How do we conceive of the mercy of God? It’s an important question because everything depends on His mercy. There are two tendencies against which we have to be on guard because they distort the reality of His mercy. We might think that He is stingy with His mercy, that He gets tired of hearing us confess the same things over and over, or that we have committed so horrible a sin that there’s no way He would ever forgive us of it. We almost imagine Our Lord sighing in exasperation at our confession, or looking at us with an expression of deep disappointment at letting Him down yet again. Do we think that our sins shock Jesus? That if He only knew how depraved we can be He would never love us? These are expressions of despair, and despair has its root in pride. The Lord knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves. He is never disappointed in us, He is never shocked by our sins. In our pride, we disappoint ourselves and our sins shock us, because we like to think we’re above them. But we are not above anything, and under the right circumstances each one of us is capable of committing every sin in the book. And yet, the Lord loves us enough to die for us on the cross. No matter how embarrassing or vile our sins are, we must never despair of the Lord’s mercy. Instead, we must approach Him in the sacrament of confession with the humble confidence of one who knows he is loved intensely and whose salvation is desired with God’s whole heart.
The other problematic tendency, which is probably more common these days, is to presume on God’s mercy. Presumption can lead us to abuse the sacrament of confession by confessing sins as a kind of transaction, with no desire for conversion or intention to avoid sin. But it can also make us think that we don’t really need the sacrament of confession. We tell ourselves that God loves us no matter what we do, so he’ll probably let everything slide in the end. We can live the way we want on earth and we will go to heaven when we die. But these expressions of presumption are as mistaken and harmful as expressions of despair, because like despair they subscribe to the error that our actions are ultimately meaningless. Despair says: “no matter what I do, I won’t be saved.” Presumption says: “no matter what I do, I will be saved.” But human action is meaningful, and how we live matters. The perfect expression of the meaningfulness of human action is Our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. The crucifix reveals the lie of presumption and despair. It reveals the horror of our sins and it reveals the beauty of God’s merciful love. Our sins matter. But Jesus’ mercy matters even more.
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, it’s helpful to remember that Our Lord loves us more than we will ever comprehend. Under the devotional image of Divine Mercy is the phrase “Jesus, I trust in thee.” Trusting in Him is the key to unlocking Divine Mercy, because it gives us the confidence to open our hearts to Him, and to see in the light of His love the truth of what our sins do to us and our relationship with Him and others. St. Therese of Lisieux said that all of our offenses, in comparison to the mercy of Christ, are like little drops of water thrown into a flaming furnace. So let us cast our sins upon the mercy of God which is offered to us in the sacrament of Reconciliation. Confessing our sins in the context of the sacrament matters. When we do it with humble confidence in the love that God has for us, He lavishes His mercy upon us and gives us the grace to avoid sin and grow in holiness.
Divine Mercy Devotion – Sunday 4/19
Please join us tomorrow (Sunday 4/19) for a special live-stream of the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet and a preached reflection on the devotion by Fr. Mariusz. It will take place at 3pm in the Church of St. Cecilia. You will be able to access it through this site or the parish YouTube channel. A link will be provided tomorrow.