Everybody has experienced mercy. We have seen movies where someone is going to be killed or is suffering in some way. The person pleads for mercy; or someone pleads for them, “Please have mercy”.
Obviously, mercy is undeserved. If the person is a victim of unjust punishment, then they are entitled to be shown mercy. Yet, we ask ourselves, who among us is free of sin? Who does not deserve punishment? For that reason, Jesus came into the world—to free us from the bonds of sin. He shows us His mercy every time we are forgiven. God knows that we constantly need forgiveness. Mercy and forgiveness are intimately related. Consider that we have a wonderful avenue for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Best therapy in the world—at no cost. Although folks keep trying figure out how they can pay for their sins—make up for their sins—there is no way. The bill was paid on the cross. Scrupulous people come with their sins written down on a piece of paper—so they won’t forget, or they won’t leave anything out. Guess who has a copy of the list. The accuser—the Satan has a copy, not God. God does not keep track of our stupidities. He forgives even before we ask. Yet, stuff from the past haunts the minds of many. They are bothered that they did not mention something that happened in their childhood or developmental stage or teenage years. Who cares? Do we think that God cares about such pettiness? But because someone on television said to worry about unmentioned sins, we get concerned. That’s not Catholic teaching! All sins are forgiven in the Sacrament—not just the ones we mentioned. God looks for repentance, not a regurgitation everything that we did wrong.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation does not depend on us, but on God’s mercy. His love is operative. Once we are convinced that God’s love is unconditional then we are not so concerned about details. “Did I get it right? Did I make a good confession?” There is no such thing as a bad confession unless we come in to blatantly make fun of the Sacrament. Consequently, the formula is not as important as a repentant attitude. Divine mercy is the origin of all mercy—all love. God invented mercy when He created us. Why else would we exist? For what reason would we be here? We live and breathe because God is merciful. Our vocation is to be merciful toward each other. That’s where things get tough. Like the reminder in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That’s one of the most difficult parts of being a Christian.
We want the love, the forgiveness, the freedom that comes from God. Yet, at times we are reluctant to show the same mercy to the people who have wronged us. The more profound the hurt, the more difficult forgiveness is. No secret—failure to forgive often happens within families. In the family we know each other’s weak spots. One of the worst things that can happen is to hold a grudge. Some folks remain angry for years and refuse to speak to each other but never miss coming to Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion. What is wrong with this picture? Can we not see the inconsistency? A faith journey with all the right words but no forgiveness is useless. Hypocrisy at its best. We must practice what we believe, especially among our family—where Christianity is most difficult to live. We are more inclined to be charitable to folks we have never met than with our own flesh and blood. We pray for peace in our world while there is violence in our homes, our neighborhoods, our city. We influence one another. Parents have the responsibility to educate their children, particularly in matters of the faith by giving them good example of forgiveness. Being merciful can be contagious. The opposite is also true. Jesus got the ball rolling. He set the perfect example on the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Knowing who we are we dare to approach the Altar to be reconciled and cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”