Deep into the Ocean of Mercy

Have you ever dove into a pool just to hang out at the bottom for awhile? I have and I love it. At least, I love the peace and the light. I hate the pressure in my ears, but overall it’s a pleasant experience. Awhile ago, a Swiss woman was doing something similar and yet much different. Perhaps you read about it: it wasn’t in a pool, but it was in the Red Sea and not ten feet down but three hundred and seventy four feet down. And not for a few seconds, but for three minutes and forty one seconds. I came to find out that there’s a new extreme sport called freediving and that’s what Alenka Artnik, the thirty-nine year old Swiss Miss was doing as she broke the women’s world record. Three hundred and seventy four feet straight down into the Red Sea.

I’m not starting a new hobby nor am I suggesting that you try it out yourselves, but I am struck with the parallels to John the cousin of the Lord. Like Alenka, he seemed to most around him to be absolutely crazy. “I’m sorry he’s where?” “In the desert.” “Wearing what?” “Camel’s hair, a leather belt.” “Eating what?” “Yeah, locusts and honey.” Sure, great, good idea. Alenka, have you met John? And yet, he’s in the desert or better translated the wilderness. And all of the spiritual writers throughout the ages have pointed out that the wilderness is the place where one has none of the comforts the world offers but instead must rely on God.

Yes, the desert and the depths of the sea are very different in temperature, humidity, and light, but both, while at opposite extremes, are still extremes – because in both you lack control. We know that in either the desert or the depths there is the finest of lines between life and death. You know the world offers comfort, but the comfort the world offers is very different from what we hear of in Isaiah. “Comfort, give comfort to my people” (Isaiah 40:1). It sounds so nice and then – road construction, it sounds like he’s advertising for a construction foreman, making level the paths, straightening all of the bends, that’s the kind of work that needs to be done here but under the auspices of comfort.

See Alenka, when she spoke of that freedive, speaks of needing to separate from all other distractions, to enter into a relative calm because if down there you panic, I can’t even imagine. I get anxious just thinking about it. But true comfort comes from true peace. How can we receive comfort, then, in the wilderness of the desert, in the wilderness of the sea, or, for that matter, here and now?

First of all, I point out, because He enters in as well. He, the Lord Jesus enters in to the desert. Sinners from all Jerusalem were coming out to see John and they weren’t doing so just to see the spectacle. They were doing it to repent of their sins. And what does Jesus do, the Son of God, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, the Lamb of God, the One Who is to set us free from sins? He gets in. He climbs right in to those waters. He’s not afraid of His crazy cousin or the crazy sinners around Him. Jesus enters in and he goes deep down, not just into the waters of the Jordan, not just three hundred and seventy four feet down, but He goes into the depths of sin and death. In the Creed we say, “He descended into hell.”

Folks, we can feel like we’re drowning sometimes. But, you know what? He’s there, He’s been there and He has conquered it. He conquers sin and death and He’s with us. The One of Whom Peter wrote that “one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like day” (2 Peter 3:8). The One that calms everything through that lens, He is with us. Through the waters of Baptism that we partook in, through the Most Holy Eucharist that we partake in now, He is with us. And just as Alenka had those closest aides and friends with her as she was in this freedive, she’s never doing it on her own. Neither are we.

But there’s a third reason, and most significant, as to how we can get comfort out of the dive we seem to be in. And that is the ocean, the ocean of mercy. I sure hope you’re familiar with the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It’s a beautiful prayer of the Church, one only known to us for less than a hundred years, but a powerful one. The opening prayer for that chaplet reminds us that whatever we’re in the depths of, whatever the muck, whatever the wilderness, whatever the deep sea is, it’s just a kiddie pool compared to the depths of His love. And this is the prayer:

“You expired Jesus but the source of life gushed forth for souls and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Font of life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.”

Unfathomable Divine Mercy. Three hundred and seventy four feet should catch our attention, it’s true. But His mercy, the depths of His love… Whatever we’re dealing with this day, this week, this year of our lives, we get to bring it right here, right to the very Heart of Jesus, the depths of His love, the depths of His Sacred Heart, His Mercy, there is no measure to it. And so we say “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

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Father Bryan Stitt has been the pastor of St. Mary’s in Canton, New York since June of 2017. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ogdensburg in 2003 and currently serves as director of Worship. Before coming to Canton he served in multiple parishes across the North Country, as well as in the Vocations Office for nine years. When he’s not proclaiming the Kingdom in Canton, he enjoys spending time in the Adirondack Mountains hiking, skiing, and fishing and doting on his 6 nieces and nephews.

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