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What Mercy Offers

We need God’s mercy. Our world is in need of God’s mercy and we need it as individuals. We are human beings who are not perfect. At times we fall short of doing good and we need forgiveness. As look ahead to Good Friday this week, God’s forgiving mercy as at the heart of what we see as we look at Christ crucified.

From Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, we can go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation knowing that our sins are forgiven when we confess them with a repentant contrite heart. As we look at Jesus on the Cross, we see how much He loves us for, as Jesus says in John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Laying down his life for us is precisely what Jesus does on the Cross.

This is Divine Mercy (For more on Divine Mercy, please see my article “God’s Gift of Mercy” where I offer some thoughts based on my reading of Understanding Divine Mercy by Fr. Chris Alar, MIC (Stockbridge:MA. Marian Press. 2021). 

Forgiveness is something needed in our world today (see my recent series, Finding Peace and Healing in a Troubled World. However, God’s mercy (and thus the mercy we show to others) is more than just forgiveness.

You may remember that in 2015, Pope Francis called for a Jubilee Year of Mercy. At that time, I offered three presentations on mercy that can be viewed on my website at http://www.renewaloffaith.org/be-merciful.html. As the Jubilee Year of Mercy was drawing to a close, I offered a single presentation version of some of the same information with a look forward (What Comes After the Jubilee Year of Mercy – http://www.renewaloffaith.org/video—mercy.html).

Mercy flows from love. Our love for God and our neighbor calls us to care for the needs of others. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus offers the Corporal Works of Mercy as criteria for what it is needed to seek God’s kingdom. The first of the Corporal Works of Mercy is to feed the hungry. Jesus, moved with pity, does this as He feeds the great multitude with just five barley loaves and two fish (found in all four gospels, Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6;34-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-15).

Another Corporal Work of Mercy is to visit the sick. Jesus clearly offers mercy to the sick in the many miraculous healing He does.

Just as there are seven Corporal Works of Mercy, we also have seven Spiritual Works of Mercy found throughout scripture. These, as well as the Corporal Works of Mercy, are presented in my presentation, The Journey to Jesus: Acts of Mercy at http://www.renewaloffaith.org/video—the-journey-to-jesus–acts-of-mercy.html.

Today I would like to discuss two of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. The first is to “Instruct the Ignorant.” If we want people to follow Jesus, we need to tell them about Jesus. Teaching was an important part of Jesus’ ministry. We know this from Jesus’ own words, “He told them,Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come” (Mark 1:38, cf. Luke 4:43). As Jesus preaches, He teaches. Those who are regular readers of my blog know how important sharing the faith is to me.

The other Spiritual Work of Mercy I would like to discuss today is to “Admonish the Sinner.” This spiritual work of mercy does not call us to judge others for their sins. It does not call us to yell at them. It does call us to help them see and understand their sins. We must do so with mercy. Jesus gives us the perfect example of how to address sinners in the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) when He says in John 8:11b, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.” This means she has sinned but should not anymore. In Luke 23:34, in the midst of his Passion Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do,” concerning the people who are having him crucified. Now that is forgiveness.

On Good Friday, Jesus shows us mercy as He gives his life for us on the Cross. In the events we celebrate in Holy Week and Easter Sunday, there is one more way that Jesus shows mercy to us. He shows us the Resurrection. Why do I consider this a demonstration of mercy? Because it gives us hope. The Resurrection reveals to us that God has something greater planned for us, a place in his heavenly kingdom.

We thank God for his mercy. May we share his mercy with others.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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