Monday, April 8, 2013

Encountering Divine Mercy

Why is it so tempting to hold other people in their sins?  Why is it so hard to move beyond the the evil that we sometimes witness or experience?  We long for revenge when we are hurt; we hold a grudge for a cutting comment; we condone capital punishment as a "solution" for violent crime; we cheer the state-sponsored assassination of terrorists.  It seems like we are almost instinctively drawn to a base belief in "karma"--that is, people should get what they deserve. 

The reality of the Resurrection turns all of our natural inclinations upside down.  It "supernaturalizes" our attitude about everything.  We start to realize that freedom can prevail over slavery to past sins.  We see that nobody has to be stuck with what they "deserve," and that everybody is offered a fresh start.  We understand that God's grace conquers the cycles of karma. This is not to say that there is no more justice or that there are no consequences for evil.  But Christ challenges us not to treat others the way they have treated us, lest we become what is the worst in them.  He also calls us to repent from our own self-love and to take concrete steps toward living for others.

Throughout the Resurrection appearances, Christ repeatedly says, "Peace be with you."  He also asks, "Why are you troubled?" (Lk 24:38).  He knows first-hand that the world can be a brutal place.  He had just experienced the worst of all evils, and yet he explained that the Messiah endured this in order "that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations" (Lk 24:47).

This is Good News, indeed.  None of us would ever want to be judged by the worst of our words or actions--not to mention treated accordingly.  And all of us long, deep down, to be forgiven for our past transgressions.  If you have been touched by God's grace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you have a first-hand understanding that "Countless people whose sins have been forgiven have realized that they have received a share in the vitality of the Resurrection from the dead" (Hans Urs von Balthasar).  Indeed, though we might naturally desire to "pay it back" when others hurt us, our deeper "supernatural" hope is to have Someone "pay if forward" for us. 
This is the ultimate revelation of Divine Mercy, whose devotion has become such a sign of our times.  Trinitarian Love takes on flesh in order to take on evil and death itself.  Mine and yours--as well as all those who have hurt us and our loved ones.  Thanks to the Resurrection, those who deny and betray are offered Mercy, along with those who condemn and crucify.  This is who God is, as well as who we are re-created to be.  The Apostles receive the gift of Mercy, and then Christ immediately sends them to bring this mercy to the world: "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them" (Jn 20:23).
So what if you and I are the only opportunity someone else has to experience Divine Mercy?  Don't we all know someone who needs an undeserved second chance or a gratuitous gesture--a kind word, as simple smile, a helping hand?  After all, Christ's question to Peter is directed at us as well, "Do you love me?"  If we feel like saying with Peter, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you," then we have to be ready for the Risen Lord's response, "tend my sheep" (Jn 21:16).
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless, and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible,
look kindly upon us, and increase Your mercy in us,
that in difficult moments, we might not despair, nor become despondent,
but with great confidence, submit ourselves to Your holy will,
which is Love and Mercy itself.  Amen!