Sometimes priests can be irritating.
"Too many theologians," I heard a priest complain during a recent homily, "focus on God's love and mercy. They forget about God's judgment!"
Fortunately, I don't worry about God judging me--I know the clergy will do that for him. (And for what it's worth, I think someone somewhere in the Bible said that mercy triumphs over judgment.)
But I try not to dismiss things that irritate me. Rather, I've come to see them as invitations to come to a deeper understanding of what I believe.
I do believe that God is love, mercy, and compassion. And I do believe that God judges us. But God judges us not to see if we've been good or bad (and then punish us for being bad). Rather, God judges us to determine how much mercy we need. God will weigh my sins not to determine how much punishment I deserve--God knows, I punish myself daily--but to determine how much compassion I need.
Perhaps this understanding will help free me to be merciful just as God is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
Recall that you are in the presence of God. God is always with us. God is always for us. Rest in this love until your mind, body, and spirit feel fresh, solid, and free.
Gaze at the painting below, Angel of the Last Judgment by Wassily Kandinsky (1911). As you gaze at the painting, do not analyze it or pick it apart for meaning; rather, just observe what you see. If you find yourself thinking about this painting, let those thoughts go and return your gaze to the painting.
Begin by looking at the painting as a whole. Then allow your eye to be drawn to a specific section or feature. As you turn your attention to that feature, allow it to fill you as if your were breathing in every detail. After a few moments, allow your gaze to take in the painting as a whole, without losing sight of the section that captured your particular attention. Does the painting seem different in any way?
Meditate on the painting. How does the painting speak to you? What does it leave you with? Are you left feeling confused, cold, or disturbed? Are you left feeling inspired, comforted, happy, or joyful?
As you look at the painting, let a prayer arise spontaneously in your heart. Let the words express whatever questions you may have or whatever you may be feeling in whatever words come naturally.
Allow God to gaze on you with the eyes of love. Simply be at rest, and let any stray thoughts float away as if they were dry leaves blown away by the wind.
Finally, ask yourself what mercy looks like in your daily life. How might you let mercy triumph over any tendency you might have to judge others?
Close with a prayer of your choice or a simple Amen.