Recently one of the well-known theologians has said: “It’s been said that the beauty will save the world (F. Dostoevsky). But we all know that beauty can also lead to ruin. There is only one thing that can save the world – it is mercy.”
Why? Why can mercy save the world? Why did Christ, in his revelations to St Faustina, call His mercy the last re- sort, “the last hope for salvation?” And why did He say that if we do not adore His mercy, we will perish for all eternity? (Diary 965).
What is Divine Mercy? St John Paul II wrote that mercy is love’s middle name. We are given a good hint of what mercy is, it can be found in the catechesis of Fr Raniero Cantalamessa spoken previously on Good Friday in the Vatican:
“God is the one who not only has mercy but is mercy. This bold assertion is based on the fact that ‘God is love’, as written in St John’s Gospel. However, it is only in the Trinity, that God is love without being mercy. The Father’s loving of the Son is not a grace or a concession, it is a necessity; the Father needs to love in order to exist as Father. The Son loving the Father is not a mercy or grace; it is a necessity even though it occurs with the utmost freedom; the Son needs to be loved and to love in order to be the Son. The same can be said about the Holy Spirit who is love as a person.
It is when God creates the world and frees human beings in it, that love ceases for God to be nature and becomes a grace. This love is a free con- cession; it is both grace and mercy. The sin of human beings does not change the nature of this love but causes it to make a qualitative leap: mercy as a gift now becomes mercy as forgive- ness. Love goes from being a simple gift to become a suffering love because God suffers when his love is rejected. ‘The LORD has spoken: “Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me” (Is 1:2). Just ask the many fathers and mothers who have experienced their children’s rejection if it does not cause suffering – and one of the most intense sufferings in life.”
So, mercy is the love of God, which created man. Mercy is a gift and after our sin it becomes forgiveness. God, when revealed to Moses, proclaimed of Himself; “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wicked- ness, rebellion and sin” (Ex 34, 6).
Christ, the incarnation of God’s mercy, showed it in two parables: about the merciful Father and the Good Samaritan. The first one is well- known to us all whereas we have certain difficulties with the second one. We often compare ourselves to the Good Samaritan, asking ourselves:
“Could I be as good as he was? What would I do in a similar situation? Would I stop to help a naked injured person?” But the problem is that we identify with the wrong character! I’m not the Good Samaritan. It is me who was assaulted, beaten, robbed and abandoned half-dead on the road. The Good Samaritan is Jesus! I am the one who lies on the road…
The parable says that the robbed man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, this information has a deeply symbolic meaning for us. Jerusalem was a religious centre, the city of God’s presence, the holy city. The man was going away from Jerusalem, it means he was going away from God, he was beginning to sink into a sin. He was going to Jericho. The way from Jerusalem to Jericho leads steeply down. In his sin the man goes lower and lower and eventually he falls into depression (Jericho is one of the lowest-lying cities in the world, 270 metres below the sea level).
A sin seems attractive and alluring only at the beginning. The lower the man descends into his sin; he deprives himself of his dignity. The man from the parable lies on the road completely naked – it symbolizes that a sin deprives us freedom and makes us slaves. For the ancient people this scene was even an alter server. But in adolescence I fell into the sin of impurity, the sin of masturbation. I couldn’t get rid of it. I felt ashamed to go to confession and completely stopped altogether. Then I stopped attending the Mass thinking that it’s pointless if I can’t receive Holy Communion. I also stopped praying. This way I ‘divorced’ God and the Church. I played a role of a liberated man who laughed at religious superstition. After a few years I met a beautiful girl. I wanted to marry her but, as a deeply religious woman, she gave a condition: if we were to get married, it could be only in the church. Because I loved her, I agreed. So I went to a confession, told a priest for several years I no longer attended confession, I confessed two or three sins and waited for absolution. But this very old priest said to me: “OK, but listen – what about God? What about God in your heart?” I was a little annoyed, but eventually he gave me absolution.
Later it turned out that the very priest celebrated our wedding Mass. And when the moment of the Lord’s Prayer came, he said: “Listen every- body, and particularly you, the newlyweds. In the Book of Hosea there is a passage, in which God says ‘I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them’ (Hosea 11:4). Now I ask you, just try to say the Lord’s Prayer with a feeling that God is lifting you to His cheek. He re- ally loves you and wants to lead you through life”. And then something strange happened to my heart, I be- came aware that it was me who was far from God, neglecting Him, mocking faith but He never abandoned me, He was always close… I started to cry. After the Mass, I approached the priest and asked for confession. This time it was a completely different confession than the previous one because I met God the Father, my Father, a merciful and forgiving Father who wishes to make me happy.
Why is there such an alienation from religion and faith of a mod- ern man? The problem is always in the image of God we carry in our hearts. If you want to check it, you need to ask a simple question “What are the very first and spontaneous ideas, words and feelings do I experience when I say these words from the Lord’s Prayer ‘Thy will be done’”?
So many people generally say these words with their heads bent down in resignation inwardly, preparing them- selves for the worst. People unconsciously link God’s will to everything that is unpleasant and painful, to what can be seen as somehow destroying an individual’s freedom and development. It is so me what as though God were the enemy of every celebration, joy and pleasure – a severe inquisitor-God.
Man has his lusts, he desires pleasures, power, money, women and what other people have. In this context God appears to him as the one who bothers, disturbs, who still repeats “You do this, and you should not do that”. Certainly, it is not a love that wants happiness of man. The will of God appears rather as some- thing hostile, unfriendly – and this idea of God as a rival to man was instilled into the hearts of Adam and Eve by the snake. Some contemporary thinkers keep the idea alive, for example Satan, who said: “Where God is born, man dies”.
There is one criterion which helps to recognize if we truly believed that God is forgiving Mercy. Let us think of the parable of the Unmerciful Servant. He didn’t accept, he didn’t believe deeply in his heart the gift of forgiveness offered to him by his master. He went out in the street and began to choke his debtor.
We cannot justify ourselves in front of God. Christ did that for us. If we do not accept His gift and grace, we will always judge others, criticize them, oppress them and demand compensation. We’ll never gain peace and joy.
Pope Francis said: “If we do not enter into the space of mercy, we will never escape from the spiral of evil. The evil one is clever and deludes us into thinking that with our human justice we can save ourselves and save the world! In reality, only the justice of God can save us!”
A woman, who confessed her heavy sins after a several years, said: “It doesn’t even come to my mind to speak badly of others because I know what The Lord has brought me out from.”
Let us approach near to the throne of mercy. Let us open our wounds before Him and allow Him to heal them, to flood them with the oil of His forgiveness. Let us allow Him to robe us with new clothes – let us allow Him to give us new eyes, new tongues, new ears. Immerse in the ocean of God’s mercy ourselves, but also our families and the whole world because it seems it plunges more and more into the abyss of evil and hatred.
Fr Krzysztof Poswiata CSMA