Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
When Our Lord wanted there to be a special feast in honour of the Most Blessed Sacrament, He inspired a Belgian canoness, St Juliana of Liège, to make a petition and bring it to the knowledge of the universal Church in the 12th century. When He desired a feast dedicated to His Sacred Heart, He appeared to a French nun, St Margaret Mary in the 17th century. In both cases, it was a matter of adding a new feast into the liturgical cycle which would underline a particular aspect of Divine Revelation that had always been held by the Church but which those times needed in a special way. In the 20th century, Our Lord appeared to Polish nun, St Faustina Kowalska, and invited her to share with the world His great desire that the Church turn to His merciful love as a last resort before the coming chastisement. These private revelations resulted in, not the institution of a new feast, but rather, the insertion of special prayers right in the heart of the liturgical year, namely between Good Friday and the Octave Sunday of Easter, that is today, which He wanted to be a great celebration in honour of His infinite mercy.
A first question we need to ask ourselves is: what is mercy? Strictly speaking, mercy is love which stoops down to help one who is miserable, and this it does by allowing its heart to be touched. The Latin word misericordia literally means to feel in one’s heart the wretchedness of another. God, who is eternal love, began to show mercy when He brought other beings into existence through creation. God’s mercy is from all eternity, in the sense that, He always had us in mind, even though it was only at a given moment that time began and that His mercy was made manifest. It is made manifest in that God wants to draw us out of our misery, out of our nothingness, out of our sinfulness. This of course requires on our part that we acknowledge our need for His mercy. This is perhaps the very reason for which Our Lord has so much insisted on mercy in the last century. To acknowledge this divine attribute is to acknowledge one’s need for it. It is to acknowledge and confess one’s sinfulness.
Now another question arises. In our world, how can we convince souls of the need to ask for mercy? It’s not an easy task when all is well. A society with no other god but its technological prowess is little inclined to seek or have mercy, because for it everything is a matter for wits and application. We don’t need answers from religion, for we find them on our computers and in our mathematical equations and laboratories. Perhaps this is the very reason the Lord has allowed the world to succumb to an invisible virus it cannot control. It is a salutary reminder of our smallness, of our frailty, of our need for God.
That is only the first step. Then we need to help those who arrive at that conclusion to go a step further, namely to admitting its moral failures which are the cause of this present chastisement. When the technology goes wrong, when lives and money are lost, people start to think. But they need to be taken further down that path of reflexion. St Thomas Aquinas gives us a tool for doing just that. He says that “sin is nothing else than to stray from what is according to our nature” (Summa theologiae, Ia IIae, 109, 8).
We have strayed from what is according to nature in so many realms in the past century. It is not according to nature to kill babies in their mother’s womb; it is not according to nature to kill elderly and handicapped people deemed useless to society; it is not according to nature for two people of the same sex to marry; it is not according to nature to pretend that one’s sex is a matter of choice; it is not according to nature to obstruct the natural process of procreation by using contraception; it is not according to nature to manipulate embryos or to seek fertilisation outside of the marital act; it is not according to nature for the sexual powers to be used in any other context that that of the marital embrace of husband and wife which remains open to life; it is not according to nature to falsely accuse someone of a crime he did not commit; it is not according to nature to believe such accusations without proof of their veracity. The list could go on and on, but we need to add one that is much more important than all the others: it is not according to nature to worship any god but the true God. And there is only one true God, and only one Lord, Jesus Christ.
The victory that overcomes the world, our faith in Jesus, is also the victory that teaches us to rediscover the harmony that exists between our God-given nature and God’s revelation. And it is only be rediscovering this that humanity has any hope. Abandoned to its own devices, it will inevitably hand itself over to those who seek to enslave it, who in turn are already slaves of Lucifer. But freedom, true freedom, has been brought to us by the Son of God, and it is there for the asking to those who humble themselves and ask for mercy.
Let us, my dear friends, contemplate the loving mercy of God for us, and let us find therein the courage to speak out against evil, as He did and as He does. God never compromises with evil. He never accepts evil or sin in any form. Let us ask for the grace to take seriously God’s intervention in our history, to be conscious that when He speaks through His Son He intends for us to listen and to obey, and that if we do not, there will be grave consequences for each of us and for all humanity. Let us pray that the Church may rediscover her God-given role of leading humanity, instead of being led by humanity. May Divine Mercy be poured out upon us all today so that once again the sources of that Mercy may be made available to the Catholic people through the sacraments and through the living presence of the Risen Christ in our churches.
If God has had mercy on us, we must have mercy on one another. The Church teaches that there are 7 corporal works of mercy: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead; and 7 spiritual works of mercy: counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear wrongs patiently, pray for the living and the dead.
At the moment, we may be limited in our capacity to perform the corporal works of mercy, but the spiritual ones are always possible. Instructing the ignorant and admonishing sinners are perhaps the two which are most needed at this time. There is so much ignorance in spiritual matters, even in the Church, that it is appalling. There are so few who realise the gravity of sin because they have never been told. It is an act of mercy, by which we imitate God Himself, when we take the time to explain things to others, when we admonish a sinner that the path they are taking will end in eternal misery if they do not repent.
If we learn to show mercy in that way, we will inherit the reward promised to the merciful: Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy.