Dear Friends in Christ:
Christ is risen! Christ is truly risen! Alleluia!
Today is the Second Sunday of Easter not the 1st Sunday after Easter. It is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. Why “of Easter”? Simply put, the glories of the Resurrection are simply too great to be limited to one day! God’s wondrous gift of new life in the Resurrection of Jesus shatters all categories, even such matters as language, space, and time! Our daily encounter and relationship with the Risen Lord is that which defines and permeates our entire lives. In those instances when we fail to allow Jesus to reign in our lives we court disaster and doom for our souls in the long term and unhappiness, un-fulfillment, and meaninglessness in the short and near term.
During Lent I picked up a fascinating new book by Joshua Mitchell, American Awakening. The author is a professor of political theory at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Professor Mitchell writes on the issues our society faces concerning identity politics, bi-polarity, and addiction. He is not a Catholic and is not a theologian. He writes from the perspective of a political scientist. That being said, Professor Mitchell makes a brazenly theological claim. He asserts that in the current political environment, which is the product of a number of contributing factors, there is no desire and no means of mercy! He tracks the path of where politics and religion have essentially traded places. He argues that the structures and indeed even some concepts and language of Judeo-Christian thought have been appropriated by a new form of politics. This political pseudo-spiritual/belief system lacks one thing, God. The consequence is a society and a culture that has more deep rooted problems and no mercy. It is a system based on brute power. In such a system there is no forgiveness, no contextualizing, and little hope. We can see this in the rise of Antifa, socialism, identity politics (race, gender and sexuality), the alt-right and white supremacy. The “cancel culture” is but the obvious and natural result. Mitchell points out how in such a system addiction runs amuck and robs individuals of their freedom and dignity and destroys communities, families, relationships, and persons. Likewise, he shows how a bi-polarity exists not only in the left-right, liberal-conservative ideologies, but also that we have so many expressions of freedom yet we feel powerless at the same time.
Also on my night stand, stacked high with books, is a work by Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Way to Happiness. Written over 70 years ago, Sheen could be called a prophet. He wrote, “The beginnings of a new era are often marked by a general barbarization, when the whole historical order is dissolved … when Truth in some nations is nailed to a Cross, and in others rejected in a stroke of false broadmindedness.” Sheen warned, like the prophets of the Old Testament, what happens when people reject and forget God. The Archbishop warns of the circumstances and dangers that we face. He points out how our information age is filled with noise and excitement that disguises a great interior unhappiness. He shows how technology has robbed us of true rest and leisure. He explains how all of our time saving devices make our lives more hectic and yet more wasteful of the hours we have. Long before the “selfie,” Sheen warned of the dangers of egoism and self-inflation. He writes how “excessive tenderness about any personal insults and a callousness towards the feelings of others become a daily behavior pattern.” We now have a word for this, “micro-aggressions”. Sheen diagnoses the pervasive sadness that afflicts so many souls and the destruction that such sadness brings. He also writes about how mental illness is increasing (remember this was 1948!), “Our generation has been raised on the idea of “self-expression” which, being translated negatively, means there should never be any self-restraint. Every desire and impulse which satisfies the ego is considered good; any form of self-denial or repression of biological urges is considered harmful to the personality. The ego is flattered and pampered.” He also diagnoses the painful reality and pandemic of loneliness that harms so many. Brilliantly, he observes, “it is a paradox that in an age when men are determined to love only self, they hate to be alone!” He points out that the basic reason for loneliness is that in our society we have divorced ourselves from God and from our neighbor.
Many years apart both Mitchell and Sheen in their unique ways remind us of the truth that we as Christians know: God is the source of mercy. Without God and His Divine Mercy human beings are left to nothing but brutality, violence, sadness, loneliness, and despair. We become subject to the whims of the powerful alone. We are left to an absolute system of “might makes right”. It is only in God that we find our true happiness. It is only in God that our society and our world will reach its true destiny and fulfillment. God’s Divine Mercy is that in Jesus, crucified and risen, we now have a way to be united with God in this world and in the world to come. That is our true happiness.
In pace Christi,