The first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it. (From St. Faustina’s Diary, 742)
We celebrate today Divine Mercy Sunday; the Second Sunday of Easter as the visionary St. Faustina indicated Jesus desired in her prayerful encounters with the Lord. Mercy is an important gift, both given to us and given by us and has been a constant point of reflection for us as Christians always. Pope Francis speaks constantly that we be aware of the mercy granted to us, and in turn that we are as merciful as we possibly can be. He constantly implores that priests be instruments of God’s great mercy in everything we do in our lives as Christians and ministry as priests.
Today I celebrate the actual day I was received into the Church; April 19, 2003. My conversion (as I’ve referenced in many posts) was a long and winding one, but also one I walked cautiously and carefully towards (becoming Catholic). I wanted to be sure this is what God really wanted. Seventeen years later and many lessons in faith and with many, many reasons to trust God’s Providence now; I am forever grateful that the Lord led me and guided me through my many doubts along the way. All those years ago, I remember being very unsure about why I didn’t need to go to confession when others who had been baptized did. Was I not as much in need of “airing my dirty laundry” as the baptized? Of course, it is Original Sin (and subsequently all other sins to follow) that are “wiped away” first – but this was one of my first and perhaps still the greatest points of reflection on God’s Divine Mercy! When I joined Jesus and my sisters and brothers at the Font of Mercy on that day so many years ago; Jesus took away every stain of sin from me and gave me in return everlasting life. I have fallen many times (too many times to remember) since, and have been “restored” through God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the midst of my own unworthiness, the Lord called me to serve Him and His People as a Catholic priest. For every one of my shortcomings, weaknesses and sins, which are (as I said) too numerous to have counted, God has given me even more (Infinite) mercy.
What I recognize in my own life is available for us all. The challenge we all face is not to take this for granted and to apply this ourselves to our interactions with others. We are called to live a “sacramental life”; in other words, to be as merciful and loving as we can be with each other. This is what God desires of us, as He has been the example of for us and has provided us through both Scripture and many of these private revelations of holy people (like St. Faustina).
Having mercy with each other means forgiving others because it’s the right thing to do rather than because people deserve it. Being merciful is acknowledging we ourselves are loved sinners and loving others regardless of what their sins (obvious and underlying might be). We use Jesus as our example here. How many people who were considered serious public sinners did He unconditionally forgive with the parting words of “Go, and sin no more.” He offered them words reminding them of their higher calling (to aim for perfection) but did not waste time indicting or ripping them apart for what was objectively terrible behaviour.
Friends, let us consider the many ways in our own daily lives; beginning with our family and friends, extending further to others in our lives and including those we struggle with the most – to extend love and mercy towards. In this way, we must reflect how our lives can be more configured to Jesus who asks this of us all as Christian Disciples. May God bless you!