Editor's note: I do not write down my homilies. I still find public speaking unnerving and that nervousness makes my dyslexia kick into higher gear. Hence this will be along the same lines as what was said this morning.
One of the most powerful parables in the Gospels is the parable of the Prodigal Son. The young man, in the beginning of the parable, is an insolent, and quite frankly vile hubris filled young man. IN asking for an inheritance with dad still among the living, he is wishing his dad dead. He takes this ill gotten inheritance and lives a life contrary to every iota of his heritage and in doing so severs his familial bonds. This young man is a man without redemption in the day and age of Jesus...a truly despicable character. He becomes the source of his own ruin. The early listener would have taken great satisfaction in the son's dismal failure and abject poverty. Good! The little jerk deserves what he gets!
However, the image given of the father is quite different. We are given a picture of a dad heart broken by his son's rejection. He doesn't go after his son; he lets him abide by his foolish choice. However, he scans the horizon awaiting the silhouette of this ingrate to become visible. He awaits not to chastise, condemn, and reject this wayward son...even though the son fully deserves such. He longs to forgive and restore his son back to the safety of the home. When the sons does come home, an emaciated, smelly, filthy, shell of the young man who left, the father makes good on his desire and fulfills his hope to forgive. This disposition is mercy. The desire to approach the faults and failings of others with forgiveness and not fury is mercy.
This is what we focus upon on this Divine Mercy Sunday. Mercy is the disposition God has towards us...a deep desire born of love to show us forgiveness if should so seek it. A week after celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus, we focus on this great mystery by reflecting on the mercy which gives life to this. God did not send His only Son into human history at a juncture when humanity had gotten its act together or finally proved worthy of such a grand gift. No, St Paul reminds us that it while we were still sinners that the Father sends His Son in our midst...not because we had made amends for our sins, but so that amendment could be made. Mercy is God's default position to our sin.
Look at the Gospel for today. It is late in the day of the Resurrection. Peter and John have seen the empty tomb. So, where are they? In the streets of Jerusalem proclaiming such a wonderful thing? No. Locked away in fear in the upper room. I can only imagine what they were thinking. If Jesus did rise from the dead..would he be bothered with them? If He did show up, what level of scathing disappointment would be leveled against the? Would Jesus berate them for their cowardice and infidelity? The last time they saw him they abandoned him to the Temple guard. Peter, even though warned he would, denies even knowing Jesus three time. I wonder what huge disappointments they must have felt like. Yet when Jesus does appear, what is His first words? "Peace be with you."
"Peace be with you." Jesus opted for mercy in dealing with these all too human disciples of His. Then he breathes on the and gives them the Holy Spirit saying, "Who's sins you forgive are forgiven and who's sins you retain are retained." The very first actions of Christ is to institute a ministry by which his followers from then on would be able to experience His mercy concretely from that time on...he institutes the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He so desires to be merciful, that he wants us to be able to concretely feel and understand that. His reaction to our sin is to want to forgive. We have to want to be forgiven. Even after Thomas's little blasphemous diatribe to bolster his disbelief, Jesus again wishes peace and then presents His wounds to Thomas so that Thomas no longer reside in disbelief. He offers Thomas redemption, not condemnation!
This is a such a strong contrast to the world, huh? The world is all about condemnation, judgement, and fury. Look at our society! We are a people fractured into so very many pieces, taught to be at war with one another. It is as if we have this plate of hate which we are to fill every day. That obnoxious co-worker...put em on the plate! That jerk at school, that teacher I dislike, that idiot who just cut me off...on the plate! Let's not stop there...no no no! Don't like people with different color skin that you? On the plate! How about those of different cultures, languages, countries...on the plate! How about those who do not share the same exact ideology as me? Shall I hate conservatives or liberals today? How about republicans or democrats? How about this actor or that singer? Let's keep piling up that plate until the top has a snow cap on it! And every single person on that plate...may he Lord help you (or not...that'll be fine) if anyone on that plate messes up...because we'll string them up like a pinata and bash the tar out of them! We'll call ourselves prophetic, speaking truth to power! What an awful burden we bring on ourselves with such a plate of hate! But let me tell you what makes up that plate we pile all this on...it's a dirty little secret...that plate is constructed of our own self-hatred. If I look in the mirror and ,despite what I say for show, deep down see nothing but a collection of errors, faults and sins...it will be how I see everyone else. This isn't what Christ came to give us...it what he came to relieve us from! Such attitudes only serve to divide and despoil. Such an attitude is not the work of Jesus, but the work of the devil!
Not such is our calling! We celebrate that we are beneficiaries of God's mercy and hence are to be ambassadors of God's mercy. Mercy has a wonderful ability to call those in fear and doubt into a new life. Mercy binds us as children of the same Father who is generous with His love and mercy. Mercy does not mean we ignore sin, only that we chose to confront sin (both ours and others) with mercy and not condemnation. The Divine Mercy of God prompts us to be a stark contrast to the relentless judgment and condemnation of the world. This has to have concrete results in our life! Not only can we not load up the plates of hate...no...we seek the grace of God to pulverize them into dust. I have noticed that the more I see myself as called to seek mercy in my life through the sacrament of Reconciliation, the more freely I give of this same gift. I am far from a finished product, but I have made a choice to replace the bitterness and anger of judgement with selflessness and forgiveness as a marked goal for the rest of my days. Stay close to this sacrament...it is a bolster and a friend...an avenue for the man in the mirror to experience the mercy of God on a regular basis. Mercy should flow as steadily and mightily as the waters of the Mississippi!
Finally, mercy enables us to get to the task at hand, just as it did for the disciples. The task at hand as SS John XXIII and John Paul II reminded us, is the evangelization of the world. This can only be done through the works and grace of mercy! As I challenged you on Easter Sunday, who will you be an ambassador of God's mercy to? Who will be drawn to a deeper knowledge of Christ and desired relationship because of your witness? This, for the Christian, is not a nice hobby should one choose to take it up, it is an absolute core value! Let me make a suggestion, perhaps the people heaped up on the plates of hate should be the first to whom we reach out for. Remember, we are children of the same heavenly Father, thus making us a family...not in any trite or feel good way...but in actuality. AS I will say time and time again over this year...we need to change how we see a parish. We are not a business, a country club, or a bank. The Scriptures refer to God's holy people almost exclusively in familial terms. Let us use the grace of God that this parish may be a safe haven for the searching and disenfranchised. Let all find a home in our parish...knowing that here at St Clement, we are much more concerned with a person's future and not about their past. Let them know that here at St. Clement we do not see them as a collection of mistakes and failings, but a child of God, perhaps hidden under layers of dirt and gunk...but a child of God to be brought in and restored to full dignity. This parish is to fulfill the call to evangelization that St. John Paul II called for in our own lifetimes...and this, my brothers and sisters, can only be done by generous doses of Divine Mercy.
Love and blessings, Wendy C. May God bless all of you! You are like family to me...I send my love and prayers!
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