Most of us don’t deserve the mercy God gives us. The punishment we deserve far outweighs the mercy we receive for our sins.
We are called to imitate Christ and show mercy to others, regardless of how much someone has wronged us. Yet, we hand out punishment easily, making our mercy a different story from God’s.
Years ago, someone I considered a good friend and mentor made a promise to me that I really wanted. Several years later, the promise turned out to be a lie. I became enraged. I carried hate and anger with me for several years. It consumed me and was my reason to be mean and nasty to others. I felt betrayed and I wanted everyone to know it and also feel the pain.
Through God’s grace, I eventually recognized my brokenness. I realized I needed to change and needed God’s help to do so. God opened my eyes to show me that this person I was angry with was actually a gift and not a burden for me to carry around. I felt terrible and ashamed of all the terrible things I said to my friend. I was ashamed of how I treated others as a result of my anger
I went to the sacrament of reconciliation. I asked for and received God’s mercy and forgiveness. And, it was life-changing. My friend lives out of town, but God’s grace continued. He came back to St. Louis for a visit and we were able to meet. We both showed each other mercy and renewed our friendship.
There is a lot of hatred and anger in the world right now. Many are searching for justice and equality. Maybe we need to balance the equation with mercy and compassion.
We are one Body of Christ. We are a Church of sinners and saints. We have a shared responsibility to help each other in this life so that we can all share in God’s glory in the next.
As Catholics, we have plenty of gems in the treasure chest of mercy:
• “Our Father” — most of us pray this prayer multiple times a day. We pray, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
• Chaplet of Divine Mercy — as revealed to St. Faustina by Jesus, the prayers of mercy help us to obtain mercy, to trust in Christ’s mercy and to show mercy to others.
• Beatitudes — “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
• Holy Mass — several times throughout Mass, we specifically ask for mercy in our prayers: Lord Have Mercy, Glory to God in the Highest and Lamb of God.
• Reconciliation — through the sacrament our sins are forgiven, we receive God’s love and mercy, and we become “right” with God, our relationship is reconciled.
God teaches us that for our sins to be forgiven, we must also forgive those who’ve hurt us. When hate is in our hearts, there’s no room for God’s love. How can we expect God to be merciful if we refuse to be merciful? Forgiveness is often easier said than done. Only God can give us the strength to do it through prayer.
Here’s a suggestion. Before we get together to meet on things that divide us, maybe we should spend time together, to pray for and with each other in the sacraments of reconciliation and Holy Mass, and ask for God’s mercy and guidance. It has been said that you can’t give what you don’t have. Maybe we need to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness before we can give it to others. Maybe we need to change before we can expect others to change. Maybe we all need to become better stewards of the gift of mercy.
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County. He can be reached at (314) 792-7215 or [email protected]