Through Mercy We Find Faith
"Blessed is he who does not see.....but believes"
"Just think about....what you and I have been through....and tell me why I should not be afraid"
- John Popper (Blues Traveler) - "Slow Change"
Divine Mercy Sunday, a relatively new Feast Day celebrated in the Catholic Church as championed by Pope John Paul II at the turn of the Century, is a day steeped in redemption.
This redemption and subsequent forgiveness is of course only made possible as a result of Jesus' unrelenting willingness to free us of the shackles of sin, a forgiveness rooted in the type of mercy that we as fallible albeit faithful Catholics can at times have a hard time fully understanding.
Faith can run hot and cold, oftentimes in lock step with how life treats us. Winston Churchill once quipped "when you're going through hell, keep going", sage advice for sure. All things come to pass, and when the fates grow tired of roughing us up and the sun once again inevitably shines, we often find ourselves wondering why we didn't have stronger faith in God to pull us through, as He always does. But is this a lack of faith that we show or is it simply a matter of human nature in its hardened and pessimistic form, having been schooled to the ways of the world and beleaguered by disappointment and setbacks as the calendar relentlessly marches on? Maybe the latter is the very definition of the former?
Even those among us who have lived a life of relative good fortune are not impervious to inevitable bouts of heartache, loneliness and severe rough patches. Death, shattered relationships, sickness and gut wrenching disappointment are just as likely to visit those who turn the ignition key to a Mercedes Benz as those who do likewise in a used Ford Pinto. Yet we keep on coming back, perhaps inspired by Jesus who set the example on more than one occasion, no moment more symbolic than the time in which He stumbled not once but twice while literally carrying the wooden cross that was to be used in His own Crucifixion. Maybe it is true that the mark of a man or a woman is not measured in the number of times he or she falls down, but instead in the number of times he or she gets up?
Many lose faith in their ability to forge a meaningful relationship with Jesus simply because they view their relationship through the prism of their imperfect human relationships. They conclude that there is no way that Jesus would put up with their fair-weathered, wishy-washy come and go faith. After all, it's that behavior that causes us to fail in our human relationships.
Enter the divine mercy of Jesus.
How often do we as Catholics associate Jesus with the quality of mercy? ...... probably not nearly enough.
We ignore or even fear that which we cannot understand, the latter reaction the driving force behind the enormous hate and irrational prejudice that prevails in the world even today at a time when we should know much better. It's imperative that we seek to further understand Jesus' divine mercy, for it is through this mercy that we are offered the freedom to pursue everlasting life, the cornerstone and reason for our being on this Earth. Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said "we are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful". Amen. Galvanized by the glory of Easter Sunday, we now move on, basking in the glow of Jesus' Mercy. We must look to show mercy and receive it in equal doses.
....by His wounds you have been healed.
We must never forget the power of this gift, nor should we ever pass up the opportunity to share it through our words and far more importantly, our actions. In the coming weeks, the biblical passages from the Acts of the Apostles will provide us with examples of this mercy and faith in action. Each one of these men died spreading the faith and mercy of Jesus.
They eschewed violence for meaningful dialogue.
They bravely carried on even though they knew it would mean their demise in this world.
They accepted Jesus' mercy in forgiveness of their own faults.
As Paul was on the verge of his own death at the hands of his detractors, he summed up his turbulent life story of redemption and service to God by uttering in his final breath "I fought the good fight."
I fought the good fight. What better way is there to sum up one's time on this Earth (and to mean it) than that chosen by the greatest prophet of all?
May their examples fortify us as we seek to live lives consistent with that of a merciful, faith-filled disciple of Jesus.