My Role in Divine Mercy - 4/25/17

In the Gospel for Divine Mercy Sunday (John 20: 19-31), Jesus tells the apostles gathered in the upper room: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  What did the Father send Jesus to do?  To take away the sins of the world.  To reconcile humanity to God and with one another.

But Jesus does not only commission them to carry on his work. He empowers them to do so.  He breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  

How are sins retained?  If God’s love and mercy are infinite, how is it that some sins are not forgiven?

In his 1980 encyclical “Rich in Mercy,” Pope St. John Paul II wrote: “Mercy, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father’s readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to His home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son.  No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it (#13).”

There is no limit that any human being can place on God’s mercy.  Except for one.  It’s the limit that arises from human freedom and divine love.  God cannot force his merciful love upon anyone.  He cannot force anyone to love him, for this would not be love but violence.  Thus, John Paul continues: “On the part of man, only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ.”

Reconciliation is a two-way street.  God is always ready to forgive, but his mercy must be received and to receive it one must first recognize the need for mercy, ask for it, and then receive it. God cannot force his love and mercy upon anyone who does not want it.

The Church forgives sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  But the Holy Spirit, given to the entire Church, is at work in the lives of each baptized Christian.  We all play an essential role in helping people receive mercy, in softening hard hearts. How?

First, we are to be holy, merciful, and loving.  As children of God, we are to be holy as God, who is Love and Mercy itself, is holy.

On one occasion when Jesus met St. Faustina, he revealed to her the greatest obstacles to holiness.  He said: #1488: “My child, know that the greatest obstacles to holiness are discouragement and an exaggerated anxiety.           These will deprive you of the ability to practice virtue.  All temptations united together ought not disturb your interior peace, not even momentarily (Diary #1488).”

How do discouragement and anxiety prevent us from being virtuous?  When we become discouraged—with ourselves, others, or the world—we give up.  We think things will never get better and so we stop trying to be better.  Change in the world begins with each one of us and discouragement only encourages us to continue moving away from God.  And anxiety leads us to focus on ourselves, our own worries and problems, rather than keeping our focus on God.

The antidote to discouragement and anxiety?  TRUST.  This is the great message that Jesus wanted us to know when he revealed that the greatest divine attribute is mercy.

When we place all our trust in Jesus, in his love and mercy, then we find an inner peace which flows through us into the world.  Jesus told St. Faustina: “When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls (Diary #1074).”

We grow in holiness as we grow in union with Jesus, a union that is especially fostered in the Holy Eucharist.  One with Jesus, we see other people as he sees them and we respond as he would respond.  This is why St. Faustina, in words that echo St. Paul (Galatians 2: 20), made the following prayer:  “Most sweet Jesus, set on fire my love for You and transform me into Yourself.  Divinize me that my deeds may be pleasing to You. May this be accomplished by the power of the Holy Communion which I receive daily. Oh, how greatly I desire to be wholly transformed into You, O Lord! (Diary #1288).”

In his homily for the canonization of St. Faustina, the first saint of the new millennium, Pope John Paul II said: “Looking at him, being one with His Heart, we are able to look with new eyes at our brothers and sisters, with an attitude of unselfishness and solidarity, of generosity and forgiveness. All this is mercy! The message of divine mercy is also implicitly a message about the value of every human being. Each person is precious in God’s eyes; Christ gave His life for each one.”

Without exclusion, Jesus, the Son of God, suffered and died for every human person.  He told St. Faustina: “My daughter, write that the greater the misery of a soul, the greater its right to My mercy; urge all souls to trust in the unfathomable abyss of My mercy, because I want to save them all. On the cross, the fountain of My mercy was opened wide by the lance for all souls—no one have I excluded! (Diary #1182).”

When we grow in union with Jesus, we share more and more the desires and concerns of his Merciful and Sacred Heart.  Moved as his Heart is moved by sinful and suffering humanity, we pray and work for the conversion of sinners.  This is the work of reconciliation that the Holy Spirit empowers all the baptized to do. 

Praying for the conversion of sinners gives great joy to the Heart of Jesus.  He said: “Pray for souls that they be not afraid to approach the tribunal of My Mercy. Do not grow weary of praying for sinners (Diary #975).” And, “You always console Me when you pray for sinners. The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion of sinners.  Know, My daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered (Diary #1397).”

This is so important to Jesus that he sent his own Mother with the same message.  At both Lourdes and Fatima she came asking us to pray and offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners.

Do you believe that your prayers and sacrifices make a difference?  So often we are like St. Thomas who says he won’t believe unless he sees.  We don’t believe that our prayers and sacrifices, our very lives, make much difference unless we SEE results.  We give up praying because we do not SEE change in others and the world, or even in ourselves.

Jesus told St. Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  Celebrating Divine Mercy as we do, we declare: “Yes, Lord, I believe. I believe my life, with its prayers, works, joys, and sufferings, offered daily to you for the salvation of souls does make a difference.  Jesus, I trust in you!  Jesus, I trust in your Holy Spirit at work in and through me, bringing your mercy into the world.”