By Rev. Fr. John Damian Adizie, OCD
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. Today, we are reaping the dividends of Easter. One of the reasons why our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died was for the remission of sin. At the last Supper He said, “Take this, all of you and drink from it, 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28). Mercy, or if you like, the forgiveness of sin, is indeed the essence of Easter! That is why first Sunday after Easter is set aside as Divine Mercy Sunday. Today happens to be the first Sunday after Easter. So, welcome to Divine Mercy Sunday!!!
Today, our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. Eight days after his resurrection Christ Jesus appeared to his apostles and said to them, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21-23). With this statement we have been empowered to forgive. We are the channel of God’s mercy. Through us (especially ordained ministers) people will experience the Mercy of God. According to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, any priest that cannot forgive cannot exercise the Sacrament of penance.
Forgiveness is the most powerful force on earth. It was the only weapon our Lord Jesus Christ used to bring the era of hostility to an end. It was this same weapon that he used to liberate his worst enemies, his executioners. At the peak of his suffering, he did not curse his executioners, he rather prayed for them, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgave and prayed for his executioners. He did not ask God to consume them with Holy Ghost fire, He pleaded for mercy upon them.
This is the most unusual thing that has ever happened in the history of humanity. Our world is full of hatred, cruelty and hostility. It is a world where people take pleasure in vengeance and violence. Most people even believe that the more wicked and hardened they are the more powerful and more human they are. It is a world were mercy is seen as an act of weakness. That is why most nations are building walls to express their might against others, Political leaders keep using hate speech to attack one another. It is a world where people are finding it very difficult to let go.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was the first human being to forgive his executioners. By forgiving his enemies Jesus proved to the world that He was not just an ordinary man. He was a leader with a difference! It takes a divine being to do what Jesus did. Hence, to sin is human but to forgive is divine.
Forgiveness is not just a divine attribute, it is also the most powerful force on earth. It is the only force that can pull down the wall of hostility. Forgiveness is not the expression of cowardice as many wrongly think. It is rather the attribute of the strong. “The weak, according to Mahatma Gandhi, can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” The weak express their weakness through wickedness while the strong express their might through forgiveness.
Sorry is among the liberating word, yet people find it very difficult to use. There is an adage says, “It takes a strong person to say sorry, and an even stronger person to forgive.” There is strength in forgiveness. The powerful ones are not those who oppress others but those who have the ability to forgive.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis sees revenge and the spirit of un-forgiveness as the worst thing that can happen to our world. It can even suffocate our world “Evil is familiar with its revenge, and if it is not interrupted it risks spreading and suffocating the whole world.” That is exactly what is happening in our world today. Our world is suffocating because people have refused to forgive and be forgiven. People are prone to take revenge than to forgive.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” That is why our Lord Jesus Christ told his followers, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” (Matthew 5:38-42). Revenge is barbaric and inhuman. It is destructive and oppressive. Whereas forgiveness is a channel of healing and the foundation of mutual co-existence.
How often are we expected to forgive our fellow human being? Peter once asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’
29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” The more forgive the more we are forgiven. He who does not forgive can never be forgiven.
Forgiveness is what distinguishes from the rest of the world: “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:46-48). Forgiveness is the only way that leads to perfection.
Child of God, as you celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, may God grant you mercy and divine reconciliation. May He restore peace in your family and in your nation and may God grant your deepest heart desire in Jesus name – Amen! HAPPY DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY!!!