Divine Mercy Sunday — By Fr. Joseph, OP
For many people the word “mercy” brings up the notion of the sinfulness of mankind. Therefore, to conclude the eight days of Easter with Divine Mercy Sunday seems unfortunate. Easter, they say, is for resurrection, and not a recollection of our sins.
What may underlie the aversion to sinfulness is the sin of pride. “I do not need someone else’s mercy,” many think, nor do I like being at the mercy of God. Even the phrase, “being at the mercy of God” sounds ominous. But when the Church excommunicates heretics, She says they are left to the “mercy of God.” The “Mercy of God” is not a bad thing. Heretics are left to the mercy of God because Church can no longer speak to any physical manifestations of Christ’s mercy for them, such as confession or Eucharist. She does not exclude them from God’s mercy.
When Pontius Pilate washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood”, the Jews responded “His blood be upon us, and upon our children” (Matthew 27:24-25). This merely shows the crowds misunderstanding of Who God is. It was Abel’s blood that cried out for vengeance, but the blood of Jesus Christ speaks out more eloquently (Hebrews 12:18). In God’s mercy, we reach our perfection (cf. Hebrews 12:17). Christ’s blood washes us from our sins; whether they are sins of commission (actively committed) or omission (inactivity when called to act).
The great sin we commit in our day is the sin of omission. We tend to no longer think of this life as a pilgrimage, but a destination; and salvation as an achievement rather than a way of life. We are hardwired to look for a place of comfort, but we don’t want to travel the entire way to Heaven to get there. We are called not just to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, but to participate in it! If the Paschal mystery reveals anything, it is that the world fails to satisfy; but Jesus offers us a way of life that surpasses death itself.
We cannot control what the world does to us, but we can control how we react. We can turn the other cheek and walk the extra mile (cf. Matthew 5:39, 41). We can make excuses for our sins, like Judas called his avarice love for the poor. Or we can use our sins as stepping stones. Our temptations become occasion to gain great merit and grow in virtue. Every physical example of the difficulty of achievement, whether it be the construction of a skyscraper, or the breaking of a world record, greatness comes at a cost. The greater our temptation, the longer we’ve suffered from it, then the greater is our reward, or the more deplorable our failure.
This Divine Mercy Sunday, we can look at the worst of the worst of our sins. We can look at the harm we’ve done to others, the opportunities lost, and realize that despite their gravity, God can still make us the holy people we were always meant to be. Our great struggles for purity, peace, and charity can be attained. Alcoholics have realized this in their first three steps of the Twelve Step program. Many Christians have forgotten it. Today, Divine Mercy reminds us. Give God all our sins and failings, and He will weed them out of our lives. That is how we experience Resurrection.