Monday, April 13, 2015

What is Divine Mercy?

This Sunday, all over world, we are beginning the feast of Divine Mercy. But this year, we are doing it with something we have never done before. Today Pope Francis has officially announced the details of a Year of Mercy which will begin on 8 December which is not only the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, but also the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of Vatican II. During this year, all the Sunday readings will be taken from the Gospel of Luke, who is the “evangelist of mercy”, because so many of his parables are about mercy - like the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.

What is Divine Mercy? Divine Mercy is a fruit of God’s love. We heard something today about God’s love in today’s psalm: the psalmist writes it three times to make sure we don’t miss out this critically important message: ​Let the sons of Israel say:/‘His love has no end.’/Let the sons of Aaron say:/‘His love has no end.’/Let those who fear the Lord say:/‘His love has no end.’​God’s love doesn’t end. It also means that God’s love has no limits: it has no end, and it has no beginning either. Long before we woke up this morning, long before we even existed - for all eternity - God has been, and is, and will be preoccupied with us and loving us. There is a real security in this: in fact this is the only real security because while my job and family and spouse and health can change or disappear, God’s love never will. Ever.

What about God’s mercy then? God’s mercy is the aspect of God’s love where we recognise, in the light of the overwhelming warmth of such love, that we don’t deserve it. Be we Christian or non-Christian, none of us has the right to God’s love, or the right to be forgiven, or the right to eternal life. We are all sinners, and God would be perfectly in his rights to leave us in the squalor of the sins and evil and selfishness we have, many times, preferred to him.
But he didn’t do that to us, as he doesn’t do that to Thomas in today’s Gospel. What does Thomas say when he hears that Jesus didn’t abandon them but actually came back from the dead? “Unless I see the holes...I refuse to believe.” Thomas himself is wounded: bitter that God allowed his best friend to be unjustly condemned, angry too at himself for gutlessly abandoning his best friend at the first danger. His anger closed his heart and he refused to believe. What does Jesus say? “OK, I’ll leave you alone now.” No: rather, he meets Thomas where he is at. “Look,” he says: “here are ​my​wounds. I am wounded too. In fact, you did this to me. But don’t be afraid, because you can’t stop me loving you, and my Father permitted this so I can heal you with my wounds. Will you touch my wounds so I may heal yours?”

That is what Jesus says to us when we go to the sacrament of reconciliation. In that sacrament, Jesus asks “Where do you want to be healed? What evils have you done to yourself, and to others, and to our relationship? Show me where” That’s why we tell the priest our sins: not because ​he​is anything special, but rather for ​us​to recognise, and also ​to tell Jesus ​where exactly we need to be healed. It is no accident that it is only when the Risen Jesus shows his wounds that he orders his apostles to heal on his behalf and gives them that power: “‘Receive the Holy Spirit./For those whose sins you forgive,/they are forgiven;” This is why we make regular confession part of our Christian life: not because the priest is lonely and wants someone to talk to. But because mysteriously in the priest, Jesus is waiting there to heal and take away every evil and wound in our heart and fill it with a love and peace that no one else can ever give. As we receive the Risen Jesus in communion today, let us ask him for the grace to see his love for us, to see his wounds, and be healed by them. 

The Editor

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