Divine Mercy Sunday highlights the sublime virtue in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and His mercy. Mercy is God’s love forgiving the sinner. His mercy is infinite and the greatest of all of His virtues.
What pains the Heart of Jesus most, even more than sin itself, is the lack of trust in His boundless mercy. The greatest sinners can be the greatest saints if they simply place their trust in His mercy.
St. Paul summarizes it in these few words: “Where sin abounds the mercy of God abounds all the more.” St Augustine adds his theological insight: “God allows evil to bring good out it." O Happy fault of (Adam and Eve) that brought about the Incarnation of our Savior Jesus Christ and His act of redemption for us on the cross and His Resurrection for us on Easter Sunday.
It is not hard for any of us to admire and even rejoice in God’s mercy. However, for us to receive His mercy, we must live, put into practice mercy in our relation to others. Jesus clearly taught this: “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” Let us enumerate some concrete steps we can take in our daily lives to forgive those who hurt us and thereby live out mercy in our lives so as to be worthy recipients of God’s mercy!
1. BEG FOR THE GRACE. Like Bartimeus of the Gospel--- the blind beggar—we must humbly beg the Lord Jesus for the grace to forgive. Chastity, humility, and forgiveness and mercy towards those who hurt us are all supernatural virtues that we must beg for, so that when the time comes, we are not taken off guard, but spiritually armed and prepare to forgive!
2. PLAN AND TO DECIDE TO FORGIVE ALWAYS AND AT ALL TIMES AND TILL THE END. Be mentally and psychologically prepared to the awareness that we will be hurt, offended during the whole course of our lives, often inadvertently and unwillingly, but even at times due to bad-will and malice! A merciful attitude, frame of mind, heart-disposition is really half the battle!
3. IMMEDIATE FORGIVENESS. When hurt, forgive immediately! If not, the heart becomes hardened, callouses grow around the heart. Then the hurt—like a foul and festering wound--- starts to putrefy and rot in our soul. Resentment turns to anger, anger bitterness, bitterness often turns into jealously and envy; finally, the ripe fruit of a lack of forgiveness is hatred! Good advice for spouses is Biblical: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger!” If done frequently, separation and divorce may not be in the distant future!
4. BE MERCIFUL IN JUDGMENT. Call to mind the first words that Jesus spoke on the cross, that first Good Friday: “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” Jesus actually excuses them! Maybe the person that offended you struggles with health problems, has lost a loved one, has a splitting headache, or some other unknown problem that has made him act irrationally resulting in hurting you! Cut him some slack!
5. PRAY FOR HIM AND IMMEDIATLY. Jesus unequivocally commands us to pray! However, Jesus does not limit our prayers offered only for the good people we meet, those who smile at us, those who abound in complimenting us! Rather, Jesus commands us to pray even for those we do not like, so far as to pray for our enemies, as He gave clear example to us as He hung on the cross! Immediate prayer dissipates the fumes of anger like a spring breeze!
6. COMPLIMENT HIM! Saints are saints because they practice “Heroic virtue”. That means they constantly practice virtue, day in and day out, without making a show and fanfare of it! St. Ignatius teaches in one of the rules for discernment, the “Agere contra”--- which means, to do the opposite of what your fallen nature dictates to you! Being hurt and wounded by another, the natural and carnal response obviously is that of revenge: “Eye for eye and tooth for tooth”. Jesus and Ignatius’ rule teaches us to do the contrary! Say something kind to the person, to the point of even complimenting him on some good attribute in his life!
7. CALL TO MIND JESUS’ WORDS ON THE TOPIC OF FORGIVENESS.
a) The Our Father. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
b) “Blessed are the merciful, they shall receive mercy.”
c) “Leave your gift at the altar and first be reconciled with your brother.”
d) “No, I tell you! Forgive not 7 times, but 70 times 7 times.” Meaning forever!
e) From the cross, once again: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
8. CONTEMPLATE JESUS CRUCIFIED: LOOK UP AT THE CROSS! If the anger persists, why not spend some silent time contemplating Jesus hanging on the cross. Add to the contemplation, the repetition of His words: “Father forgive __________________ name the person….for He knows not what he is doing.” The contemplation of the sufferings, pain and agony of Jesus on the cross, shedding His Precious Blood for my salvation as well as for “my enemy”, can be more than efficacious!
9. CALL TO MIND YOUR OWN SINS AND GOD’S MERCY! Indeed this may be very humbling experience but necessary: call to mind your most serious and embarrassing sin of your whole life! Then remember how God in His infinite mercy forgave you. Afterward, compare God’s forgiving your sin--- probably much more serious than the one that offended you—and then see the marked contrast!
10. CONFESSION/ and or SPIRITUAL DIRECTION. St. Ignatius of Loyola in rule 13 for rules for discernment, strongly emphasizes the need to open up to a Confessor or a Spiritual Director in moments of turmoil, depression, temptation, and desolation. Contrariwise, the devil encourages us to keep our secret struggles secret, thereby the devil works to magnify them, to cause them to fester, to turn the mole-hill into the mountain. Once articulated one’s anger to a confessor or spiritual director is like dowsing a smoldering pot of coals with water! The anger subsides and it is easier to forgive!
11. MASS AND COMMUNION. Of extraordinary potency in the spiritual life and battle is receiving Holy Communion as often as possible and as fervently as possible. Enemies, people who have hurt us, memories of past wounds placed on the paten and lifted on high to the throne of Almighty God and then receiving Holy Communion for this person that hurt me is very pleasing to God and very efficacious in changing my bitter heart into a heart of flesh and blood and merciful heart! Indeed contact with Jesus transforms us and the whole world!
12.MARY MOTHER OF MERCY: OUR LIFE, OUR SWEETNESS AND OUR HOPE! Not mentioning Mary’s intercession and intervention in our struggle to forgive those who hurt us would be incomplete! In Jesus, there exists two contrary attributes—both his mercy and justice. Whereas--- as St Alphonsus Liguori points out in his classic, the Glories of Mary—Mary is pure mercy! Indeed Mary stood at the foot of the cross contemplating with her eyes, hearing with her ears, smelling with her nostrils, tasting all the bitterness of the Passion of Jesus, her Son, Lord God and Savior! Most remarkable in Mary, admirable hallmark of sanctity, was her mercy and forgiveness towards all responsible for the unspeakable torments and atrocities thrust upon “The Innocent Lamb of God who took way the sins of the world.” Mary’s merciful intercession can melt “iceberg hearts”.
In conclusion, God is rich in mercy and slow to anger. We, on the contrary, are quick to anger and slow to forgiveness. Still, we are called to imitate God’s mercy and forgiveness if we indeed want to be recipients of His boundless, ineffable, inexpressible mercy. Let us meditate on mercy, pray to be merciful, love mercy and live out mercy so that Jesus will not be our Judge when we die but our most merciful Redeemer and Savior!