(A talk given on a True Life in God
Jesus told a parable. (Luke 18.9). It was directed towards anyone who trusted in themselves and looked down on other people.
10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13 But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
FROM FLESH TO SPIRIT
We human beings are amphibians. C.S. Lewis described it in this way: ““Humans are amphibians…half spirit and half animal…as spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.”
In the same way that some animals live in both water and air, we live in both flesh and Spirit. We begin in the life of the flesh, which we might call for a moment, self-reliance; and as we get to know Jesus, we move more deeply into the life of the Spirit.
The key to this journey from flesh to Spirit, is the mercy of God.
In this parable Jesus, as he always does, uses the drama of hyberbole, – he exaggerates to help us get the point. He uses as his example someone who is entitled to take pride in what he has achieved,- the devoted and meticulous pharisee and compares him with someone who has no credentials before either God or anyone else; politically compromised in that he is collecting taxes for the hated oppressors of Israel, and of no status within Israel. How is it that one man walks home in the clear with God, and the other doesn’t? The devoted and meticulous man was a stranger to mercy – but the broken and compromised man understood that mercy was his medicine.
To ask God for mercy is to move from flesh to Spirit, from self reliance to reliance on the generosity of God.
Knowing that mercy was the key to this move from self reliance to the life in the Spirit, the hesychastic tradition gave birth to the Jesus Prayer, to offer us as Christians a way of praying always in the Spirit; “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
The Church has always understood the strength of this prayer to lie in its experience that in the first half of the prayer that the demons are made to tremble whenever the name of Jesus as Lord is invoked, and in the second, the heart is gently drawn drawn from flesh into Spirit each time the it utters the cry for mercy.
FOILNG THE ACCUSER
One of the ways in which we experience the pain and the wounds of our spiritual struggle is the breathing in the ppollution of accusation.
This is of course the influence of the enemy who approaches and haunts us with whispers or intimations of accusation.
It is common to assume the thoughts and feelings of self criticism that we all share are produced by a sense of psychological inadequacy; and there is no doubt that a sense of shared psychological frailty produces a seed bed in which these accusations can take root.
But the deeper effect this sense of being accused has, is to make us feel that if we are unforgivable in our own eyes, then we must be unforgivable in God’s eyes too.
The accusation is deigned to make us frightened of God in a destructive way – to stop us turning to God for help. We become anxious that an encounter with God will lead to our condemnation – we are terrorised by the fear that an encounter with God will be an encounter with severity and judgment.
It is certainly the case that our Lord is coming in judgment to judge the world. But before judgment he also offers mercy so that in responding to His mercy we may escape the guilt and the consequences of our own self will and flawed desires.
The Messages are very clear that we cannot abuse his patience and his love by assuming that His patience is without limit or without end.
I will soon reveal My Justice too; My Plan has a determined time; My Merciful calls have also a determined time; once this time of Mercy is over, I will show everyone, good and evil, that My severity is as great as My Mercy, that My wrath is as powerful as My forgiveness; all things predicted by Me will pass swiftly now; nothing can be subtracted from them;
MERCY IS MODERATED BY THE GIFT OF TIME
But we need to listen to our Lord’s Messages in the right order. He says “once this time of mercy is over.” He begins with mercy. Those who will not respond to his mercy will face His severity; but He begins with mercy.
But what stops us grasping the mercy?- Often, fear.
The fear that is whispered into our hearts is designed to stop us turning to God because we are terrified of judgment and being condemned. It is the same fear that Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden when having eaten the fruit of self determination, a knowledge of the difference between good and evil they were unable to bear, they heard the Lord coming and hid in order not to be shamed by their nakedness.
But the voice of accusation come not from Jesus who is most ready to accuse us – it is of course from Satan. He is known, he is called the accuser of the brethren. The first reflex of Satan is to accuse – the first instinct of Jesus is to forgive. It is Jesus who whispers on the cross in his agony “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”- and he does this not to the deserving but to the undeserving.
We continue to flirt with a half conscious imagining that somehow we may have done something to attract his forgiveness. But at the root of all mercy is the reality that it is entirely undeserved. When Jesus prays for mercy from the cross it is for those who have done nothing at all to attract it or deserve it.
Mercy is the opposite of merit.
The enemy threatens us with accusation trying to keep us from falling into the arms of God –arms that which are filled with mercy. Mercy is the key that unlocks the door between flesh and the Spirit – mercy is the antidote to the poison of accusation that gives us the courage to risk placing ourselves in the presence of God, and opening ourselves to the awesome and awe-full reality of His voice.
