“Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)
From December 8, 2015, to November 20, 2016, the Holy Roman Catholic Church observed the Year of Mercy which featured special prayers and gatherings in various places highlighting the profundity of God’s mercy. During the closing gathering which also featured the ceremony of the closing of the Holy Door of Mercy, Pope Francis announced that the closing of the Holy Door does not entail the closing of the door of reconciliation and God’s mercy. In other words, the door of divine mercy is still open to those who are ready and willing to make a spiritual entrance.
What is divine mercy? One could answer that it means God’s compassion and withdrawal of the punishment we deserve from Him because of our sins. One could also ask why God is merciful? God is merciful because He cannot help but be merciful; it is in His nature. Put in another way mercy is another name for God (Psalm 103:8). The letter to the Hebrews (4:16), tells us that the throne of God consists of grace and mercy. While calling on God after falling into sin, David referred to God as full of mercy and compassion (Psalm 51:1).
There is the need for us to differentiate between forgiveness and mercy before we can appreciate what divine mercy entails. To forgive is to overcome anger or resentment over someone’s failing. Mercy, on the other hand, is more profound than forgiveness, and it means withdrawing all the punishment that is due to an offence. Have you wondered why our Lord Jesus Christ did not add mercy in the Lord’s prayer but only forgiveness (Matt. 6:9-13)? Have you wondered why our Lord had to stop when the blind Bartimaeus called out saying “Jesus Son of David have MERCY on me” (Mark 10: 47). We can see the distinction and as well as the connection between forgiveness and mercy while our Lord Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross. The account of Luke (23:34) tells us that our Lord said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” If forgiveness were enough, then the death of our Lord would have been unnecessary.
Beyond forgiveness, humanity needed the mercy of God, and that was why at 3.pm on that fateful Friday we know as “Good,” our Lord said. “it is finished” (John 19:30); and bowing his head, he died. That was the point humanity received God’s mercy, that means our debt was paid, and our punishment was taken away (Isaiah 53:5). Divine mercy means that though we deserve to receive punishment, our punishment was taken away by God through His Son. The sin was so intense, but God already forgave us (Psalm 86:5), however, the punishment due to our sin was still pending. One of the punishment was that the gate of heaven was shut against humanity and only the mercy of God through His Son could open the gate of heaven for us. John (3:13) tells us that nobody has gone to heaven except the one who came down from heaven and that is our Lord Jesus Christ, whom St. Paul refers to as the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18).
God is the Father of mercy (2 Cor. 1:3-4), and his mercy never ends (Lam. 3:22-23). He is still ready to grant you mercy when you approach His throne of mercy. God’s mercy shows that he wants us to move forward to a better future (Jer. 29:11). The mercy of God indicates God’s love for us (John 3:16). The mercy of God shows that God wants us to have peace as our Lord Jesus Christ indicated when he appeared to the apostles, “peace be unto you” (John 20:21). The mercy of God shows that God wants us back (Jeremiah 15:19).
When we receive God’s mercy, He expects us to extend mercy to others. The mercy of God comes to us and should flow through us. In the Book of Genesis (12:3) God said that He would bless Abraham so that he could be a blessing to others. If God, our Father, is merciful we should be merciful children of our Father. If we expect mercy from God, we should also be ready to grant mercy to others. In the beatitudes, our Lord Jesus Christ says, “blessed are the merciful and they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
As we celebrate the Divine Mercy Sunday, let us use the opportunity Christ opened for us through his resurrection from the dead to open our heart for God’s mercy. It is also vital that we extend mercy to those who deserve our punishment in various ways just as we qualify to received God’s punishment but in lieu, receive His mercy.
Have a rewarding Divine Mercy Sunday.