Today we see the fulfillment of what the angel said to St. Joseph about Mary and her Son: “…she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, has saved us from our sins. By his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, he has taken upon himself our sins and has made perfect reparation for them to the Father. He has conquered them so that through him we may overcome them. Not only has he won for us freedom from sin, but by his grace he has also given us eternal life. He has opened the gates of heaven for us. This is the tremendous, unfathomable mercy we celebrate today, Divine Mercy Sunday.
This great mercy, first revealed on Easter, “the first day of the week,” was also the subject of Jesus’ private revelations to St. Faustina, to whom he said, “My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy” (Diary, 699). Divine mercy is linked to peace, for this is what Jesus offers us, forgiveness and peace. His first words to the Apostles were, “Peace be with you.” This is the same gift he spoke about to St. Faustina: “Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy” (Diary, 699).
What keeps us from experiencing the Lord’s gift of forgiveness and peace? In this week’s Spiritual Reflection, Pope Francis gives three reasons. The first has to do with shame. The Pope challenges us by asking us, “Do I allow myself to be forgiven?… Before God we are tempted to do what the disciples did in the Gospel: to barricade ourselves behind closed doors. They did it out of fear, yet we too can be afraid, ashamed to open our hearts and confess our sins.” When in our embarrassment and shame we deny ourselves the Sacrament of Confession, we deny ourselves of hearing the beautiful words, “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.” Here, once again, we see the link between forgiveness and peace.
The second reason the Pope gives us is resignation, the lingering fear that nothing has really changed. This thought can badly interfere with our spiritual life: “‘I’ve been a Christian for all this time, but nothing has changed in me; I keep committing the same sins.’ Then, in discouragement, we give up on mercy.” The error in this way of thinking is that it ignores the real change that God’s mercy accomplishes in us. “By the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, every time we are forgiven and we are changed.” The change is deeper and longer lasting than we realize. Our spiritual enemy the devil, who is defeated by mercy, is the one who wants us to give up. But God never gives up on forgiving us.
The third reason that keeps us from experiencing forgiveness is that we close the door on ourselves, refusing to let God into our sin. Pope Francis says: “When I commit a grave sin, if I, in all honesty, do not want to forgive myself, why should God forgive me? This door, however, is only closed on one side, our own; but for God, no door is every completely closed. As the Gospel tells us, he loves to enter precisely, as we heard, ‘through closed doors,’ when every entrance seems barred.” The Pope goes on to explain beautifully what happens when we open the door: “But when we make our confession, something unheard of happens: we discover that the very sin that kept us apart from the Lord becomes the place where we encounter him. There the God who is wounded by love comes to meet our wounds. He makes our wretched wounds like his own glorious wounds.”
On this Divine Mercy Sunday the Lord is inviting us to come to the throne of grace to receive his great mercy, forgiveness, and peace. He says to us as he said to Thomas: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe” – that through this belief we “may have life in his name.” He urges us to accept his gift with great gratitude, to allow ourselves to be forgiven and to receive the peace that the world cannot give, the peace of Christ!
Am I ashamed to let Jesus into my heart for fear he will judge my cluttered condition? Do I allow others to see who I am or do I portray a false image so as not to be judged? Will I allow myself to be humbled today so I can learn to accept myself as God sees me with all my strengths and weaknesses?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 15, no. 4. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.