Mercy Mondays

Mirror, Mirror…

By Deacon Keith Strohm | Monday, February 01, 2016

That's the beginning of one of the most well-known phrases from one of the most popular European fairy tales. The Evil Queen who utters this commanding question, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?” jealously guards her beauty and renown - and goes to great lengths to protect herself from ever being seen as second best. One gets the sense from this kind of reaction that something beyond a sense of her own beauty drives the queen's actions - it’s as if insecurity tears at her heart with dark claws. She sees herself in a particular way, and needs the magic mirror to somehow prove that self-understanding wrong.

Why am I even bringing this up?

Because our world is filled with Evil Queens and Evil Kings whose self-understanding and self-image is wounded and broken. Some of them have their own magic mirrors, talismans that help them keep their hyper-critical demons at bay: gossip, alcoholism and drug addiction, an unbalanced quest for personal wealth and business success, sexual conquest and addictions (including pornography and extra-marital affairs), self-harm, eating disorders - to name only a few.

Most of these folks suffer in silence, deafened by the voice of the Accuser who speaks lies over their lives and convinces them that a holy and loving God could never love them. These men and women have moved beyond simply a sense of feeling guilty and come under the bondage of shame. Guilt says “I made a mistake,” but Shame says “I am a mistake.” There are a great number of our brothers and sisters who are convinced that there is something essential about themselves that makes them unlovable and beyond the reach of God's salvation.

But during this Jubilee of Mercy, the Church is singing out God’s mercy, the song of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whose message is this: No one is beyond the love of God, and in Jesus Christ, we receive not what we deserve, but what His love desires for us.

This Gospel can be offensive to our conception of mercy and justice. It is radically oriented in a different direction then the natural trajectory of our lives - and yet we hunger for its power and possibility. It says that what we do is far less important than who we are.  It says that our failures, our family dysfunction, or success, our weakness, our addictions, shame and bondage - our talents, good looks, charm, knowledge and good intentions - are far less powerful than the One whose blood stained the wood of the Cross for our sake.

It says that the wealthy, accomplished and powerful in this world may not amount to much, but that the poor and suffering, the least of humanity, hold a special place in the Father's Heart. It says that salvation has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with Him. What we bring to the equation is our acceptance of that gift - and even that has its roots in a movement of God's grace beforehand.

What would happen if, during this Jubilee of Mercy, we allowed the Lord to love us in our broken places? What if we cast ourselves on His mercy, trusting that He loves us perfectly right now, not for what we will do in the future, but for who we are? Right now!

What if we stopped looking at the magic mirror, and instead gazed on the Heart of Love, who gave Himself up for us on the cross?

In that direction lies a happy ending.

Mercy Challenge

Remember that this Jubilee of Mercy is a journey. Please take some time (at least 15 minutes) each day to reflect on any of the following scriptures:

Jeremiah 29:11-15 | Matthew 11:28-30 | Luke 12:22-34 | Psalm 139 | John 15:9-17 | Romans 8:31-39

You might find it helpful to pray for a few minutes before reading these scriptures and ask the Lord specifically for the grace to receive exactly the message He is trying to communicate to you at this time in your life. Then, read the specific passage slowly and prayerfully several times. Take note of any words or phrases that jump out at you. When you are finished reading the passage, ask the Lord to shed more light on the word(s) or passage(s) that jumped out at you. Ask God to reveal to you what, specifically, that word or phrase might have to do with your life right now.

Deacon Keith Strohm is the director of the Office for the New Evangelization.