As we approach the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, it is important that we understand what the Lord Jesus meant when he spoke about mercy, in the Scriptures and to Sister Faustina.
There are some very conservative Catholics within the Traditionalist community who do not trust Sister Faustina’s visions and dialogue with Jesus. At the other extreme, many Catholics focus solely on the humanitarian dimension of the Gospel and on the hot button issues of today; these Catholics have watered down God’s Mercy. They have interpreted God’s mercy to mean the same as “good works”. Neither group leaves room for God to be God. God must do and speak according to a script as they conceive it. In the end, both groups deny God’s freedom.
The extreme conservative asks for a reason behind Mercy Sunday. After all, we have the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. The other extreme likes Divine Mercy Sunday, because it’s new and because it says what they want it to say about good works and it affirms their presumption of God’s forgiveness and mercy; so, they believe.
The truth is that God’s mercy is infinite and available to anyone who asks for it. The infinity of God’s mercy should comfort us. God’s mercy is infinitely greater than his creation. Man is his crown jewel and we know that God is infinitely greater than man. Sin is of man’s doing, not God’s doing. Since it is man who sins, then man is superior to sin or greater than sin. This greatness does not relieve him of his responsibility. On the contrary, it points to man’s sinful will and his obligation to atone and ask for mercy.
God’s mercy is infinite. Man is God’s creation. God is infinitely greater than man. Sin is man’s creation. Man is greater than sin. If God is infinitely greater than man, then he is infinitely greater than sin. The only sin that God cannot forgive is the one that we believe surpasses God’s power to forgive. Such a mindset places the supremacy of sin over the breadth and scope of God’s mercy. Believing that this is the case, the sinner fails to confess his sin, express contrition and ask for forgiveness.
To benefit from God’s mercy, man must have something to offer in exchange. He offers contrition and a resolve not to sin again. Some will say, “I know that I’m going to fall again. I’m human,” or “I have an addiction to a certain sinful behavior.” This is not the time to worry about this. We must focus on the present moment and surrender ourselves to God as we are. We are sinners. We are contrite and willing to do penance. We ask for absolution, particularly in the confessional. From that moment, we are free of sin.
We must never live recklessly, but we must not live in fear of the “next time I sin.” The more we worry about the next time, the more likely we are to fall sooner. The enemy has a way of taking advantage of our fears and using them against us, to the point that what we believe to be moral caution is a temptation; because our minds are not free of a particular sin. We must place ourselves in the hands of the Immaculate and go forward, doing whatever he asks us to do in the present moment.
Not only is God’s mercy infinite, but it is always available. God never tires of forgiving us. It is we who tire of begging for forgiveness. Let us take the example of the “good thief”. At the eleventh hour he said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” The first two words say it all. “Remember me”. He believed in Christ’s mercy, even though he was about to die and no time to atone for his sins.
Why does he request that Christ remember him? Because deep in his heart he knows that Christ’s mercy is available for the asking, even when Christ himself was about to breathe his last dying breath. Christ was on the cross to save the world, not to condemn it. The Cross is the greatest sign of God’s mercy.
Only the perfect man can offer the perfect act of atonement for humanity’s sins. Human parents could not conceive a perfect son. However, God the Holy Spirit and Mary of Nazareth can and did do conceive such a perfect son. He is Jesus Christ, the God-Man, the incarnation of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Out of mercy, God becomes man. From his side, he poured blood and water, his humanity and his divinity, poured out of mercy for us. It was not for his benefit. Who in human history, besides the Immaculate Conception, has no need to appeal to God’s mercy?
Divine Mercy Sunday is neither a feel-good day for our acts of charity and compassion for our neighbor; nor is it a replacement for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. Mercy Sunday reminds us that we can trust Jesus, because he poured himself on the cross out of mercy for us and to prove the veracity of his sacrifice, he rose on the third day. On Mercy Sunday, it is Jesus who speaks the words of the good thief, “Remember me.” To which we respond, “Jesus I trust you.”