MOSAIC Spring 2016 - Page 11

Forever Grateful for MERCY Mercy is totally unmerited but must lead to repentance and change of life. Dr. Ralph Martin W e certainly have been hearing a lot about mercy in recent years. It began with a grassroots movement of people all over the world who have been inspired by the revelations Jesus made to And, of course, this grassroots movement was given a powerful impetus when St. John Paul II canonized St. Faustina and instituted a major liturgical feast on the first Sunday after Easter, now called Divine Mercy Sunday. When Pope Francis was elected, another great impetus was given to the emphasis on mercy. Pope Francis often talks about mercy, exhorting us to always “lead with mercy” in all our actions. He declared the time between the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2015 and the Feast of Christ the King just before Advent of 2016 as a Jubilee Year of Mercy. What Does Scripture Say? On the popular level, though, there is seldom a clear understanding of what mercy really is and what kind of response to mercy is necessary for it to be effective in our lives. For example, when the word mercy is spoken, many associations can come to mind: second chances, overlooking sins, not being legalistic, the list could go on. While all of these could be seen the Polish mystic St. Faustina Kowalska about the greatness of God’s mercy. It is hard to find a church these days that doesn’t have an image of the Divine Mercy displayed somewhere. as related to a proper understanding of mercy, greater clarity would be helpful if we are really to benefit from this emphasis—and not be deceived about what mercy really is. So, where do we get our best understanding of mercy? God reveals it to us in Sacred Scripture. There is a striking passage in the first letter of John that tells us from where we get our understanding of love. As we shall see, mercy is really a dimension of love: “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (9-10). It is from contemplating his love for us that we come to understand what true love and true mercy are. Another scripture passage that Pope Francis and St. John Paul II have used to introduce their most important writings on mercy is Ephesians 2:1-10. There are amazing things here. You were dead because of your sins and offenses, as you gave allegiance to the present age and to the prince of the air, that spirit who is even now at work among the rebellious. All of us were once of their company; we lived at the level of the flesh, following every whim and fancy, and so by nature deserved God’s wrath like the rest. But God is rich in mercy; because of his great love for us he brought us to life with Christ when we were dead in sin. By this favor you were saved. . . . This is not your own doing, it is God’s gift; neither is it a reward for anything you have accomplished, so let no one pride himself on it. This passage gets us to the very heart of the Gospel. Here is where we discover the essential characteristic of mercy: It is totally unmerited! It is not given as a reward for anything. It is not given because we have become worthy of it. It is not given because we have earned it—just the opposite. It is given just because God has decided 9