Once upon a Holy Saturday afternoon, I visited a police detention facility in my country, also known as a police cell. I went to share some moments of reflection with the inmates on the passion of Christ and the hope of liberation leveraging their confinement and the odds they face.
While interacting with some police officers after praying for the inmates, I understood that some of them were detained because they could not pay the fine options. Surprisingly most of the fines were below $30 per inmate. Instantly, I asked one of the officers if paying the fine would liberate anyone that benefits immediately, and he affirmed.
By the grace of God, I had some money with me, and I was able to pay the fines of four of them who had been detained for more than six months. Furthermore, I added something extra to help them get food and transport to their homes when they leave the detention. Thanks to God!
Forgiveness and Mercy
My story reflects what mercy stands for, and which also makes it different from forgiveness. Forgiveness is all about letting go of a hurt or some other thing that happened in the past. Often, forgiveness comes after pleading, repentance, or the promise to do better in the future.
On the other hand, mercy involves letting go and showing compassion, and giving some benefits to someone who does not deserve them. In this case, the beneficiary may not have asked for it. We can say that mercy starts where forgiveness stops.
From the description above, we understand that mercy is a product to grace; without grace, mercy would not be possible. The Letter to the Hebrews (4:16) says we approach the throne of grace to obtain mercy.
The Power of Divine Mercy
Today, we thoughtfully reflect on God’s mercy and, specifically, the Divine Mercy. Mercy is one of the major attributes of God. The Book of the Lamentations (3:22-23) tells us that God’s steadfast love never ceases and His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. St. Paul remarks (Eph.2:4) that God is rich in mercy because of the great love He has for us.
What happened on the Cross on Good Friday is the Divine Mercy! Yes, we did not deserve it, and we did not even ask for it. God’s graceful love uncovered the paying of the debt for our sins on the Cross.
Those words on the Cross, “it is finished” before Jesus expired, confirmed the Divine Mercy. Today, we look back at Good Friday’s events, and we joyfully celebrate God’s mercy which we did not merit.
The Elements of Divine Mercy
John’s Gospel (20:19-31) tells us about two important Divine Mercy products: Peace and the Holy Spirit. The narrative tells us that eight days after the resurrection, the disciples gathered in a locked room in fear of the Jews.
The Jews were not after them. It was the fear of their past deeds (Mark 14:50). What they did not realize was that when Jesus said, “it is finished,” they were also included. Instead of searching to see the resurrected Lord, they preferred to lock themselves in, which also meant locking their hearts, as we see in the story of Thomas, who was doubting the resurrection of the Lord.
Suddenly Jesus appeared to them and said to them twice, “peace be with you”. Here we understand that they lacked peace. Even the locked door (their comfort zone) could not give them peace. The simple fact here is that they lacked peace. Furthermore, the risen Lord breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit.” Notice that these two facilities could only come to them after the event of the Cross: the paying of the debt.
Moving Forward: Be Merciful!
How can we actively respond to the awesome gift of the Divine Mercy? Praying is good, but that is not enough. In the Gospel of Luke (6:36), Jesus instructs, “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” St. James (2:13) says that judgment is without mercy to one who has not shown mercy, and in the Second Book of Samuel (22:26), we hear that with the merciful God shows Himself merciful and with the blameless God shows himself blameless.
We freely received mercy from God, and in the same way, we should freely give mercy a chance. Our world would become messy without mercy as there would be no peace; mercy comes before peace. The Book of Acts (4:32-35) tells us that the community of believers was of one heart and mind because they had peace and the Holy Spirit through the same gift of Divine Mercy.
Let us take up the mercy challenge today in honor of the Divine Mercy. Look around you and beyond; you could find someone who could benefit from your act of mercy. It could be anyone known or unknown to you. Divine Mercy is a facility that is open to everyone, just as your mercy could add value to anyone. Remember that blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matt. 5:7). So, whatever you do to others would come back to you. Try mercy today!
Happy Divine Mercy Sunday, and may God bless you.