Tag Archive: Mercy


AMDG

360946-jpg-c_215_290_x-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx‘This is a spiritual & cultural artefact’ – was how a producer at the BBC described Scorsese’s recent adaptation of the Shusako Endo novel ‘Silence‘.   A work of historical fiction, i.e based on real characters, about the Jesuits in Japan.  Having seen the film about a month ago, I tend to agree, although the cinema was fairly empty and I notice there is no ‘awards buzz’ about it – I think it will grow in stature and popularity.  I hope it will slowly acquire cult status, it doesn’t have the feel-good, crowd pleasing appeal that LaLa Land has ( and surely people need that in our fragmented times) …. but it has a depth and leaves a ‘haunting’ imprint that will mature over time. Like an artefact it will stand the test of time.

If you think about explicitly Christian films that have gone mainstream, all have differing levels of depth. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, in its own way a masterpiece – has the force of a sledgehammer and I would place it in the Key Stage 3 RE category.  Roland Joffe’s The Mission, slightly more complex interweaving of theology / politics/ ecclesiology maybe would be GCSE, (Key Stage 4) Level.  But Scorsese’s Silence – is certainly A Level (KS5) material – with all its glorious and infuriating ambiguities. Leaving scope for discussion and meditation.

landscape-1482951700-martin-scorsese-silence-religion-on-filmHere in Manchester – many of the students are divided by it, and fascinating discussions ensue.  Some get hung up on the priests apostasy and a sense of betrayal from that, without taking into fact the incredible commitment and self-offering that have got the missionaries their in the first place. In a similar way many of the reviews are polarised.  The more secularised, the less they ‘get it’ – including one absurd review accusing it of ‘torture porn’ (I actually thought the film wasn’t as harrowing as I was expecting). It is as though the sheer fact that you can believe in something enough that you are prepared to die for it. is inconceivable to the more superficial reviews.  Many people (even the usually prescient Robert Barron)  seem to fixated on the ‘apostasy’ element. Which I think misses the point of the film (and the novel).  For me Kichijiro is the main character in the film – and it is God’s Mercy for him , through sacramental confession, this is the most powerful aspect for me.

silence-00977A former student sent me a wonderful email which expresses it like this, “I found myself really focusing on more in the film was the mercy of God, which I think is and should be the big focus within the film and book. The question: How much should I forgive my brother? Seventy seven.  Is something I often thought about when watching this film especially when witnessing Kichijiro continuously plead for confession. For me Fr. Rodriguez and Fr Ferreira are insignificant as for me really the true Christian is perfectly embodied in Kichijiro. As he is what a christian really is: a sinful and weak creature totally dependent on God’s mercy. Interestingly Kichijiro does not really seem to care about human respect or his reputation as seen by his continuous grovelling and humiliating display of weakness before the priest. To me I think the book and film do a great job in showing this about Kichijiro and the mercy of God; but seem to overlook it and get a bit too obsessed with somehow trying to justify someone’s apostasy.    The real question I think is how much are we willing to accept our weakness and plead for forgiveness

Maybe this is echoing Scorsese own life – as revealed in this fascinating interview with the America Jesuit James Martin,  his sense of rejection at a crucial age when he wanted to be a Maryknoll Missionary. He was asked to leave the seminary, and ‘crushed’ in his own words,  and then his ‘pilgrimage’ slowly and painfully from the outside and back to God (?) . Jim has also written a very good  reflective piece on common questions people struggle with after Silence.   So is Silence really about about the Silence of God or the Deafness of Man? .

 

 

 

Mercy & the Adulteress

Now I have decided to revive my blog – I’ve been asked by the students here in Manchester to put some of my homilies online – This was one from 5th week of Lent 

mercifulTodays Gospel is a gem that is given to us to as something to savour in Lent.  The woman caught in adultery is a masterpiece in Johns Gospel that displays mystery of God’s mercy against the backdrop of the corruption of the temple.  Mercy is the most amazing attribute of God – Mercy is the name of God himself – it is the face by which God reveals himself in the Old Testament and it is at the core of the Gospel message. Pope Francis believes we are in a special time – a Kairos – of God’s mercy – and so has dedicated this as a special year. So in this extraordinary year of mercy its worth meditating this week on this key story of Jesus’s Mercy –  Jesus who is the incarnation of God’s redemptive and creative love .

