The Lord’s gift to us is His peace. It is part and parcel of the very nature of God as the Divine Mercy. Sunday, we celebrated that Divine Mercy in a special way as we concluded the Easter Octave.
Observed on the second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday was established in 2000 by St. John Paul II during his canonization of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a 20th-century Polish mystic. As a Sister of Our Lady of Mercy, the unassuming saint shared how she enjoyed numerous visions in which Christ urged her to promote devotion to his mercy through various prayers, an annual feast, and an image featuring rays of blood and water issuing from his heart.
Mercy has become quite the catchphrase today. God bless the daughters of Venerable Catherine McAuley, our religious Sisters of Mercy.
Did you ever notice the cross that’s worn by our religious Sisters of Mercy? The Mercy cross is a simple cross made of black wood on a simple black cord. In the center of the cross, in the midst of the black, is a smaller white cross. When I asked one of the sisters to explain it to me, she mentioned that the white represents God’s mercy in the midst of the black, which signifies the misery of humanity. The mercy of God in the midst of humanity’s misery — that is the place where the Lord Jesus, who is mercy-made flesh, is, and no more so than when he appears in his gloriously risen body.
What, then, is mercy? Mercy is the ability to see all with the eyes of Christ. It is recognizing all of us are creatures in the loving hand of the creator; it is recognizing the need in each and every one of us for the loving embrace of God.
In Hebrew, a word that corresponds to mercy is “hesed,” God’s loving kindness, his faithfulness. It is part of God’s very nature, and it is the foundation of the Covenant. When we show mercy to others, we participate in the very life of God. Seeing with the eyes of mercy means giving practical assistance to all those in need.
The Lord’s gift is peace. It is divine mercy. How can we show mercy to all we encounter? How can we, each in our own vocations — clergy, religious, laity, and states in life, clerical, consecrated, married, or single — be the mercy of God in the misery of mankind?
We can start by examining ourselves, freeing ourselves from any and all grudges, past hurts, and resentments. This is not an easy process and, indeed, might not even be possible.
Can we recognize that we have been hurt by others? Can we recognize our hurt, which we can carry around with us for years unless we let it go — addressing it with the ones who have hurt us, if possible? Or, at least acknowledge it to ourselves when addressing them is not possible?
Can we acknowledge that we have hurt others, most of the time inadvertently perhaps, but we have caused hurt nonetheless, and deal with the fact that we need mercy and forgiveness too?
Four little words: “Peace be with you.” Venerable Catherine McAuley wrote: “The simplest and most practical lesson I know … is to resolve to be good today, but better tomorrow. Let us take one day only in hand at a time, merely making a resolve for tomorrow, thus we may hope to get on taking short, careful steps, not great strides.”
Continue to take those short, careful steps, practically seeing Christ and then being Christ to one another. This is the way of mercy.