By Cliff Garvey
At the dawn of the new millennium, Pope John Paul II declared that the Second Sunday of Easter should be celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. Since then, God’s holy family, the Lord’s faithful people, have rallied around the devotion to this feast, to the image of the Merciful and Risen Jesus who appeared in a vision to Saint Faustina, and to the chaplet that begs God’s mercy for us and for the whole world.
Why? Why does this devotion call so many people? What can we learn from it’s popularity? How can we, as disciples, show God’s love and mercy to our sick and suffering planet? Not surprisingly, Pope Francis can help us to better understand our longing for divine mercy; and our obligation to share it with everyone in our lives. The Holy Father says: “Let us never forget that mercy is the keystone to the life of faith and the concrete way through which we make visible the Resurrection of Jesus (4-23-17).”
In this way, mercy is not simply about the forgiveness of sins and the remission of punishment. Mercy is instead about basic kindness, goodness, and generosity. Mercy is about the Golden Rule, doing the right thing, taking care of each other, and being good stewards of our common home. Mercy is the core ingredient of the love that we show to our families and friends; the fellowship that we share with our neighbors and colleagues; and the charity that we give to the lost, the lonely, and the left behind.
Pope Francis also says: “Mercy makes us understand that violence, resentment, and revenge have no meaning; that the first victim is whoever lives these sentiments because it deprives them of their own dignity (4-25-17).” We can see this hard truth in action whenever we watch cable news or scroll through a social media feed. When we engage in bigotry, bitterness, division, gossip, and scandalmongering, we exchange mercy for meanness. We become agents of both destruction and self-destruction. We fail to live the Gospel in all that we think, say, and do. We fail to share God’s love in our homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods. And we fail to build up the church and the world around us at a time when so many seem so intent on tearing it all down.
For some among us, our longing for Divine Mercy may involve a daily devotion at home or in a church. But for all of us, our true devotion should not be to a chaplet or a sacred image. Our true devotion should be praying for the grace and courage to become more faithful disciples and more faith-filled instruments of God’s love, peace, and mercy. We should practice what we preach. We should seek truth, beauty, and goodness. We should see the Risen Jesus in all people, in all situations, and in all things created by God’s loving hand.
We should respect all people regardless of their race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or life experience. We should reach out to the poor, the sick, the unwanted, and the brokenhearted. We should rise above the dark shadows of anger, bitterness, and division that creep into our lives, into our churches, and into our communities. Above all, we should love God and love others without counting the cost.
On April 4, 1968, a minister of God’s love and a prophetic voice for God’s mercy was brutally murdered in broad daylight. More than five decades later, the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us to consider and reconsider how we treat each other during difficult days and troubled times. Dr. King once wrote: “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963)?”
What better time to become extremists for love? What better time to renew our devotion to sharing God’s mercy? What better time to pray with our whole heart: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world!” Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us! Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us! Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
About the Author & Presenter
Cliff Garvey is a co-founder of the Assisi Project. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Saint John Seminary College, and the Catholic University of America. Cliff is a writer, spiritual director, retreat leader, and university lecturer. He also serves as Associate Minister of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in Massachusetts where his ministry focuses on adult faith formation. Thank you for listening to Living Mercy, Parts 1 & 2. The Assisi Project Podcast is produced by the Assisi Project, Inc. For more information about the Assisi Project: A Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit and our ministries for adults of all ages and backgrounds, please contact Cliff at email@example.com. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. May the Lord give you peace!
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with friends and followers throughout the world. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal or AmazonSmile (see links below); or by sending a tax-deductible donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project, please contact Cliff Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. May the Lord give you peace!
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