Friday, February 12, 2016

I speak to National Review Online on "How Mercy Frees Us from Bad Memories"

What a blessing it was to be interviewed by National Review Online's Kathryn Jean Lopez about my new book Remembering God's Mercy: Redeem the Past and Free Yourself from Painful Memories! K-Lo asked beautiful questions in the interview, which went online this morning. Here is a sample:

Why is it "remembering" God's mercy? What if I’ve never known it?

My book’s title is adapted from Mary’s words of praise to God: “He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy” (Lk 1:54).

If you feel you’ve never known God’s mercy, the title becomes meaningful when you consider that there is a difference between ordinary remembering and religious remembering. Ordinary remembering is recalling things that are past. But when we remember in the religious sense, like we do at Mass when we call to mind how God has loved us, we are not merely remembering past events. We are also remembering a divine person who loves us in the present moment. He loves us now with the very same love that he had for us at every moment of our lives and even before we were born.

So, to remember God’s mercy, we don’t have to try to rack our memory for times when we felt blessed—though that is certainly a good thing to do if we can. All we have to do to remember God’s mercy is to think about our longing for him in the present moment. That very longing, that heartfelt desire to know the peace of God, is a gift of mercy. The people who do not know mercy are those who have no desire for God to fill the empty space within their heart.

Why so much about mercy? How about justice and sin? Is this “mercy” business a softening?

Pitting mercy against justice is a false opposition. Justice and mercy are two dimensions of the same reality. Those who are unrepentant experience divine justice as punishment, whereas those who repent experience divine justice as mercy—even when it may involve suffering, as when I have to make reparation for a sin I committed. The very fact that Pope Francis is promoting divine mercy in this Year of Mercy shows that he believes there is a need for it—a need that would be impossible were there not the reality of sin.

Why is it so important for a person to know that he is in God’s memory?

It is important for me to know that I am in God’s memory because it shows me that my perspective on my past is incomplete. God sees the whole picture, because he is outside of time; all times are present to him. Whereas my thoughts might get mired in past pain, God sees my history only in light of the future that he has planned for me.

We can understand this if we pause to contemplate how the risen Christ recalls his own sufferings. In Luke 24, when Jesus encounters the disciples on the road to Emmaus and in the Upper Room, it is clear that his sufferings remain etched in his memory. Yet, as I write in Remembering God’s Mercy, his memories of them no longer bring him feelings of pain: “In his risen state, when Jesus remembers his passion, he remembers only his passion—the overpowering love he bore that led him to shed every last drop of his Precious Blood for our salvation.”

Likewise, if I know I am in God’s memory, then I know that my own past sufferings are not meaningless. As with the sufferings of Christ, who is the model for every sufferer, they are part of a larger story—a story that I know has a happy ending, because it ends with my present longing for the love of God. That longing itself, as I said earlier, is proof of that God is moving my heart, whether or not I am capable of sensing his presence.

Read the entire interview at National Review Online. Remembering God's Mercy is available from Aquinas & More (where it is on sale through February 16), Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and wherever Catholic books are sold.