THE TOUGH SIDE OF GOD’S MERCY
Eight days ago we and all the rest of the 1.3 billion Catholics throughout the world gazed with wonder and gratitude on the Resurrection of our Lord. Today, we turn our eyes back to the little group of Apostles who, eight days after Easter Sunday, were gathered once again in the upper room(Luke 24:36-49; John. 20:19-23). The glorious risen Lord effortlessly passed through their locked doors and their hidden fears. The first thing he does is go after the one lost sheep whose heart is astray: he lets doubting St Thomas touch his glorious wounds, mercifully removing all doubts that had separated him from the rest of the tiny church. And then he looks into the eyes of his Apostles, breathes on them, and gives them the power and task to forgive sins in his name. This was the start of the sacrament of confession, which ever since then has been bringing other stray sheep back into the Good Shepherd’s merciful care. Almost 20 centuries after that encounter between Christ and his Apostles, in the year 2000, Pope John Paul II established this first Sunday after Easter as a universal Feast of the Church in honor of that Divine Mercy, fulfilling a request our Lord himself made in his appearances to the Polish nun, St Faustina Kowalska. The thought of Christ’s mercy fills us with confidence and hope and humility(Phil. 2:5,6-11). If Christ is so eager to spread the news about his boundless mercy, it’s because we need that mercy. It’s because sin is a reality in our lives and in our world, and sin causes real damage that only Christ can repair. This is the tough side of God’s mercy – the reality of sin.
SOME OF CHRIST’S WORDS TO ST FAUSTINA ABOUT SIN AND MERCY
When Jesus spoke to St Faustina, he never shied away from this uncomfortable topic.
He once told her: Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity…tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near. (Diary, 965) In another conversation, he explained the power of his mercy by explaining the ugliness of sin: Were a soul like a decaying corpse, so that from a human standpoint, there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God.
The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. (Diary, 1448) Sin, our rejection of God’s friendship, separates us from God, the source of all life, so a decaying corpse is the perfect image to describe a soul in the grips of sin. But the most disturbing thing about sin is that, unless a sinner seeks God’s forgiveness, which is always available and unconditional, it can lead to eternal separation from God, to hell.
St Faustina was given a vision of hell, in which she saw the torturous sufferings of the condemned. She wrote afterwards that God had given her this vision “so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like.”
She also wrote, “I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me” (Diary, 741). Christ’s mercy is a big deal, because our sins are a big deal. But Christ’s mercy is the bigger deal. Jesus told St Faustina that compared to his mercy her miseries were like a tiny twig being thrown into a roaring fire. Jesus wants to bury our sins and selfish tendencies with his love; he just needs us to throw our twigs into the flames.
THE ABC’S OF DIVINE MERCY
We all need to be reminded of these difficult truths, because life in this world can get distracting. And the reminder he is giving us today will bear fruit in our lives if we follow the ABC’s of the Divine Mercy.
A. ASK FOR MERCY .
The best way to ask for his mercy for ourselves is through the sacrament of confession, entrusted to the Church on this very day 2000 years ago(Mt. 7:7; Jn. 20:23). Here is what Jesus told St Faustina about confession: When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul.
Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. (Diary, 1602) But we can also ask for mercy for others, especially by praying for those who don’t trust or believe in Christ’s mercy.
B. BE MERCIFUL .
Jesus told St Faustina, “I demand from you deeds of mercy… You are to show deeds of mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere.” (Ephesians 4:32).This means doing good things for others not because they deserve it or to get a reward, but simply in order to follow in the footsteps of our merciful Lord(Micah 6:8; Luke 11:4). But where can we find the strength to do that?
C. COMPLETELY TRUST IN JESUS .
Jesus himself will give us his grace, if we let him. He will make us into ambassadors of his mercy, just as he did with the first Apostles(2 Cor. 5:17,20). Whenever we are afraid to Ask for mercy, when we feel too weak to Be merciful, we should simply pray the prayer that Jesus told St Faustina to write underneath the image of his Divine Mercy: “Jesus, I trust in you.”(Mt. 8:2; Luke 8:41-42; 23:42; John 2:5). Right now, during this Mass, Lord Jesus, may we receive you, the fountain of mercy itself in Holy Communion. Amen.