Quite often, after leading a parish mission, I am approached by someone who wants to spend time talking about a serious issue in their life. I remember the story of a teenager who was abused as a child and as a result, was very sexually active, abused drugs and alcohol, and was dating a much older man. She was clearly anxious and in tremendous pain. She knew that she was acting contrary to God’s will and had to make a major change in her life, a change that included the very painful decision to end a relationship with a man she had grown to love but who actively pursued an illicit and illegal relationship with her. She was scared but could not let go because she was afraid to trust God.
After encouraging her to seek God’s mercy and peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I said this to her, “Right now, there is a young man on his knees praying to meet someone like you. This is a young man who is willing to give his heart, his mind, his soul and his body to you and to only you, and to the children you will have together, for the rest of your life until your dead. That is a love worth waiting for because that is a love worth dying for.”
A love worth dying for. This is the depth of the love and mercy that God the Father has for us: His Son endured the cross, carrying the weight of our sins on his shoulders. In his tremendous suffering, He was allowed to experience alienation from God and endured the ultimate consequence of sin: death. But by His resurrection, Christ has conquered sin; he has triumphed over death and has shattered the gates of Hell. God’s love is so immense, His power so limitless and His embrace so tender and intimate, that Love Himself brings forth life.
When Jesus appeared to Saint Margaret Mary, He showed her His heart to demonstrate how much He loves us. He said to her, “Behold the heart that has loved so much and has been loved so little in return.” He is loved so little in return because we don’t truly believe in the love, the promise, and the mercy of God the Father.
Our Lord told Saint Faustina of the mercy He wants to give to the world, if only we will believe in His love. If we are honest with ourselves, we realize that we are often lukewarm at best. Sunday after Sunday we hear the Word of God and receive our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist and yet we walk away, for the most part, unchanged knowing full well that Christ is calling us to change our lives and become one with Him, which means we must reject popular opinion and the ways of the world. We allow ourselves just enough faith to be comfortable until that faith calls us to stand-up for the truth that makes us uncomfortable. Then, like the Apostles, we lock the doors of our minds and hearts, cowering in the fear of being rejected and unpopular. Each one of us has been set apart when we were consecrated to the Most Holy Trinity on the day of our baptism. We have been set-aside for a holy purpose. To do God’s work, we cannot think or act like everyone else; we are to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Jesus appears to His apostles and says, “Peace be with you” precisely because they were not at peace: they were afraid. Today, because we don’t trust in the God’s mercy, we keep Jesus at an arm’s distance so that our lives don’t have to change. We don’t want to let Jesus get too close because we know that when we do, His tender mercy will transform us.
It is at these times that we must take comfort in the Father’s endless mercy and be at peace without being afraid to be vulnerable before the Lord. The Holy Spirit breathed on the Apostles and they were given the authority to forgive sins — our sins. When we really know that our sins are forgiven, we have nothing to fear. If we truly believe in the promises of Our Lord, we can be at peace. We live in a day and age when the mercy of God is more necessary than ever before and as our Lord told Saint Paul, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” And because there is a great deal of sin in the world, the Lord provides an overwhelming abundance of grace that is available to us in the sacraments.
Sacraments are not just empty rituals; we don’t just go through the motions of coming to church and walk out unchanged. What happens in all of the sacraments, and especially at Mass and in the sacrament of Reconciliation, are realities more profound and powerful than anything we can ever hope to experience in this world. The worst sin that we could ever commit is like a drop of water in the ocean of God’s infinite mercy. His love for us is endless; it is beyond anything we could ever grasp or imagine. As big as our sins might be, they are nothing for the Lord.
When we come before the priest in Confession and hear those beautiful words of absolution, we walk out with the knowledge–the unshakable knowledge–that our sins have been removed from our souls. In His mercy, the Lord looks us right in the face, as He looked at Thomas two thousand years ago, and He says, “Doubt no longer, but believe.”
When we give ourselves over to God’s divine mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when we love with a love worth dying for and are no longer afraid and in doubt, we will have the courage to place our hands in the wounds of Christ, and profess with confidence and joy and faithfulness with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” Heavenly Father, for the sake of Your Son’s sorrowful passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.
©2011 Aurem Cordis and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers