Encountering the Merciful Father

Encountering the Merciful Father

By Maree Triffett

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“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”. (Matthew 27:50,51)

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In this decisive moment in salvation history God was revealed as the merciful Father to be worshipped “in spirit and truth”.

 

In her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Saint Faustina describes her vision of the Merciful Jesus: “I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment.  One hand [was] raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast.  From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast,  there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale….” (1)

 

The phrase – “slightly drawn aside at the breast” – encapsulates the scripture: “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”. (Matthew 27:50,51)  As Blessed John Henry Newman wrote: “He came to rend the veil of the temple, and give free passage to the rays of divine mercy over the whole world”. (2)

 

The curtain of the temple screened the Holy of Holies – the sanctuary where God manifested His presence in the “Shekinah Glory”.   Here was contained the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat.   Only the High Priest was allowed access to the Holy of Holies, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. On this special Jewish feast he sprinkled blood “upon and before the mercy seat seven times”.(Lev 16:14)

 

While the three Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke mention the tearing of the temple veil, John’s gospel omits it.  As an eyewitness to the crucifixion his focus is, instead, on the lance penetrating Jesus’ side:  “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out immediately.” John 19:34

 

The rending of the temple veil coincides with the tearing of Christ’s flesh: “We are assured of entering the Sanctuary by the blood of Jesus who opened for us this new and living way passing through the curtain, that is, his body” (Hebrews 10:19,20).

 

The temple curtain has been described as massive – 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, and so thick and heavy that hundreds of men were needed to manipulate it.  Scripture says that it was rent “in two from top to bottom” indicating that it was an act, not of human hands, but from above – a sovereign act of God the Father.

 

It was the Father’s response to the anguished cry of the new Adam: “My God, My God why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34)  The cry of His Beloved Son now echoed His own lament “Adam, where are you?” (Gen 3:9) – “a question charged with all the sorrow of a Father who has lost his child”. (3)

 

On the completion of Jesus’ mission, the Father removed the barrier between Himself and His children that had existed since Adam.  The severed bond of intimacy was finally restored.

 

“The central purpose of Jesus’ mission…… was to renew our relationship with the Father, a relationship severed by sin, to take us from our state of being orphaned children and to restore us as his sons and daughters…….. We were made to be God’s children, it is in our DNA. But this filial relationship was ruined and required the sacrifice of God’s only-begotten Son in order to be restored.”(4)

 

Through the death of Jesus, access to the mercy of God was no longer restricted to one place – the Mercy seat; to one person – the High Priest; or to one day – the Day of Atonement.

 

The Divine Mercy Chaplet is a prayer specifically directed to God the Father.  On Friday, September 13, 1935, Saint Faustina had a profound encounter with the Merciful Father.  In a vision she saw an angel about to execute the divine wrath of God. She prayed for mercy but in vain.  At that moment she found herself before the throne of the Heavenly Father.  “I found myself pleading with God for the world with words heard interiorly:  “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us”……..` “As I was praying in this manner, I saw the Angel’s helplessness: he could not carry out the just punishment which was rightly due for sins. Never before had I prayed with such inner power as I did then”. (5)

 

The tearing of the temple veil marked the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New Covenant –  “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will tear the new garment as well, and the patch from the new will not match the old.” (Luke 5:36)

 

The Ark in the Holy of Holies signified truth and law; the Mercy Seat represented spirit and mercy.   The New Covenant would introduce the new form of worship promised by Jesus to the Samaritan woman: “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you shall worship the Father, but that will not be on this mountain nor in Jerusalem….But the hour is coming, and is even now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth”.  (John 4:21, 23)

 

The words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman imply “a radical transformation in worship…..the time of the Father had come; it was He, the one and only Father, who laid the foundations…….The Father calls for an adoration filled with a filial spirit rather than a spirit of fear……[a relationship that is] no longer merely that of a servant or slave to an all-powerful Master, or of a creature to his Creator, but of a child to his or her Father”. (6)

 

The new worship would be the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  “In fact, the whole of the liturgy of the Mass invites us to raise our souls to the Father, to offer ourselves to Him, with His beloved son..” (7)    In this new worship of the Father we, His children, come into His presence through Jesus, now veiled by the species of Bread and Wine.  “As God in former days dwelt in the temple of Jerusalem, He now lives in our churches and chapels”. (8)

 

In a Church approved private revelation, God the Father told Mother Eugenia Ravasio:

“Why did I command Moses to build a tabernacle and the ark of the covenant, if not to come and dwell, as a Father, a brother, a close friend, with My creatures…..In the Eucharist I live among you as a Father with His family. I wanted My Son to institute the Eucharist so as to make every tabernacle the vessel of My favours, My riches and My love….. It is through My Son and the Holy Spirit that I am coming to you and into you, and it is in you that I seek My repose. To some souls, the words “I am coming into you” will seem a mystery, but it is not a mystery! Because, having instructed My Son to institute the Holy Eucharist, I intended to come to you every time you receive the Sacred Host!……. Through this Sacrament you are intimately united with Me. It is in this intimacy that the outpouring of My love makes My holiness spread into your souls”. (9)

 

As Saint Faustina wrote: “When I had received Holy Communion, I had a deeper knowledge of the heavenly Father and of His Fatherhood in relation to souls.” (10)

