by John Fitzgerald
POPE FRANCIS ADDRESSED the question of why he called for a Jubilee Year of Mercy in his homily for First Vespers for Divine Mercy Sunday:
“Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.
“May the Mother of God open our eyes, so that we may comprehend the task to which we have been called; and may she obtain for us the grace to experience this Jubilee of Mercy as faithful and fruitful witnesses of Christ.”
The Jubilee Year of Mercy will end later this year on Nov. 20.
You might be thinking to yourself: Why can’t I get into the mercy spirit? Why do I pray for God’s mercy on Sunday morning, but feel the same as I did the day before? When God bestows His mercy He seems to pass over me. Am I that bad that I don’t deserve His mercy?
The answer is in the question. We tend to view ourselves as not worthy. Not worthy because we believe we have offended God and He has no mercy for us. Also, many of us feel a sense of blame for who we are.
We constantly chide ourselves: I should have finished my education; I should be more tolerant of those different from me; I would not be this obese if I had only eaten the way “normal” people eat; I should not have taken that first drink; I should spend less time at work and more time with my children. By now, I guess you get the idea.
The hallmark of mercy is forgiveness. Forgiveness frees us from negative thoughts, and we are no longer held back, locked in a situation that will not let us move on. Not forgiving ourselves is a reason we don’t understand and take full advantage of God’s mercy.
A number of years ago, the borough president of Queens, Donald Manes, got caught taking bribes from people who wanted favors from the borough president’s office. An investigation was initiated. During the investigation, Manes killed himself. One can only surmise that his suicide could have been prevented if he could have forgiven himself and accepted God’s mercy. Neither man nor God would have judged his actions as severely as he did.
If you are someone who cannot forgive yourself, this is not another issue to add onto the guilt. I am not going to tell you that you only have a couple of months left for God’s mercy. What I will tell you is that God’s mercy is free. You need to do nothing but accept it, and it is eternal.
Give yourself the greatest gift you can: take a moment to realize you are not perfect. Look in the mirror to see God’s creation and be grateful. Consider that God not only loves you, but also is Love. As God is Love, He is also divine. When we learn to forgive and love ourselves, we learn to forgive and love others – and we get a feel for what divinity truly is.
As long as you hold on to the notion that you are beyond God’s mercy, you will never experience it, even though it has been given to you.
John Fitzgerald is a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights. He was commissioned as a lay leader this year by the diocesan Pastoral Institute.