Today’s Gospel is about the women who is caught in adultery but really about  the scribes and the Pharisees who are caught in hypocrisy…..  The women has been caught in the act of adultery – lets pause for a moment and think about what that actually means – this must have been a trap – they have been waiting and carefully looking – they have suspected this is going to happen and rather than trying to stop it they have allowed it to happen so that they could ‘catch her’ – what about the man involved?  Why is he not pulled out to be judged too? It all seems a bit one-sided.   This is being done to attack and humiliate the woman … notice how they drag her out make her stand in the middle of the crowd – this is humiliating.

Using Moses law in this way –  to humiliate her and judge her – is already an abuse of God’s Law – which is meant to free us not trap us.    However the scribes and the Pharisees here are trying to use the law to hurt her and also to trap Jesus … They realise that when they ask him what to do they are boxing him in  –  if Jesus says ‘let her go’ then they can criticise him saying  ‘ he doesn’t love the law’ if he says  stone her – they can say look how cruel and rigid he is….    It seems that Jesus can’t win.

However this allows Jesus to show the wisdom of Solomon – to demonstrate to the people that he hwoman_9as the wisdom    and compassion of a Just King – that he is fulfilling the messianic longing and expectation that they have.  Look at what he does – crouching and writing in the dust – we don’t know what he is writing…  but it may be significant that he is writing in the dust.  We remember that tradition has is that the Law of Moses was written in stone – but the Psalmists and the Prophets talk about writing the law of God on our hearts – We remember Jesus words at another point in the Gospels : The law was made man not man for the Law – so that his desire is that we embody the law through how we live – how we love and most importantly how we forgive…. Not using its rigidity to hurt and stone each other with.  Also lets remember we are in Lent and cast our minds back to how we began  – on Ash Weds – from dust you came and to dust you will return…..  so by writing in the dust Jesus is reminding us that our life is temporary, but how we act now is what will be looked at in the final reckoning – and our judgments always need to be  made in that context.

Notice that Jesus is not relativising adultery – it is a sin that has grave consequences – it can rip families apart, betraying the ones we love the most – causing generations of pain and hurt.  However Jesus is displaying great wisdom here – not being trapped – but reflecting God’s infinite mercy.

The desire to humiliate dressed up as a desire for justice – in the Pharisees and the Scribes is all too human – and do we know it.  Just look at the re-emergence of the phenomenon of public shaming on the internet …..  but in the face of this human small mindedness  – the mercy that Jesus shows is divine…. And we are called to share in the work of God and become more merciful.

What stops us from being merciful is when we refuse to be honest about our own sinfulness, we don’t encounter the mercy of God anymore, our hearts become hard and we become corrupt.  It is when we are aware of our own sinfulness – and even more that God loves us – that we can become merciful to others.  It’s something we need to practice – the more we face up to our sinfulness and brokenness, the more we can experience Gods loving mercy, especially in confession and the more we can forgive and be merciful – it is a virtuous circle.  But as we know it so easy to focus on other people’s sins – it’s a form of displacement – so that we feel better about ourselves – especially when we gossip – and we become desensitized and forgot that experience of Gods mercy and that’s when we become corrupt

If we are honest – a lot of us can become like the elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son –  who complains in the face of the fathers joy and generosity.  The elder son is human – but the mercy of the Father is divine. God goes beyond justice to a higher event which leads to a healing encounter with his love and mercy.  Let us be honest this lent about our need for God’s mercy – remember we have confessions every day from 12- 1.00….

