2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) – April 28, 2019
St. Margaret Mary – Wichita, KS
Acts 5:12-16; Psalms 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31
This Sunday, the eighth day of the octave of Easter, we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. But as with many things, we hear “Divine Mercy” and we think, “Oh yeah, mercy, that means that God forgives our sins.” And yes! That’s certainly one part, but there is so much more! When we stop at mercy being “forgiveness,” then we are left with an incredibly hollow understanding of what mercy really is. A couple of years ago, we had the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. And when Pope Francis announced it, he said something very profound that gets right at the heart of what Mercy truly is. Pope Francis said, “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him” (Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 1). Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy, of God’s mercy. If Jesus is the face of it, that means that mercy is so so so much more than just “forgiveness.”
Think about it. How many times have you apologized or been apologized to, and people forgive you or you forgive someone? Probably a lot. We’ve all been there. But this really isn’t mercy. That’s not it at all.
Mercy also isn’t being “nice.” God’s mercy is not when he is nice to us, or when we pray for something and he gives it to us. God “granting wishes” is not God’s mercy. When someone is nice to you you would never say, “Man, that person is merciful.”
Jesus Christ is the face of God’s mercy. Mercy is the Incarnation, it is Jesus Christ, it is God becoming man. Although he was God, He took on our humanity, He took on a human heart: He took on a weak, treacherous, fickle human heart. God looked on us, he had compassion on us; he loved us with an everlasting love and had pity on our nothingness (c.f., Jeremiah 31:3). Even with our sins, even with our weakness, even with our pettiness—God continues to love us with an everlasting love.
I mean, really think about it, really let that sink in. If someone continues day after day, week after week to be petty, to sin against you, to treat you like garbage, then one day you are going to lose your patience, get angry, and remove that person from your life. And you should! Toxic “friends” are not really friends. You should not put up with that. But, what if that person is your 12 year old child? Can you really just remove them from your life? No. And even though a mom may get angry with her child, even when their child does the worst imaginable thing, what happens soon after? She continues to do everything for them, to love them, to try to help them move forward. This is mercy: an everlasting love, taking pity on someone’s nothingness, remaining with them even in the face of their pettiness and sin. St. Augustine puts it this way: “It is easier for God to hold back anger than mercy.’ And so it is. God’s anger lasts but a moment, his mercy forever” (Francis, MV, 21).
God’s mercy extends to the point that, even though we continue to sin day after day, even though the entire world constantly tries to turn from him, even though we are incredible petty—in the midst of this, God loved us, he loved us to the end (John 13:1). “He so loved the world that he sent his only son” (John 3:16). God shows us his love for us in that while we were still sinners, in the midst of our pettiness and hatred of him, he still died for us (Romans 5:7). And we’ve heard all of this, we know this. But have we really stopped for a moment to think: this is mercy. Loving someone with an everlasting love, even in their pettiness. Imagine the person who is the absolute worst, and then imagine doing literally anything for them, anything that would truly help them, even dying for them. That’s mercy. That’s why in his incarnation, death and resurrection we can say that Jesus is truly the face of the Father’s mercy.
And on this Divine Mercy Sunday, those of us here in the state of Kansas must beg for this mercy even more. As many of you know, this past week the Supreme Court of Kansas ruled that the constitution of the state of Kansas gives women the right to abort their unborn child. After years of battling this for decades, those who participated in the Summer of Mercy almost thirty years ago, those who have made trips to Topeka, those who have gone on the March for Life—after all of this time to have all of this work and prayer and sacrifice seemingly be for nothing. What does mercy have to do with all of this?
Mercy has to do with everything. Because once again, no matter how far from God we want to run, no matter how much we want to turn away from him, his mercy will never end. Sure, maybe a state abortion is legal. But just because it is legal does not mean it is right. And God’s mercy will still be available to those who choose to have an abortion. Isn’t that an amazing thing?! That no matter how much any one of us sin, whether we say one little bad word, or whether we take the life of an innocent, defenseless child, the Lord will never stop loving us. And as a priest that has heard the confessions of people who are struggling from the effects of their sin, sometimes very great sin—I know just how powerful the Lord’s mercy can be. Because it is not just God forgiving you; it is God re-creating you, taking you back to the day of your baptism. The Lord embraces your past, forgives your sin, and you become blameless in his sight, your history is rewritten.
The Lord loves us more than we could ever ask or imagine. There is no sin that his mercy cannot overcome. He loves you, and there is nothing you could ever do to make him stop loving you. That is mercy.