We must mirror God’s mercy


Prior to Jessica Powers entering the Carmelite convent where she was given the name Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, the poet described a debate she engaged in with one of her editors regarding the most revealing attribute of God. As the story goes, the editor insisted that the greatest revelation about God was Truth – while Jessica insisted it was Beauty.

Years later, Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit laughed over their naivete. As a professed nun of many years, she came to understand the greatest revelation about God is his mercy. In a poem entitled the “The Mercy of God,” the Carmelite nun gave voice to her newfound wisdom, writing:

“I rose up from the acres of self that I tended with passion and defended with flurries of pride; I walked out of myself into the woods of God’s mercy, and here I abide … And I fear God no more; I go forward to wander forever in a wilderness made of His infinite mercy alone” (Jessica Powers, The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers).

Sister Miriam’s poem about God’s mercy confirms the message that St. Faustina received from Jesus during an apparition, when he said, “My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of my mercy” (Diary of Sister Faustina).

In keeping with this divine mandate, and in anticipation of the Year of Jubilee in 2000, Pope John Paul II proclaimed the First Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. The portrait of Jesus with the rays representing water and blood emanating from his side has become a familiar sight and is revered in churches throughout the world, particularly on the first Sunday after Easter Sunday, as requested by Jesus.

Today, the world is in desperate need of God’s mercy, but that’s nothing new. When Our Lord appeared to the disciples in his resurrected body, his most telling attribute was mercy.

Rather than rebuking Peter for having denied him during his Passion, Jesus invited him to declare his love, not once but three times, seemingly to cancel the apostle’s sin of betrayal.

When Our Lord appeared in the upper room, he didn’t chastise Thomas for doubting the Resurrection. He merely invited him to put his fingers into the wounds in his hands and his hand into Jesus’ side.

Likewise, when the Lord encountered his disciples on the road to Emmaus, he didn’t reprimand them for fleeing from Jerusalem. He feigned ignorance about what had taken place and walked with them, breaking open the Scriptures and astounding them with his wisdom.  Only when Jesus broke bread during the meal did they realize their newfound friend was the Master risen from the dead. Jesus understood that his followers were in need of mercy then, just as we are now.

Jesus appeared to St. Faustina during the years between the First and Second World Wars. At the time, the world was rife with division, retribution and the abuse of power, not so different from the way the world was during the time of Jesus, nor from our world today. His message is clear: Rather than give into despair, we are called, not only to plead for God’s mercy, but to mirror it in the way we relate to the world around us.

What good is it to kneel before the image of Divine Mercy and then demonize those who offend us? We are no different than the man in Jesus’s parable who was forgiven a huge debt only to demand full payment from the person who owed him much less. How easy it is to judge people with policies or practices different from our own, but when we condemn others, we condemn not only them; we condemn ourselves.  We are reminded of this each time we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Let us then be mindful of this on Divine Mercy Sunday, when we venerate the image of our merciful Jesus. Recall the words he spoke to the woman caught in adultery. “Has no one condemned you? … Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” (Jn 8:10-11).

With the grace of God, the only behavior we can change is our own. Therefore, our first concern should be about removing the beam from our own eye rather than focusing on the speck in the eye of our neighbor. And so, we pray: “For the sake of his sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”


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