AMDG  –  Doubting Thomas and Divine Mercy Sunday

This Sunday – we had three things converging – Doubting Thomas, Divine Mercy Sunday as instituted by St JPII, and also Pope Francis announcement of an extraordianry Jubilee Year of Mercy (to begin on Dec 8th) ….. I shameless tried to squeeze them all in to my homily …

Today we hear the famous post-resurrection encounter of Jesus with ‘Doubting Thomas’….. who refuses to believe that Jesus is truly risen unless he can but his fingers in his wounds.

Why did Thomas did his heels in – and refuse to believe that Jesus was Risen?  Why did he demand special proof? Why wasn’t he satisfied like the other disciples?

Because Thomas loved Jesus – and when we love we also know that we our heart has also been exposed to being hurt.  Anyone who has experienced the death of someone they love…..  anyone who has seen a relationship disintegrate…. Anyone who has been left by someone they love knows the hurt and pain that follows.  Jesus mission had ended abruptly – Thomas after witnessing the miracles, the great crowds… was convinced that this was the Son of God.  He had left everything to follow him …. And then in confusion and dread witnessed his arrest, he had run away to save his own life but heard about Jesus being tortured, heard about his public and humiliating death.  The experience of Holy Week that we have just passed through had left the disciple frightened, disorientated and disillusioned.

So stubborn Thomas, having been so deeply hurt because of his love for Jesus, is reluctant to raise his hope again.  When we human being are hurt so often we react like hedgehogs and curl up into a little ball, nursing grudges, becoming angry and bitter.  But look at Jesus’s response – Jesus who had been abandoned by his disciples, who had been tortured and killed in a humiliating way – but now the risen glorious Jesus, still bearing his wounds, his first words are not of blame and retribution but of peace and mercy.

A modern doubting Thomas

‘ Peace be with you ‘   and to Thomas  ‘ Doubt no longer and believe’ … and Thomas makes one of the most beautiful declarations of faith in the Bible ‘ My Lord and My God’ – and then Jesus  commissioned to the Disciples to spread this message of peace and mercy, the forgiveness of sins.

The difference between our human experience of being hurt, and how we nurture grudges and find it difficult to forgive and the divine mercy is great.  So it is beautiful that Saint John Paul II has named this Sunday Divine Mercy Sunday and dedicated it to the visions that Sr  Faustina of Krakow had just before WW2,  She died a year before the Nazi’s occupied Poland which lead to some terrible years, firstly with the Nazi Occupation and followed by the Communist Occupation, a period which John Paul referred to as the crucifixion of Poland.  The most famous of the visions was the lord revealing his sacred heart with rays of white and red light flowing from it as we can see at the font of the church by the lectern …. Coming at the start of the 20th Century – the most violent, most genocidal, most hate filled period in world history …..  In the face of this violence and hatred – God reveals his mercy.

What is mercy -?  Coming from –misericordia – mercy is a deep loving identification in others suffering  ….  Mercy is the very essence of God, not just one attribute amongst many….. Psalm 113 reminds us that God’s mercy endures forever and a merciful Church is what Pope Francis longs for….  Pope Francis today has declared this year – to be an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy for the Church …. He has published a bull for the called Misericordia Vultus……   Saying  “The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love……  we will be asked if we have helped others to escape the doubt that causes them to fall into despair

I think we should take this invitation seriously.  As well as an increased participation in the Sacrament of Confession – so that we can experience God’s Mercy ….  Let’s remember the seven corporal works of mercy are: 1. Feed the hungry.
2. Give drink to the thirsty.
3. Clothe the naked. 4. Shelter the homeless.
5. Visit the sick.
6. Visit the imprisoned. 7. Bury the dead. And the seven spiritual works of mercy are: 1. Counsel the doubtful.
2. Instruct the ignorant.
3. Admonish sinners.
4. Comfort the afflicted.
5. Forgive offences.
6. Bear wrongs patiently.
7. Pray for the living and the dead.  Anyone who is interested in how we can implement this more – students and non-students …. Come and see me …. We already have exceptional things like the foodbank, homeless runs, running breakfast clubs in local primary schools but we can do more … come and see me if you are interested.  How will you respond to this extraordinary Jubilee of God’s Mercy?