Today is Divine Mercy Sunday and we had a visiting priest preside at Mass at Our Lady or Lourdes. I found much to ponder in his sermon.
The priest first made the point that we can’t really talk about mercy without first talking about sin. I loved his definition of sin as lack of love. Sin, he suggested, is choosing not to act in a loving way (or to act in a non-loving way) to others or to God.
He suggested that a common response to our failings is to find some excuse. (As a middle school chaplain, he had some great examples of excuses his students come up with.) The problem is finding excuses and justifications for our sins is that we loser out on mercy. Only when we stand before God without excuse, without justification, acknowledging our sinfulness can we be open to mercy. When we do so stand before God, we discover that God truly is all merciful and will forgive all of our wrongs.
What really struck me was the conjunction of two things he said. First, that we are meant not only to receive mercy, but to then share that mercy. (And one of the spiritual acts of mercy is forgiving injuries.) Second, that many people have a tough time believing in God’s mercy because they have not experience mercy from others.
As I listened to the second, the recognition arose in me that means that my failure to forgive another contributes to their inability to believe in the mercy of God. How’s that for a sense of responsibility: My withholding forgiveness is not something that has consequences only for me, but it hinders another’s ability to experience God’s love.
Whose belief in God’s mercy might you be hindering?