the future in ways never before conceived. Just a handful of high schoolers made the commitment all weekend, but the joy was strong and worth every moment. After everyone had arrived, we began with the interior life, starting with a reflective discussion over the meaning behind the words, “Light of Faith”.
Pope Francis wrote about it in his first encyclical in 2013, “Lumen Fidei”, and thus, God affirmed us in the Light of Faith Youth Rally! We just need to unpack its depth a little more before we can expand this great fire within us.
“I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” – John 12:46
St. Justin Martyr himself understood how significant Christ’s presence is to humanity, for “No one has ever been ready to die for his faith in the sun.” The SUN, with all its rays of morning-tide still cannot completely shine upon all of human existence.
Pope Francis said it best in his opening remarks, “Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives.”
For BUILDING our lives he says! Indeed, we are called to build and expound upon these great realities in ways that unveil the great Kingdom of Heaven itself! It just takes an openness to philosophical discussion, to the building of bridges and not walls, to finally making connections that each of us can authentically encounter.
For instance, how do the corporal and spiritual works of mercy connect?
Why don’t we simply celebrate the corporal works of mercy, since they are more tangible and visible to the community? After all, millions of people are going without clean drinking water, still more are dying of hunger and disease. Countless individuals are sold into human trafficking rings and never seen again. The physical needs of our refugee brothers and sisters seem to be at record-shattering rates, and we must stop this suffering! Youth group service projects and mission trips galore!
Or better yet, why don’t we seek merely the spiritual works of mercy, simply for the fact that our eternal home is not Earth anyway–it almost makes you wonder whether the physical needs of our brethren are just distractions that can turn into social programs if we neglect the spiritual needs. In truth, many of these efforts fall into disconnected secularized patterns that leave no room for the kind of spiritual improvement that people need to actually HEAL from the physical and mental abuse from which they are suffering to begin with! Yes, it seems the soul should trump the body shouldn’t it?!
Both of these arguments are what pin whole sects of society against one another. It’s what breaks down dialogue and encourages political correctness. It’s what leads to bureaucracy and an endless ocean of “red-tape” that no one can break through unscathed. Mercy is often forgotten when it comes time for the next election season, supreme court decision, or political platform that many young people can’t even stomach, let alone endorse…
It seems our trust in humanity has wavered to the point of oblivion, and we are simply doomed to this broken world of darkness, fear, and death.
Oh…that’s right. I’ve forgotten to tell you!
WE HAVE BEEN REDEEMED! Yes, Christ suffered and died on the cross, but it was this consummation which led to the greatest explosion of MERCY this world had ever seen. We trust in HIM, not Humanity! God Himself brought Redemption to mankind in order to banish the darkness of all I’ve mentioned and thus bring about the Kingdom of Light! When Christ entered into his agony on the Cross, he uttered these phrases:
“Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”
“Woman, behold your son. Man, behold your mother.”
“Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!”
“It is finished [consummated].”
“Into your hands Lord I commend my spirit.”
St. Teresa of Calcutta honed in on the spirituality of what it means to “THIRST”, and thus–we began to unpack the depth of Christ’s mercy for us all! Indeed, in his dehydration and unimaginable asphyxiation, Jesus was thirsty. Yet, his thirst extended beyond the physical realms so as to reach our thirsty souls. Though we don’t know it all the time, His THIRST for us draws us to his lips in an intimacy that we cannot fully explain. As if we were WATER ITSELF to Him, just as we might draw upon a newly discovered oasis ourselves, He longs to bring us close to His lips too!
Yet, He knew He wouldn’t survive the hour. And so instead, He embraced His deeper calling and entered fully the gates of death. In his consummation, after His soul exhaled its last breath, the soldier pierced his heart with a lance, sticking it into his side so far that it exploded his heart and nothing but blood and water flowed out upon them!
It seems then that his thirst would have to be quenched another way…through the reception of Holy Communion. “This is my BODY, which will be given up for you.”
After Holy Mass with Fr. Joe that evening, where we received the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus–we spent the evening in quiet Adoration so as to extend that deep intimacy with our Lord! Our great friend and supporter Susan Gendron spent the entire night praying with and for these young people, as they played basketball or dodgeball in the gym, as they played boardgames and jammed out on the bongos or the guitar, as they even played manhunt in the dark after the gym lights went out just before bedtime–each young person had the centered understanding that Christ was waiting for them in the silence of their own hearts.
And so, upon arising at 5:45am, the words, “Christ is calling you” beckoned these young people to his countenance in the Monstrance in the dimly lit Mercy Chapel at St. Luke. Silence brought deeper reflection and preparation for the coming moments. It was time to encounter the spiritual thirst that all of us would taste at the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil that morning as men and women entered that place of darkness.