MERCY THE ANTIDOTE
The Gospel passage of the woman taken in adultery in St John 8 exemplifies the mercy of Jesus in action.
We know the Law rightly brings condemnation and we expect Jesus to implement the law. Instead, like the woman in John 8, we find that He is unwilling to act as our accuser. His role is not to condemn us.
In Maria Valtorta’s inspired Poem of the Man God we are given an expanded picture of what Jesus’ response is to those who brought the accusations. As they demand she should be stoned for her sin, Jesus is found writing in the sand. He is writing the sins of the accusers in the sand:-
“Usurer- False-Irreverent son- Fornicator- Murderer- Desecrator of the Law-thief- drunkard- blasphemer- adulterer”.
Knowing what their sins were- writing their sins for all to see in the sand, he challenges them to declare themselves without sin as a condition of implementing the Law.
Inevitably they turn to leave; as they do so he continues to write, describing them with the eys of God that see through the externals into the state of the soul:
“Pharisees, Vipers, sepulchers of rotteneness, liars, traitors, enemies of God.”
And so he says to the accused woman “Did no one condemn you” “No one, sir” she replies. “Then nor do I condemn you” he promises – and then follows the call to repentance which always accompanies the exercise of mercy. “Go and do not sin again.”
Our Lord knows we sin. He knows we are accused – but as Saviour his response is to have mercy – and then to call us to change our direction. To change our choices – to change our priorities – to change our preferences – he invites us to repent. Metanoia- a change of world view, a change of angle, a change of priority, a change of dimension, a change of values. Mercy calls for and produces change.
As Maria Valtorta describes the conversation that takes place between Jesus and his disciples the following day, Judas challenges Jesus and asks why he let her off. In trying to understand the mercy of Jesus he says
“ah she had repented then – she implored you?”
and Jesus replies
“No, she was not even repentant, she was only dejected and frightened”
Matthew takes up the conversation and says rather sweetly “forgiveness is to be granted to those who ask for it” but Jesus replies
“Oh! if God shall forgive only those who ask to be forgiven! And strike at once those who do not repent after sinning! Have you never felt that you have been forgiven before repenting? Can you really say that you repented and that is why you have been forgiven?”
“Listen to me, all of you, because many among you think that I made a mistake and Judas is right. Peter and John are here. They heard what I said to the woman and they can repeat it to you. I was not foolish in forgiving. I do not say what I said to other souls whom I have forgiven because they were fully repentant.
But I gave that soul time and possibility to arrive at repentance and holiness, if she wishes to reach them.”
And this too is the gift of mercy- time to arrive at the realization of the need for repentance. Time is an aspect of God’s mercy to us. Our lord understands the conflicts in our soul and the confusions in our minds.
In Romans chapter 7 St Paul describes the state of the divided mind and heart in the face of our aspirations.
“15 For I do not understand my own actions. I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! …. 8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
We are shown mercy even though we continually fall into sin; even though we repeat the same mistakes time and time again; we are shown mercy even though we have yet to master the sin that lurks within us.
It is not as if we can always claim that our repentance has always been wholly successful. The mercy of God is not conditional on our producing the right behaviour. It is simply mercy – grace- forgiveness – but it is designed to draw us all the more closely into the arms of God through sheer gratitude; and where our will is weak, our gratitude becomes the fuel that drives our struggle for repentance.
We are forgiven not because we are successful in having deserved it, by repenting, but because God is mercy.
His mercy, as with the woman caught in sin, is intended to bring us to the point where we confront our need for repentance. Repentance can indeed in some things be sudden and immediate, but in others, where the roots of our disobedience have grown down deep, protracted and long drawn out.
In the message of Aug 6 1991, we find,
“I am giving you enough time to reform, but will your generation understand? will they be willing to change their lives?”
…..“keep praying for your brothers then; I said: it will not go as hard on Sodom as on this generation; do you remember Nineveh? they were at the verge of a great disaster, but they listened to Jonah, My mouthpiece, and from the highest to the least … all, fasted, repented and vowed to change their life and live holy; “put yourselves on the ways of long ago, enquire about the ancient paths,” 2 seek the Truth; daughter, happy the man who will follow My advice; let Me tell you one more thing, I, the Anointed One will engulf you all with My Fire and consume you to give your soul a new life; I have little time left now; these Times of Mercy and Grace are almost over; I am not concealing My Plans, nor am I hiding My Face, I am revealing as never before My Face;”
TIME NEARLY OVER.
