Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mercy in This World

On the other hand, water flowing from a spring is a symbol of all life, the symbol of life. That is why the early Church laid down that baptism had to be administered by means of ‘living’ water, spring water, so that Baptism could be experienced as the beginning of a new life.

In this connection, the Fathers always had at the back of their minds the conclusion of the Passion narrative according to John; blood and water flow from the opened side of Jesus; Baptism and Eucharist spring from the pierced heart of Jesus. He has become the living spring that makes us alive (cf. Jn 19:34f). At the feast of Tabernacles Jesus had prophesied that streams of living water would flow from the man who came to him and drank: “Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive,” (Jn 7:39).

The baptized man himself becomes a spring. When we think of the great saints of history, from whom streams of faith, hope, and love really came forth, we can understand these words and thus understand something of the dynamism of Baptism, of the promise and vocation it contains.

Spirit of the Liturgy, 222-3

Reflection – Well, yesterday was all about death and drowning and the high drama of plunging into the Red Sea with Christ, being plunged into the waters by Christ so as to die and be raised up with Him.

Today it’s all about life. Christianity is not a death-cult, but a spring of living water rising up from the very depths of this abyss into which we are plunged. We die with Christ, yes, but so as to rise with Him.

This whole image of a spring is so telling, so beautiful. The image is not of a torrent, a cataract, a waterfall, but a spring. Something homely, something we can stoop at to drink and be slaked. Something that is for us, for our life, geared to our need.

This is the way of love in the world. The cost may be high; the violence of the Cross and the totality of renunciation required may be extreme, but it is all so that this gentle spring, this flowing river of love, hope, joy, peace, faith, kindness, may flow from Christ’s heart through our hearts to the world’s heart.

Leonard Cohen sang in his Song of Bernadette that Our Lady came to tell us that “there were sorrows to be healed and mercy, mercy in this world.” And it’s like that. We are meant to become vehicles, vessels of God’s mercy in this world. Because there is all this other stuff in us—selfishness, judgment, greed, anger, lust, etc.—well, we have to be drowned and killed and all that extreme dramatic stuff.

But it is all for the sake of mercy, all to become a clear channel, a conduit, a spring flowing out (peace is flowing like a ri-i-ver…), a steady stream of water flowing out to all the sorrows of the world. And there are so many sorrows in this world.

Where is the Middle East heading now? So many dead children, so much hurt and rage, no end in sight by any human reckoning. Where are the wealthy nations of the world headed? Do we have any concept of the kind of economic depression the world may well be headed towards? At least in the 1930s society was still largely agrarian, and most people had practical skills to fend for themselves in hard times. It’s all going to get very hard in years ahead, I’m afraid.

There are sorrows to be healed. Will we be mercy in this world? Will we allow God’s mercy to flow through us to our brothers and sisters? They will need it; they do need it. I forget the saint who said, “If you wish to be a channel, you must first be a reservoir.” If we wish to give mercy, we must receive mercy. If we want our lives to be streams of faith, hope, and love flowing out into a parched desert world, we must receive and welcome and cherish these gifts from God.
So this is the life of baptism and Eucharist. Receive love, so as to hold and cherish love, so as to give love freely to all. That is what waits for us on the other side of the Red Sea. That is the freedom of the Promised Land. That is the path of life God lays out for us. That is the New Commandment given unto us, that we should love one another as He has loved us.

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