What is a woman thirsting for when she enters an abortion clinic? What is she truly desiring or hoping to “choose” when she seeks a solution to her crisis? All of us have issues after all, and if we accept a culture of pressure, fear, and convenience, we are left with nothing but brokenness, despair, and death. Many men and women entering the Little Way Pregnancy Resource Center are seeking the very same things – hope, support, love, MERCY, and endless affirmation in their inherent dignity. Their life is not over, it’s only changed and shifted direction! It doesn’t matter WHAT situation you find yourself in, no matter how desperate or lonely it may feel, you are ALWAYS a gift from God!
But spiritually speaking, we are not always in a place to understand or embrace this truth. Our iniquities have all but consumed the condition of our souls, and we do not feel like we could EVER quench Christ’s thirst, for it would be like drinking poison should He so choose to bring us to His sacred lips…
When we physically thirst then, our throats are parched, we lose the energy to function, and we become desperate. Nairobi, Kenya and other impoverished nations have thousands dying in the desert or the slums, and if you could get even a flutter of understanding of how this feels–you’d find yourself in desperation for water, falling victim to unsanitary conditions. Access to clean drinking water is WaterStep’s greatest work, for through the millions of pounds of shoes they collect, they have the means by which to improve the conditions of so many impoverished souls on this earth. Our little thirst after training for a Marathon or the next 5k is of little consequence to our brothers and sisters elsewhere…and those nice shoes we purchased for the excursion could be put to much better use once we make that connection. America and Africa are not so different if we just look beyond and see the spiritual and corporal bonds which bring us together!
We encountered all of these places on Saturday morning–the 40 Days for Life Prayer Vigil outside the Abortion Clinic, the Little Way Pregnancy Center on W. Oak Street, and the WaterStep Treatment Facility on Myrtle St. just a few blocks away!–all in hopes to begin our own major project for the good of the city of Louisville and for the greater awareness that walking across this bridge will do for the universal Church!
As we marveled at the mechanisms of the water filters and “water balls”, we saw the potential behind these great acts. On this great morning, we celebrated the Feast Day of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who spent her entire consecrated life in a convent, dying at just 24 years of age–she’s the patron saint of MISSIONARIES. The Little Way PRC is named after this beautiful and inspiring woman! WaterStep only perpetuated the call to the missionary life. Our patron longed so deeply to THRUST herself into the arms of her Merciful Father, just as a child playfully jumps into her daddy’s arms in the morning. Very much then like the lance that the soldier THRUSTED into Christ’s side, St. Therese inspired Mother Teresa to choose her namesake and spread the message of mercy throughout the world. “I Thirst” then became about the Blood and Water which gushed forth from His Sacred Heart in the burning rays of Divine Mercy that the Circle of Life Youth were just beginning to recognize.
This burning sensation is the natural reaction of a world full of darkness being conditioned to the blinding LIGHT OF FAITH. Just like when someone turns the lights on unexpectedly, it takes time for our eyes to adjust to the newness of our situation. Yet, once we’ve experienced sight for the first time and seen the great world around us, we would never choose to enter back into the darkness. Thus, in the same way–this burning sensation requires us to REFLECT and REPENT, to adjust ourselves to the burning heat of Mercy that is hardening these temples we have so foolishly built on sand!
Yet there it is. The SAND which causes us to thirst to begin with is the very edifice by which Christ desires to bring us to His lips! He doesn’t CARE about the unsanitary conditions of our poisoned souls, for He is God and we are not. In fact, the poison is as manna to His sacred lips, for He is the essence of goodness, truth, and beauty. He IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life we need in order to stand strong and be happy.
But it’s THAT quest for happiness that brings us to the threshold of insanity so as to move us toward embracing our dignity and unchanging value in the Father’s eyes! He SEES us become He IS the Light that reveals our true identity. We need only to turn around and look into the mirror of justice, endure the burning sensation of the fire of mercy, and enter into the JOY OF INTIMACY that He has patiently been preparing for us to receive since our conception!
We just need to journey with generous and humble hearts in order to maintain our integrity and trust like a child trusts her father!
For further reflection, read Habakuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
“How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen! […] The Lord answered me and said: Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; […] the just one, because of his faith, shall live.”
The Double Rainbow that we witnessed at the end of the Light of Faith then became our COVENANT with Christ that we are still on the ground floor building the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. The young Bradley Holt inspired our prayer together at the beginning of the rally that day, and we actually PRAYED to see a Double Rainbow before the end, and so when it happened, we KNEW God was leading the way! For Faith is reason on fire!
We just need to write it all out for everyone to see! Noah & Moses would be proud! The Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandments are about US then, not just rules, regulations, and restrictions!
So scream to the Heavens! LIGHT OF FAITH! FIRE OF MERCY!
For that’s all we need to find our way there…
Special thanks to Stuart Hamilton of Bethlehem High School, to Brenna Lewis of Students for Life of America, to Tom Haffner of St. Athanasius Parish, to Erik Stearman of “HardCore Truth Ministries” and his entire contingency! Also thank you to Little Caesars and the Michalaks for their donation of the pizza this weekend.