Divine Mercy

Fr. Denis Wilde, OSA
Associate Director, Priests for Life
April 12, 2015

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Today is that wonderful feast of divine Mercy Sunday. What an amazing opportunity it is for us who believe in God's love for us. But the crucifixion and bloody death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday transforms us from death to life. He has risen from the dead that is what we celebrate during Easter and today the octave of Easter when Jesus gives his mercy through the apostles: "whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven; whose sons you shall retain they are retained."

These are not man made fabrications but from the words of the word made flesh the one who suffered and died for us and came back from the dead. What he tells his apostles that Easter evening and the following week as well when scripture reminds us that St. Thomas who doubted that Jesus would rise from the dead now is present as well. He gives his apostles the power to forgive sins. Certainly it is only God who can forgive sins. But the apostles become a conduit through which the graces of God pass. Today this takes place through the priest who in the sacrament of penance, reconciliation, or confession as it is commonly called, Allows God's grace to pass through the soul in the heart of the sinner.

Divine mercy Sunday is intimately connected with the sacrament of penance, and in fact there is a special grace, in the Catholic Church called "indulgence," which remits the temporal punishment due to sin. On this feast day there is a special promise given to us by our Lord, as recorded in the diary of St. Faustina Kowalska, that but the proper intention not only the forgiveness which comes from the sacrament of penance but also the residue, that is the punishment due to sin, is also remitted or taken away. What a wonderful sacrament this is, all year round. But especially today or even several weeks before or after today, as this indulgence may be applied then as well.

Most importantly however, is the recognition of God's love for us and giving us the opportunity to continually return to him from our sin. It's so important for us to recognize that religion is not a matter of do's and don'ts, but rather a loving relationship with our Divine Creator, Our Father and his Son Jesus Christ who suffered and died for us that we might find Him, love Him by serving him and our neighbor, and being joined to Him and our neighbor in eternity.

This implies two very important items. The first is that Mercy is meaningless unless one recognizes one's own sinfulness and the need for that Mercy. This is what an examination of conscience and the telling of our sin in confession is all about. Sure, it is about specific sins, not just mistakes, not just regrets, but an acknowledgment of a break of friendship of love with our God and with those we offend, including the rightful love of ourselves.

That is why the sacrament of penance is so essential to giving us a barometer of our spiritual life. That gives us a prognosis diagnosis of our own spiritual health.

There can be no healing from one's past unless one recognizes the responsibility that we have had for causing the rift. This may be from an abortion procured in the past, from irresponsible way of drinking, taking things that are not our own, free and profligate sex, gossip that destroys others' reputation, you name it. St. John tells us, " if you say you are without sin, you are a liar." It is a tragedy when people come to confession and often times say I really don't have any big sin father, and I really don't know what I have done wrong. There are mirrors into which we can look to find out what is wrong. Booklets online or on paper, that are examination of conscience. We need not be afraid to look at the mirror. Until we do we will not see ourselves as we really are. That blotch on our forehead is not seen unless someone else points it out. Or we look in the mirror. The blotch on our spiritual soul is often not evident because we can become prone to doing bad things by habit. We need the advice the assurance and the help of others. What a tragedy it is in our age today when we say we shouldn't be judgmental. Actually Jesus did not tell us that. He told us not to condemn. And that we do not observe enough. But we must make judgments, we always do for the sake of common good. Nobody will hire anybody else without making a judgment on that person's qualifications, including what's appropriate to their character. Today we need to be very careful about backing off from the charitable responsibility of pointing out where somebody is about to go over the spiritual cliff. Driving somebody to an abortion center is bringing somebody to a spiritual cliff. Pointing out that what one is about to do is killing the unborn child despite the fact that saying so might be politically incorrect is actually an act of charity which points to a judgment. The judgment is about killing and the person about to kill. That is a far cry from what Jesus has told us not to do, namely to condemn. And even after the person has committed the abortion, we dare not condemn that person. That is where the mercy triggers in. It's where God wants to deliver his mercy, and often times it has to come through an act of mercy on our part. That is why it is such a beautiful experience to be a conduit of that Mercy, yes, as a priest in confession to be sure. But also all of us need to be merciful loving and kind to those who have done wrong. We always distinguish the sin from the center. We always are to love the sinner. We always are to hate the sin. The problem with some of the immoral political and activism hope today is to use the word judgmental as a weapon to neutralize what is good, to divinize what is evil, and to create a victim situation the draws affections rather than rational fault into the foreground. Mercy is meaningless and even fraudulent unless one recognizes the evil the sinfulness which needs forgiveness and then mercy can be poured out like an ocean.

Now that doesn't mean that we wait for other people who have wronged us to apologize, in the case of those personal interactions. Case in point: St. John Paul the second did not wait for his would be assassin to phone him and ask from his jail to meet with him. The pope went out to meet with his assassin and told him he forgave them. You see that one cannot forgive unless one is strong enough in one's humility recognizing that it is God who gives us the power and the grace to forgive, not we ourselves. But give it, he does! Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven! Today's gospel Sunday after Easter, divine mercy Sunday, do you see how the sacrament of penance, forgiveness, and divine mercy come into play, after the recognition of one's sinfulness? These ingredients are essentially coordinated together. We need to look at the reasonableness of this, and not the emotional stirrings of a culture that try to tell us not to judge. Let us be more emphatic and resolute in not condemning while recognizing that if we walk away from people who are really going down the wrong route, we disregard their eternal salvation. That weighs heavily in the category of uncharitableness.

So the second item is to resist the confusion that seems to be growing today, namely to confuse mercy with leniency. If we're dealing with leniency as a punishment, that's all well and good. Again that relates to what has already happened. But we need to be careful in the deconstruction of our culture today not to chip away at God's plan because we want to be lenient. For this is not Mercy, but irresponsibility, either in our own actions, or in recognizing a culture that no longer seems to distinguish dealing with the sin from the sinner, and one may add, which deadens and even eliminates the concept of sin itself. We are commanded to love God above all things, even our self, even others. That is why we always need to look at the sin as well as the sinner. But even more we rejoice in the Son who runs after us not to condemn us but to extend his infinite mercy. This of course is why we must do the same. Some of the most difficult part of that is to point out the sin in the first place, and help the other to recognize that. St. Augustine says in his rule that most since related to things that should be done or not done. But pride lurks in good thing is seeking to destroy them. We will not recognize our sinfulness unless we pray for humility, which always is the mark of a strong spiritual person, contrary to the bravura that marks so much of our culture today. Jesus was most powerful when he was most humble, before Pilate, when being nailed to the cross, and when being taunted by the diabolical suggestions of coming down from the cross. Somehow in God's plan that is power.

Divine Mercy puts God at our disposal! What is put ourselves and others disposal as well, and look for the opportunity for mercy, for healing, for inner peace.

It is no coincidence that Jesus in today's Gospel of St. John, when he appeared to the apostles after the resurrection, use the word "peace" three times. This was not just about the absence of war, nor was it simply a nice and pleasant greeting. He could not really greet them with "peace" until he had died and made peace with his Heavenly Father for us on the Cross. it is always in the context of the cross that we gain our piece as well.

God bless you on this Divine Mercy Sunday, and made the graces of this today and of the season continue to bless you your love ones and your families and friends.

Father Denis

Priests for Life
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