Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed…’ (Luke 2:34-35)
I had different idea brewing to write about, but when I heard the above verse from the Gospel reading at Mass on the feast day of the Presentation of Our Lord, it pierced me. There is so much in it that speaks to our time, especially the last phrase.
First of all, it seems that the more society rejects God, the more “free” people feel to give voice to things that in the past might have remained unspoken. The “inside voice” has become the “outside voice”. Everyone is talking at once, and almost no one is prepared to be swayed from their position. Amidst the noise and chaos is a spiritual dynamic: the inner thoughts of many are being revealed.
In the past only God had access to our inner thoughts. Now we are all being exposed to the cacophony. We are getting a taste of what God has had to endure since the fall, but amplified in our day, and there is almost no escape. Oh, the wisdom of silent contemplation! The mind of man is a bucking wild horse broken free of its last harness. Look out!
The second reason this phrase pierced me is that I have recently read a book titled, “The Warning: Testimonies and Prophecies of the Illumination of Conscience” by Christine Watkins*. For those of you who have never heard of the prophesied “warning” or “illumination of conscience” I offer you a simple explanation. The prophecy, explicated by numerous well-known saints and mystics including St. Faustina, tells of an coming manifestation of God’s mercy in which we will see ourselves as God sees us, in the light of Truth, but also in the light of his unimaginable love for poor sinner and has been called “a judgment in miniature”. It will be a great shaking for humanity, an event that will remove all doubt about the existence of our perfectly merciful and perfectly just God, a time of decision for every living human soul each of whom will have to answer the question posed by God: “Are you with Me or against Me?”
The foreword of the above-mentioned book was written by Bishop Gavin Ashenden (Chaplain to the Queen of England from 2008 to 2017). He begins by saying, “Every so often a book falls into one’s hands that is particularly powerful in unveiling the mystery and power of God’s purpose for his Church today, and this is one such.” The book contains, not just prophecies, but real-life testimonies of people who have already experienced an illumination, a sneak-preview of what is purportedly to come.
Intrigued, I bought the e-book, not realizing that one of the people whose testimony is included is, in fact, a friend of mine. I knew her at the time she experienced her illumination several years ago. It left her so shaken it was a full week before she could speak to me about it. The experience was extremely painful—to see how her sins had hurt Our Lord. It left her with a profound sense of gratitude and love of our merciful God, along with a burning desire never to hurt him again, which has not waned to this day.
Reading these stories helps us to realize that even our little sins hurt God. St. Faustina herself had an illumination of conscience, and described it in this way:
“Suddenly I saw the complete condition of my soul as God sees it. I could clearly see all that is displeasing to God. I did not know that even the smallest transgressions will have to be accounted for. What a moment! Who can describe it? To stand before the Thrice-Holy-God!”
—Divine Mercy in My Soul (36)
This is not meant to be cause for fear, but is an unimaginable grace leading to a far deeper repentance than we could ever imagine. What a gift! Whether or not you believe that this global event is imminent, it is a ever prudent to keep our spiritual house in order, especially through the grace of mercy and the mercy of grace found in the sacraments.
This past week the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours, featured a reflection by Saint Bernard, abbot. Though it was penned almost 1000 years ago, it remains a timeless teaching on every sinner’s right to the mercy of God. I was going to use excerpts but could not decide which jewel was superfluous. So, I give the final word to St. Bernard:
“Where can the weak find a place of firm security and peace, except in the wounds of the Savior? Indeed, the more secure is my place there the more he can do to help me. The world rages, the flesh is heavy, and the devil lays his snares, but I do not fall, for my feet are planted on firm rock. I may have sinned gravely. My conscience would be distressed, but it would not be in turmoil, for I would recall the wounds of the Lord: he was wounded for our iniquities. What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ? And so if I bear in mind this strong, effective remedy, I can never again be terrified by the malignancy of sin.
“Surely the man who said: My sin is too great to merit pardon, was wrong. He was speaking as though he were not a member of Christ and had no share in his merits, so that he could claim them as his own, as a member of the body can claim what belongs to the head. As for me, what can I appropriate that I lack from the heart of the Lord who abounds in mercy? They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds I may drink honey from the rock and oil from the hardest stone: that is, I may taste and see that the Lord is sweet.
“He was thinking thoughts of peace, and I did not know it, for who knows the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? But the piercing nail has become a key to unlock the door, that I may see the good will of the Lord. And what can I see as I look through the hole? Both the nail and the wound cry out that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The sword pierced his soul and came close to his heart, so that he might be able to feel compassion for me in my weaknesses.
“Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high. Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone out more luminously that in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy? More mercy than this no one has than that he lay down his life for those who are doomed to death.
“My merit comes from his mercy; for I do not lack merit so long as he does not lack pity. And if the Lord’s mercies are many, then I am rich in merits. For even if I am aware of many sins, what does it matter? Where sin abounded grace has overflowed. And if the Lord’s mercies are from all ages for ever, I too will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. Will I not sing of my own righteousness? No, Lord, I shall be mindful only of your justice. Yet that too is my own; for God has made you my righteousness.”
—Second Reading in the Office of Readings, Wednesday, Third Week in Ordinary Time
(*”The Warning” is available for purchase at Queen of Peace Media or Amazon)
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