This Feast emerged from the very depths of My mercy, and it is confirmed in the vast depths of my tender mercies.
(St. Faustina, Diary #420)
Miserando atque eligendo: “God’s merciful choice,” these words, chosen by Pope Francis as his motto. On this Divine Mercy Sunday, we must ask the question: “What is Mercy?” We should begin by noting that there are two kinds of mercy:
Mercy is one of those concepts that seem pretty abstract. We hear in homilies that God is merciful and that we must show mercy to others.
The Latin word for mercy, which is misericordia, derived from the two words Miserere: “misery” and cor “heart.” When we ask for God’s mercy, we are essentially asking him to relieve us of a heart that is in misery. And our hearts can be in a state of misery for a lot of reasons; anxiety, stress, losing a loved one, struggling with life, etc.
God’s Mercy Seeks Us
God’s mercy is not dependent upon our ability to prove our worthiness. In other words, one does not have to prove that we are worthy to be with God.
The Gospels remind us over and over of this fact. Jesus repeatedly spends time with the outcast of society: the sinner, the leper, the tax collectors. For example in Luke 7:36-50, a sinful woman comes to Jesus, bathing his feet with her tears and anoints them with ointment. Seeing this, a Pharisee doubts that Jesus really is Lord for, if he were, then he would not let the sinful woman touch him. Likewise, in Mark 2:13-17, Jesus eats with sinners and tax collectors, provoking the Pharisees to ask the disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Christ has no need to stay aloof and preach from on high of the Father’s mercy. Instead, time and again in the Gospels, he goes to the sinner, to the places they frequent and to their homes. For example, in Luke:1-10, Jesus tells Zacchaeus that he must stay in his house. Because of Jesus’
willingness to literally dwell with Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus experiences a conversion of heart and ultimately, his salvation. Indeed, time and again, Jesus seeks out the people deemed “unworthy” by society, for he wishes to show his God’s power through their weakness.
We Can be an Instrument of Mercy
Not only does God want us to experience His Mercy, He wants us to be instruments of mercy and forgiveness. Now when I think about mercy as “relieving someone from a heart of misery,” The Lord has given us all so many ways in which we can be God’s instrument of mercy to others. One aspect of this is revealed in the Church’s teaching on the Spiritual works of Mercy.
Mercy is not abstract. It requires action and giving of self. In all of these situations in which we are to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering (physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally), we’re “relieving a heart of misery,” and participating in the mercy of God. God wants to heal not just our soul, but our minds and bodies as well. So many are looking for God’s mercy.
“Jesus Christ is divine mercy in person”
You and I are messengers of mercy and love – we can share that with anyone. We don’t need a theologian’s education to share the love of God, just a desire for souls and a sensitive and loving heart and a willingness to do what is right.
“How many people in our time are in search of God, in search
of Jesus and of his Church, in search of divine mercy, and are
waiting for a sign that will touch their minds and their hearts!”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict encourages us to be that sign. “May this be your commitment, to be a sign of mercy, first of all in your families and then in every neighborhood milieu.” This Mercy Sunday is a good day to start.