Although the time of mercy will not last for ever – and it is a window that is open for the present, it is open now and we must use it.
Our Lord is making it clear what it He is doing and where we are in His scheme of things – we are near the end of a period of mercy. We have been given enough time –but serious change of life is required of us by God.
Mercy allows us to fail and fall – but the gift of more time is the opportunity God gives us to make a greater effort, a more determined pressing on in the direction he calls us to travel.
What matters is not how many times we fall over, – but our determination to have changed direction and move, stumbling, falling, crawling towards the Kingdom of Heaven, towards Jesus and not away from Him.
Mercy picks us from the floor and mends and forgives us – and the gift of time allows us to respond to the mercy by pressing on in the new and changed direction.
In the Message of August the 4th 1991 , we are reminded again:-
“repent! for the Time of Mercy is almost over; change your lives and live holy, sacrifice and amend your lives”.
What does this repentance consist of ?
In the Message of July 17th 1989, we hear:
“My Mercy today reaches from one end of the earth to the other, listen to My voice of today, accept My Mercy of today; I solemnly ask you to pray with your heart; fast, repent, love one another; renew yourselves into a completely new batch so that I may show My Glory through your transfiguration.”
So here are the stepping stones of the new direction
we are pray from the heart – to fast – to love one another – and allow ourselves in so doing to be renewed.
We are also to cultivate simplicity and purity.
CULTIVATE SIMPLiCITY AND PURITY
In the message of April 9, 1996 Our Blessed Mother says
“My Vassula, listen to Me very carefully now:
the Lord, in His Mercy, has given you this Treasure1 (the messages) directly from His Sacred Heart; He has shown the power of His Arm by bringing this good news to the ends of the earth; if all of you only knew what the Lord is offering you in your times! but the Spirit of the Lord will come only to the simple and to the pure of heart and fill them with His gifts; to this day His glory shines on the lowly, and He will continue to send the rich empty away ….”
The Messages of True Life in God are the embodying of God’s mercy.
It is an act of mercy that our Lord promises to heal the Church from its brokenness and schism.
The Theologian Leslie Newbigin, a theologian from the Church of South India, used to describe the divisions of a Church as hopelessly split into three different tribes-
that of the Church of the Father – which he described as comprising of the Catholics and Orthodox, the Church of the Word or the Son– the Protestants,-
and the Church of the Spirit – the Pentecostals.
He called for a unity so that the whole church could be strengthened by the resources which have been tragically partitioned in a form of ecclesial apartheid. His analysis was cogent and compelling. But the analysis is not hard to come by – what is hard to come by is the healing.
The Messages provide the insight but also the medicine for this healing.
The are the medicine of mercy.
Many voices are raised in the name of unity, from the World Council of Churches to the ecumenical agencies of different denominations, but they have achieved very little indeed.
The Spirit gives birth to spirit; the rational gives birth to committees.
Committees are brought into being to pore over theological arguments which have grown out of power struggles between the proud and angry, the corruption of the faith by secular concepts, the factionalisms of one party or another, and they attempt a form of lowest common denominator of arbitration.
None of this touches the hearts of the faithful. None of this brings a humility or poverty of spirit which are a precondition for the mending of the body of Christ, and the acquisition of heavenly wisdom.
And the reason they have achieved so little is that despite being concerned for matters of the Spirit, they set about seeking the unity of Christ’s body in a dependence on the flesh- a self reliance on rationalistic theology……….
Strengthened with a sense of denominational self-importance which took precedence over the love and humility, the formal ecumenical movement engages in a kind of diplomatic self-reliance which is at odds with the virtues of the Holy Spirit.
Our Lady makes it clear the Messages can only be heard by those willing to cultivate the kind of simplicity found in the beatitudes; they can only be received by those whose hearts are purified by a hunger for the Living God.
The are the medicine of mercy for the heart but also for the mind – for we have legitimate questions about the issues which divide us.
Do we want to ask theological questions about the relationship between the Church and culture?
Churches today are being torn apart by so-called progressives urging on the faithful the need to abandon those aspects of the faith which have become counter cultural. But in his mercy our Lord tells us in the Messages that the Orthodox Christians are to be especially affirmed, for they have kept the essentials of apostolic faith against all the tides and pressures of changing and ephemeral culture.
