April 2023 Allocutio

The Divine Mercy

By Fr. Paul Churchill

Guilt is a huge reality in life, one that afflicts us all. I can look back and see many things I did which offended, even if sometimes that had not been my intention, also admitting bad intent other times. I regret them now and hope that those I hurt were not too hurt. There is much scope in all our lives to beat ourselves. There are many depressed people, many in psychiatric care, many who have committed suicide, all over the guilt they experienced.

The Divine Mercy is about the antidote to going under due to guilt. The disciples had contributed to what happened to Our Lord by a sin we are so often guilty of: standing by and doing nothing, or by avoiding something that calls for our intervention. Thomas had clearly said to the others, “Let us all go and die with him if needs be”. Peter had said, “Even if all the others betray you I will not”. So they felt awful about what happened to Jesus and how they had not lifted a finger to help. And now came the reports of women who claimed they had seen him alive, women who had stood by the foot of the Cross. To the apostles it may have felt like being punished, he was dropping them from his team. They may even have felt the Risen Lord had every right to abandon them and turn elsewhere. Perhaps it was not only from the Jews they were hiding but from him, just as Adam and Eve had hidden from God in the Garden. They were in a state of utter confusion, their self-confidence knocked.

And now comes the great moment of mercy, the great moment of grace. For them and for us all. Because through everything that happens, no matter how bad, there is always a Resurrection element deeply embedded in it. Every event that befalls us or every dark event we contribute to has the potential to become something of great light. St. Paul got it right: where sin abounds there even more does grace abound. You see it in the life of so many saints who were dreadful sinners. You can see it in your own life as you grow and learn from your mistakes and become more balanced and mature. And above all you get to know it very deeply as God, with his love, forgives you any sin and encourages you to go on in life and make the best of your gifts.

That is what happened to these apostles. Jesus came to them through the locked doors which as I suggest they were also using to protect themselves from him. But he doesn’t come to wag fingers or give blistered ears. He comes with love in his heart, peace in his disposition. He uses the word Peace but this goes deeper than words. He holds to his original decision to choose them: Just as I was commissioned by my Father I am commissioning you to go to the whole world and bring the gift of forgiveness with you. Bring mercy, bring pardon, bring compassion, bring encouragement and tell everyone that no matter what has happened, no matter what has gone wrong, no matter how bad, they are not to lose heart. The good that God has sown will triumph and everyone, no matter what bad or wrong he has done, is to be told that God still has a place for them in his plans. “As the father sent me so am I sending you”.

To try and get a real sense of what this mercy is like imagine if you ask some man to paint your front room. You give him his instructions about the colour, about protecting the carpet etc. You come back to find the job sloppily done, the walls have streaks, the paint is the wrong colour, there are splashes of paint all around your carpet perimeter and in the centre of the room the tin of paint has been knocked over and the centre of your carpet is destroyed. Among your responses is that you will never ask him for anything again! But using this image what Our Lord effectively did is equivalent to going on to paint every other room. And he was proven right. Here we are today!

Our Lady was fully in tune with this. I am utterly struck by what she must have suffered with and after Jesus’ death. “Behold your son” is what Jesus said to her from the Cross referring to St. John. What a contrast he, the teenager, was to those other older disciples who had let Jesus down, despite their earlier brags. Must she herself not have felt badly let down by them? And yet after Easter we find her in the company of the very disciples who had so badly betrayed her son and she is praying with them and for them. It is a huge example for us all.

When God forgives us he wants us to forget the past and move on. That is what forgiveness and mercy is all about: giving life and letting a person move on so all that inner good put there by God will blossom and flourish and shine out. Listen to what God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked man but rather that he turn from his evil way and live.” If a person turns good let us rejoice, not condemn, or punish. What Our Lord wants is sincere sorrow. He saw that in the hearts of the stung disciples who were riddled with guilt. They still loved him. Is that not why Peter rushed to the tomb? And later he will ask Peter to reaffirm his love three times. He knew they had it in them to bear much fruit. And they did.

For some, if not all of us who may continue to carry wounds in us, habits, addictions and the like, let us not be discouraged either. Just hear this Risen Lord say, “Friend, do not let it stop you or discourage you. Just keep at what is good and keep turning to me for help. We’ll get there!” We must never ourselves be put off by our sins on the one hand nor demand perfection of others such that they would be put off coming to Jesus. One big temptation Satan uses: you are so bad don’t even bother turning to God. If Our Lord had waited till we were perfect he would never have come among us. As St. Paul said, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us”. And as Jesus said, “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest for your souls”. Let us all drink from the well of his merciful heart. Keep coming to Our Lord even when you think you are a hopeless case.

And let us turn to her who understood this so well from the start. She can obtain for us the help of the Holy Spirit who can perfect God’s grace in us and make it possible for us to do good that is locked up in us by our fears and anxieties. Oh Mary, conceived without sin pray for us who have recourse to thee. Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.