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Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany
   
Bishop's Weekly message

The seamless cloak of God's grace

BY BISHOP EDWARD B. SCHARFENBERGER


God's mercy is a lot like light.

This should not surprise us. Jesus reveals Himself to us as light: "I am the light of the world." In His light, all things are revealed in the splendor of original grace -- how things were meant to be.

Most Christians are familiar with the doctrine of original sin. This is a theological way of understanding that God created the world good and whole. All the components of God's creation were in harmony, like an orchestral ensemble playing different instruments that "pro-create" a beautiful symphony.

Satan disrupts the order and beauty of God's creation by inducing us to play wrong notes: to live not as we were created, in God's image and likeness, but according to a lesser design, a pattern of broken chords (or discord, if you will).

This tendency to go off-key, to wander from the divine conductor's score, is something we observe throughout history. It is something we see in others and, if we look into our soul's mirror honestly, in ourselves.

Genesis dramatically depicts the "fall" of creation from God's original pattern of harmony and beauty, detailing all the consequences of the demonic deception to which Adam and Eve fell prey. That we are born with an innate tendency to repeat their folly is why we speak of this kind of structural "sin," or deviation from God's grace, as "original."

Even before any of us commits our first sin, we seem set up to fall. Our experience of life confirms this tendency as we face temptation every day: We wake up each morning to a world that is broken, torn by rivalries, violence and great injustices.

The image of Jesus on the cross is a good depiction of this broken humanity. It is a reminder of the effects of original sin and all the individual and structural patterns of sin with which our world is stained.

Fortunately for us, the crucified one is risen! The full force of our sin, which crushed Him on Good Friday, is vanquished by the divine mercy which forgives and transforms this awful weight into an eternal moment of grace.

That is what the resurrection affirms. God accepts the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, as an eternal bond that seals and heals our brokenness and the chaotic, cacophonous effects of the wrong notes we call sin on the symphony of life. It now enables us all to play in harmony with the original order of God's creation again. We live by the powerful radiance of God's grace.

We might envision this as the seamless cloak of God's grace: God's mercy, revealed to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the divine mercy incarnate, bursts forth from the side of Christ's risen and glorified body. It is a light that falls over everyone and reaches every dark and distant corner of every soul, and every part of God's creation.

Like a seamless cloak, there is no beginning or end to flow of God's mercy. The whole pattern is sewn together. Gaps are, literally, woven away.

What this means, practically, is that what once were sinful patterns in our lives are now used by the divine weaver as threads in this beautiful cloak.

We see this in the lives of the saints. Paul, who was a zealous persecutor of the Church, encounters Jesus and has his life turned around. Under the pattern of divine mercy, God now uses that same zeal to enable St. Paul to play in harmony with the Gospel message, which brings hope to former sinners like him.

The Gospels are not shy about the exposing the sins of the Apostles that are now woven into the narrative seamlessly, connecting our stories to their stories: Thomas, the skeptical doubter; Peter, the cowardly denier -- not to mention the many others whose broken lives are put back together by the mercy of Jesus Christ.

Mary of Magdala, once possessed of seven demons, is the first to encounter the risen Christ. The woman at the well, seeking love in all the wrong places, becomes an evangelizer herself after encountering the forgiving mercy of Jesus.

Where does your story fit in? As a disciple of Jesus and beloved son or daughter of God, you have an important part to play in God's orchestra. Jesus wants to weave the story of your life into the seamless cloak of God's mercy. But you must let His light shine on you and penetrate every corner or your life's history.

Contemplating the image of the divine mercy is very helpful way to grasp the meaning of this transfiguring light of God's grace. Next Sunday, the eighth day in this Easter octave, we celebrate the feast of the divine mercy. My prayer for you is that you will experience the deep and healing power of the light of God's love, which seeks out every dark region of our lives, every sin-ravaged acre on our planet.

One reason we extend the celebration of Easter Sunday to every day of this week is so that its meaning and graces will touch our hearts more deeply. Jesus wants to touch us, heart to heart. That is what the divine mercy is all about: He is walking through the world, seeking out the lost and wounded, the broken parts in all of us.

Out of His loving heart, in the red light of His blood outpoured, streams the sacramental life of the Church. The transparent light of His purifying gaze will weld together and bring our discordant notes into holy harmony with His voice.

In the English language, "holiness" and "wholeness" sound alike. This bespeaks how God's grace unites us with Him and one another, knitting all together in the seamless cloak of God's merciful grace.

None need be lost. All are loved. Accept being accepted and let the Lord heal your heart and soul. In His light, we see light, and God's creation once again is made whole.

(Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)


(April 20, 2017)