Do we want to know about the place that the bishop of Rome should occupy in the hearts of all Christians? The Messages make it clear that he is Peter, the rock on which the Church is founded and that the Protestants and the Orthodox are invited to recognize him as such.
Do we want to know what role our Lady plays in the renewal and the guarding of the Church, or in what honour she is held in heaven, – then the Messages acts as a kind of Midrash, a commentary on the Scriptures, and invite us to make her our own mother, invite us to strengthen our prayers with hers, invite us to combat the pernicious stratagems of the devil with the power of her obedience and purity.
Do we want to find an ecumenical solution to the mystery of the Mass? Then the Messages tell us of the miracle of the Lord’s presence in the small white host which transcends any theological language to describe or limit or explain.
Do we want to know why the evangelism of the Church is so weak and ineffective in the face of an aggressive secularism or atheism? The Messages warn us that our evangelism will only be as potent as the Church is united.
If the body of Christ is broken by our pride and disobedience then there is a corresponding anemia in our the power of our witness. As the Church is healed through a reconciliation in the Spirit so the power of our evangelism and witness will grow.
No ecumenical committee will tell us this.
Are there any theological techniques available to bring the broken Church around one altar in the mystery of the Eucharist – none that have succeeded so far – only the authority of the voice of God telling us to suspend our use of the Mass as a weapon of distinction and division, and approach the altar suspending the agendas of our ecumenical committees, and standing together in shared obedience to the will of God instead of obedience to the weight of history.
The Messages are the medicine of mercy.
MERCY MERRIMENT AND MARRIAGE- the espousal of the Church
The mercy of God brings us forgiveness and restitution, but it also but it makes God merry – it makes Him happy. The giving of mercy is His delight and he invites us to share in that merriment and delight.
(Feb 12 2000)
Our Lord tells us –
“Prodigy Himself stooped from above to enliven this dying generation, showing My Sovereign power, but mercy as well through My Divine Work in you in a most ineffable manner; I have poured drop by drop, like distilled myrrh, My Wisdom into your ear to open your hearing;
ah, 3 what delights I gathered while performing this prodigy of prodigies! what divine pleasure I obtained from My benevolent act of Mercy, foreseeing that restoration was close at hand! what joy and gladness filled My Heart while I was freeing you from your misery and from the bondage of evil, drawing you near Me instead to become a child who will ever be at play with Me; then so as to fix your eyes on My royal dignity and that you commemorate our espousals for ever, I placed the sweetest kisses upon those lips which would glorify My Name, increasing your attention on My supreme sweetness, and so that I hear you say: “the Lord God has espoused me, adorning my soul with Himself.”
Mercy is the glue of espousal and marriage between our Maker and his lost people.
PROPHESY IS THE POETRY OF MERCY
Our Lord tells us that the apostasy in which we have we have become trapped and by which we have been wounded was always forseen by him and prophesy is the means by which he makes his mercy active to set us free.
Prophesy is the poetry of mercy.
(Feb 12 2000)
“I, the Luminous Godhead, had anticipated long before your creation this Great Apostasy; have I no right then to raise prophets? all heaven rejoices since in Our gracious condescension We took pity on your apathy; I have raised prophets to receive directly and at all times My celestial calls accompanied by a flow of graces….
Let me finish with the poetry of Mercy from this message of Feb 12 2000
“My prophet is sent out as My royal ambassador in every vile corner of this earth to hymn to you: righteousness, kindness, holiness, virtue and reminding all of you of My Ways; reminding every man from all ranks that:
– Unction of the poor in spirit, I Am;
– Guarantor of your well-being, I Am;
– Luminous Godhead and Source of Sublime Love, I Am;
– Sovereign and Bridegroom of all creation, I Am;
– Restorer and Lamp of body and soul, I Am;
– Consoler of the persecuted in the cause of right, I Am;
– Balm and Ointment of the sick and the dying, I Am; and that I am your Lord and God but your Friend, your Companion and your Father as well;
I am, generation, ceaselessly giving Myself to you, to perfect your image which you have so deformed and sullied by all your evil doings, your sins and your obstinate resistance to acknowledge Me as your Father; and if I am ceaselessly giving Myself to you, it is so as to elevate you by grace and that through grace your sight may be restored to see the invisible things that never wear out.”
This is the Mercy, the merriment and the medicine of God – to His whole Church – and to us here today.