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Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Philippa Martyr: Divine Mercy Sunday is a great time to be flooded with grace

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Divine Mercy Sunday is a great time to be flooded with grace so that our crabby little souls can expand and become young again.

The mercy of God is a free gift to all, especially today. That’s right—amnesty for everything you’re sorry for, wiped away in sacramental confession, and all the purgatorial debt cleared.

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This should be met with a stampede of happy souls running as fast as they can to their nearest confessional and Sunday Mass. And yet this is not the case.

There are two groups of people who are immune to this outpouring of the mercy of God. One is the group who have never sinned—or at least, never really sinned.

They haven’t been to confession for years, because why bother? It’s just as easy to simply say sorry to God for the very rare occasions you might have been slightly less-than.

Confession is now an amusing story from their childhood. They also tell you about how they set fire to their First Holy Communion veil (women) or swigged altar wine behind the priest’s back (men).

God can’t do anything with these people. Their hearts are set like stone, paralysed by the Gorgon of their own splendidness. You can’t receive God’s mercy if you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong.

The other group are the ones who will tell you firmly that they don’t believe we should celebrate a feast of Divine Mercy, and refuse to practice the devotion.

Their reasons for this are that the apparitions were condemned once, and it’s a feast introduced by a person they often call “Pope Wojtila” rather than “St John Paul II” like the rest of us.

They’ll also tell you why God’s justice is more important than his mercy. It’s hi s justice we should be looking out for, because if that doesn’t scare us into repentance, nothing will.

My response to this is always the same: “Oh, what a shame!” But I also respect their free choice to ignore the whole thing when they turn up to Mass this Sunday.

You don’t have to believe in the Divine Mercy apparitions or read the book; they are private revelations. You also don’t have to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet to get to Heaven.

God doesn’t place impositions from private revelations like this on our free will (despite what your apparition-loving Catholic friend told you). The things we are required to believe as Catholics are relatively few.

But God can work with this second group of people, because they’re just scared. Once they stop being scared, I’m sure they will embrace this feast like mad.

I did a BibleGateway search with the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible. There are 115 Old Testament references to justice, compared to just 15 in the New Testament.

But there are 71 Old Testament references to mercy, compared to 55 in the New Testament. Most of these were positive (rather than saying “no mercy”).

The Book of Psalms has the most Old Testament references to mercy (29 in the NIV). In the New Testament, it’s Romans (11 references).

If the NIV isn’t good enough for you, there’s almost twice that much mercy in the Douay-Rheims. But sadly, there are still Christians who prefer the scarier end of the Bible.

You should always believe in the mercy of God. There’s also nothing wrong with hoping for it and appealing to it as often as you like—it shows that you trust in him.

We should also believe in God’s justice. But thankfully, God’s justice is not our justice (Isaiah 55:8-9).

People who fear God’s justice and struggle to accept His mercy have usually had rough lives. They have felt “justice” in its most unpleasant form.

They have almost never received mercy from those around them. They certainly don’t know how to show it to others.

They think of God’s justice as a combination of all their bad experiences, and see it as his last word. And yet scripture tells us otherwise.

We can’t imagine what the mercy of God is unless we’ve already experienced it from other human beings. Perhaps this is why Jesus tells us that the merciful are blessed, because they have the capacity to receive mercy themselves.

They can then show it to other people, and help to free them in turn. And remember that if God shows you mercy, he might also show mercy to really awful people, rather than giving them what they so richly deserve.

Now there’s a thought.

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