Mercy is one of those words that holds a certain esteem for the definitions according to Merriam Webster resembles a sacred complexity. Number three is especially true for how often do we “show compassionate treatment of those in distress”? Let us reflect on the definition and sacred aspect of Mercy as Christians this week.
Awhile back, a homilist reflected on the four truths of our existence as God’s creations within this context: 1. We will die. 2. There will be judgement. 3. We may go to heaven. 4. We may go to hell. The homilist then mentioned that the choices we make in whether to follow God and carry our crosses with him were the groundwork for the Christian life.
The Catholic Church believes that the graces we receive from God and the faith we hold should bring about good works. St. Jame’s scripture of “faith without works is dead” (James:2:14-26) demonstrates such an idea in which Christianity is not a passive affair. After all, Philippians 4:13 summarizes our inheritance in this divine plan in which it is God who strengthens us. As Paul so eloquently puts it we are all spiritual adopted beings per Romans 8:14-17. I posit that the fifth truth that we should reflect on as spiritually adopted sons and daughters of our God, is the quality of mercy.
In the 1930s, a young humble Polish nun Sister Faustina, who was in the convent of the Congregation of Divine Mercy was reported to have received various visions or mercy experiences as mentioned in Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. In 2000 Saint Pope John Paul II proclaimed Sr. Faustina a Saint and moved the liturgical season of the second Sunday of Easter a day of divine mercy. In the Gospel reading from John’s gospel chapter 20 verses 19 thru 31, it tells the story of the doubting Thomas called Didymus. The apostles and Thomas are debating about the Lord’s appearance from his resurrection experience. Thomas states that he must not only see the nail marks in his hands and see the wound in his side, but he must touch them to believe. After Thomas’s experience at seeing Jesus appear and His invitation to not only see His wounds, but to put his hands into the nail marks of Jesus is a profound encounter in which Thomas states, “my Lord and my God!” Jesus’s mercy and appearance to Thomas shows of our mission as Christians to reach out to those lacking faith, hope or belief. Today, divine mercy is about recognizing the five truths. The five truths are: death, judgement, heaven, hell, or mercy. It means nothing to carry our crosses and avoid the near occasion of sin without mercy. It means nothing to attend church more than others, to pray more than others, to act more influential than others without the needed quality of mercy. The divine healer and our Lord Jesus that cared for the outcast, cured the sick & bore the weight of sin for all mankind displays that level of mercy to the doubting Thomas.
Of course even if one does not believe in the tradition of the divine mercy devotion (given the devotion and works of Sr. Faustina were placed on the church index of banned works at one point in time), a reflection on the sacred heart of Jesus may be appropriate as well.
The Acts of the Apostles is a great account of what life was like for an early church community of believers. The early Christian community claimed no possessions and shared all in common. One might assume that such a movement was a form of communism. That assumption would be mistaken for under communism such a movement creates societal class warfare and creates gaps in the ruling oligarchy and the other citizen class that is subject to one rule. Such a system of government is not merciful. Instead, the writer of Acts describes how there were no needy among them and that any house or property owners would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sale to put them at the feet of the apostles to be distributed according to need. We learn that from Thomas, that God will come to us and comfort us and take off the blindfold. It is not our eyesight of seeing it through our lens, but seeing our very life and existence through God’s eyesight and His lens. Mercy is that great agape love experience. Our choice of heaven and it’s promises will be extended to us if we allow His mercy to enter our very core. This is our choice, to radically allow the blood of his wounds to not only wash over us and cleanse us, but to allow the Holy Spirit to move us to show others His mercy and His grace filled love. Saint Maria Faustina, God’s “apostle of Divine Mercy” who lived during a time before the rise of fascism & communism & the start of World War II is that example where God blesses us with those gentle reminders to do more with our life with the graces we receive. Matthew’s gospel in which Jesus reminds us not to keep our light hidden under a bushel basket, but to display it on a lamp stand to light the whole house is a good reflection (Mt. 5:15).
Today, let us reflect and pray for God’s mercy to enter us and transform us as we minister to our fellow man/woman on this Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus I trust in you to come fill my heart and soul this day with your mercy. Transform me and lead me to bring that mercy to others. For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen.