Can you name the times when Divine Mercy has reached out and grabbed you by the hand--ushering you to a fresh start or a new beginning? If you're like me, maybe it has happened at times when you least expected it. Such is the surprising way that God's grace works.
If we are going to be the witnesses of the Lord's merciful love that the world so desperately needs, we should be able to identify and name such moments in our own lives. Here are just a few which come to my mind:
- In Baptism and Confirmation: If you were claimed for Christ in Baptism as an infant, as I was, perhaps you have had a glimpse of your entire life as a gift. Grace upon grace, freely given though sometimes spurned, may offer the best interpretation of my life. In Confirmation, whether fully conscious of it or not, I chose to say yes to this baptismal gift. After all, Christ wants each of us to be sons and daughters in him, guided by his very Spirit, not orphans wandering aimlessly. In many ways, my entire life's journey has been an ever deeper appropriation of these graces: "No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit" (Jn 3:5).
- In the Presence of Family and Friends: Have you had at least one family member or friend who has helped enkindle or rekindle the light of faith in your heart? Our fidelity to the Gospel gives honor to such mentors and spiritual ancestors, who have left us an inexhaustible inheritance. My life has been marked by the timely words of wisdom, the challenging questions, and the uplifting encouragement of countless Christs in everyday disguise. This is all mercy and grace precisely because I have not earned or deserved any of it: "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain" (Jn 15:16).
- In the Gift of Reconciliation: If you have not yet heard Christ himself express forgiveness and consolation through the ministry of the priest, keep on listening :) Since the first time I realized that the seemingly frumpy fella with food in his beard was speaking words that only the Lord himself could have directed to my heart, I've found myself more and more open to confessing my need for Divine Mercy. Even if there is no sage advice during a given visit to this extraordinary Sacrament, the words of absolution always bring me healing and wholeness ("through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"). This gift flows directly from Christ himself, of course, who not only forgave sins but also empowered his Apostles to do so: "...He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them'..." (Jn 20:22-23).
- In the Living Word of the Gospels: One of the great blessings of my adult life has been a rediscovery of the Gospels. The Word of God is a living, two-edged sword, and there is no more direct or powerful way to experience it than by pondering the Gospel each day in communion with the Church universal. Whenever I've been open to hearing a word from the Word, the Gospels have never failed to deliver. Pondering and praying the Scriptures has helped me understand the story of my life in the context of life's greatest story: "Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?" (Lk 24:32).
- In Christ's Eucharistic Presence: How else can my easily hardened heart be transformed, except by encountering the Lord in this greatest of gifts? One special revelation for me has been the powerful presence of the Christ at Eucharistic Adoration. Visits to Adoration have fueled my desire to return to the celebration of the Mass with new eyes. They have helped me realize that we all need to share our experience of meeting the Risen Lord on the road: "Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread" (Lk 24:35).
We are living in the time of great mercy. We are called to become channels of Divine Mercy. To those who may know that I have not shown as much mercy as I profess to have received, please accept my apologies--and thank you for your patience! To those who may think of me as stuck in my past sins, please know that the Lord is doing his best to continue changing me--and thank you for your understanding!
From John Paul II's canonization of St. Faustina at the dawn of the third millennium, through his promulgation of the feast of Divine Mercy on the second Sunday of Easter, to his providential death on the eve of this feast 10 years ago, we continue to be flooded with reminders that this is the age of Divine Mercy. (For a heart-thumping account of this history--linked to the amazing message of our Lady at Fatima--check out Michael Gaitley's The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, available as an MP3 talk or as a recently released book.)
In both word and deed, Pope Francis has famously continued St. John Paul II's focus on mercy. By recently announcing an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which will begin later this year, Holy Father Francis is inviting each of us once again to return to the Father who awaits us with love beyond all telling. The opening words of this papal bull sum up the Good News of the Gospel:
"Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy" (MV, n. 1)!