 

However, after two thousand years of Eucharistic worship, “we could almost say that now it is the Father and no longer the Holy Spirit who is ‘the divine unknown’.”(11)  “For how many Christians is the Father, today, a living person?”(12)   Our prayers lack the intimacy with which Jesus prayed to the Father.  “Many prayers have remained at the stage of the Old Testament in their way of addressing God.”(13)

 

Several theologians believe that a liturgical feast honouring God as Father is now necessary to make the Father known: “Feasts are a living catechesis and today there is an urgent need for a living catechesis on the Father.”(14)

 

“The absence of a feast dedicated to the Father in the liturgical calendar bears witness to the fact that the worship of the Father still hasn’t reached its full development……the new worship which Jesus began consists of adoring the Father: and yet there is no day in which this adoration is directed more particularly to the person of the Father.” (15)

 

A liturgical feast honouring God as Father would “help many come to know the living Father, the Father of Mercy and Goodness as revealed to us by Jesus……Would it not contribute to an increase in the number of those who would worship the Father “in Spirit and in Truth” as Jesus has announced?”(16)

 

Monsignor Guerry asserted that the Church needs to “authorize the institution of a feast to celebrate the attributes of the Father in His relationship with us……Does not devotion to the Father perhaps magnificently accomplish, in Christian worship, Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman…”(17)

 

And a liturgical feast honouring His Fatherhood was specifically requested by God the Father to Mother Eugenia: “I desire only this: That one day may be consecrated to honouring Me in a particular way, under the title of FATHER of all mankind…the first Sunday in August ….[or] the 7th of August.”(18)

 

This Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy dedicated to the Merciful Father is a precious opportunity to grow closer to God as our Father.  Pope Francis sees it as a special time of grace in which to “find the road home to the Father” – a time in which “God’s sons and daughters take up once again the journey to the Father’s house”.  He encourages us to embrace “this Extraordinary Jubilee Year dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us.”(19)

 

In the Marian Year of 1987, Our Lady promised Father Gobbi, founder of the Marian Movement of Priests, that there would be a special time of grace as a gift from the Heavenly Father:  “These are the times of the great return These are the times of the great mercy… The Father thrills with ardor and wills to pour out upon this poor humanity the torrents of his infinite love”. (20) 

 

And humanity will respond to this outpouring of love: “At last, the prayer of the ‘Our Father’ which Jesus taught us will be fulfilled; it will have its perfect completion.  The Divine Will will be fulfilled in a perfect way by all creatures, thus bringing forth the Kingdom of the Divine Will upon this earth.”(21)   This “new and divine holiness”(22) will see the greatest glorification of the Father.

 

“ ‘Father’.  This one word contains the whole history of redemption.”(23)

“And in the end….everything else will turn out to be unimportant and inessential, except for this:  father, child, love.  And then, looking at the simplest things, all of us will say:  could we have not learned this long ago?  Has this not always been embedded at the bottom of everything that is?”(24)

 

Footnotes:

  1. “Divine Mercy in My Soul” – Diary of Saint Faustina 47
  2. Sermon No. 388” – 31st May, 1835 Blessed John Henry Newman
  3. Yad Vashem Memorial Address” at Jerusalem Pope Francis 26th May, 2014
  4. Pentecost Sunday Homily 2016  Pope Francis
  5. Divine Mercy in My Soul” 473-475
  6. “Abba, Father We Long to see Your Face” Jean Galot SJ p.204,205
  7. Devotion to the Father: Its appropriateness – Its doctrinal value”  Monsignor Emilio Guerry
  8. Father Jean Galot SJ
  9. Life for the Glory of the Father – the Message of God Our Father given to Mother Eugenia Elisabetta Ravasio”  p.84,87,120,121
  10. “Divine Mercy in My Soul” 1819
  11. Life in the Lordship of Christ”  Father Raniero Cantalamessa  Chapter VI
  12. Devotion to the Father: Its appropriateness – Its doctrinal value”  Monsignor Emilio Guerry
  13. Abba, Father We Long to see Your Face” Jean Galot, SJ p.223
  14. Life in the Lordship of Christ” Father Raniero Cantalamessa  Chapter VI
  15. The New Worship of the Father”  Jean Galot SJ
  16. Life for the Glory of the Father”  Bishop Alexander Caillot’s testimony in favour of the Father’s revelations to Mother Eugenia Ravasio p.73
  17. Devotion to the Father: Its appropriateness – Its doctrinal value” Monsignor Emilio Guerry
  18. Life for the Glory of the Father” p.97
  19. Misericordiae Vultus – Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy”  Pope Francis
  20. “To the Priests, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons” p.558,559
  21. The Triumph, The Second Coming and the Eucharistic Reign” Fr. Stefano Gobbi, June 24, 1996
  22. Saint John Paul II canonised Saint Hannibal di Francia on 16th May, 2004. During the homily the Pope referred to “the new and divine holiness” – the spirituality of “living in the Divine Will” – which was central to St. Hannibal’s life.
  23. Jesus of Nazareth “Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) quoting Reinhold Schneider p.135, 136
  24. Reflections on Fatherhood 1964 essay by Karol Wojtyla (Saint John Paul II)

 

 

Maree Triffett

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