Divine Mercy and the Christian Vocation Today

Acts 2:42-47; 1Pet 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31

St. Thomas was once on fire and full of zeal in following Jesus. When Jesus spoke of going back to the hostile Judean territory to raise Lazarus from the dead, all the other disciples tried to dissuade Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”  But Thomas led the charge with courageous words, “Let also go and die with Him” (Jn 11:1-16).

We see a different Thomas a few days later after the resurrection. All the other disciples were giving witness to him about the risen Christ whom they had seen earlier. Now, Thomas was shaking in his faith and the best that he could muster was a conditional act of faith, “Unless I see…. Unless I put my finger…, I will not believe.”

This is a lesson for each and every one of us. Because of our fallen nature, no matter how firm our good resolutions are or our fidelities in the past, nothing human guarantees our fidelity to Jesus always. We are easily overcome by our emotions, fears, self-preservation, laziness, pride, public opinion, etc. Thus, we constantly need to be raised up over and over again after we have fallen.

This is what divine mercy is all about. In Jesus Christ, God is always stooping down to us to raise us to deeper communion with Him and greater participation in the fidelity of Jesus Christ. The risen Christ would not leave a single disciple of His in doubt but would return to the disciples a second time just to raise Thomas from His doubts and to elicit from him a firm faith in the divinity of Christ, “My Lord, and my God” (Jn 20). For Thomas, there is no longer anything conditional about his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Jesus thus teaches that we are called to share in the very intimate life of the Triune God and be faithful to the Father just as He was faithful. What a high calling we have as Christians! This lofty calling is possible for us only if we experience and respond appropriately to the mercy of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  

Let us briefly reflect on how divine mercy touches all aspects of our lives and how we are to respond to it so that we can be faithful in our communion with God.

Divine mercy in the past

Divine mercy forgives us for all our sins. There is no sin, no matter how grievous or how frequent, that the mercy of God cannot completely forgive and restore us to friendship with God.

We respond to this mercy of God in the past by our honesty before God now. We do not try to pretend that we do not have sins. And we definitely do not try to deceive ourselves that our sinful choices are not evil at all. How can we gaze at the wounds of the risen Christ and refuse to reveal our own wounds honestly to Him?

We also respond to the mercy of God in the past through our deep gratitude and appreciation for the mercy of God. We do not abuse the mercy of God or take it for granted. We show this gratitude for divine mercy by resisting sin and cultivating virtues. We are not grateful for divine mercy if we are not making any attempt to avoid the occasions of sin.

We respond by forgiving ourselves for our failures and by extending that same forgiveness to others. It is amazing how many of us still condemn ourselves for our past sins while claiming that Jesus died for our sins. We do not realize that we are doing the devil’s job and making it easier for him when we are condemning ourselves.

Divine mercy in the present

Divine mercy in the present provides us all the graces that we need to be faithful to God and His mission for us. God, who knows us well as what we need at any moment for fidelity and communion with Him, pours His grace into the hearts that are well disposed to receive it.

We respond to this mercy of God in the present moment by fervent prayer for all the graces that we need. This is a time for us to “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”(Heb 4:16)

We respond to the mercy of God also by actually placing all our trust in Jesus and not in creatures. Our self-trust always hinders us from experiencing the full impact of the grace that God offers us in His mercy.

Lastly, we respond to this present mercy of God by striving for truly holy lives. We keep before our eyes the universal call to holiness, and we make relevant and continuous efforts while placing all our trust in the grace and mercy of God.

Divine mercy in the future

Divine mercy also gives us lively hope for the future. The mercy of God that constantly raises us to faithful communion with God and fidelity to His will continues and climaxes in bringing us to the full and perfect communion with God and the saints in heaven.

We respond to this mercy by living in joyful hope, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in His great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

We also do not give up or get discouraged in doing the good that God has inspired in us. Our earthly trials and sufferings do not take away our joy because we always “rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy as we attain the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls” (1Pet 1:3-9). Our hope for eternal salvation cannot be dimmed if it is grounded on the unfailing mercy of God and not on our merits.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remind ourselves of our high calling to communion with God and Christ-like fidelity. There are so many things within us and outside of us that can make us lose our faith in this calling and settle for something less. Despite our tendencies to fail and our constant need to be raised up, we need to be clear in our revisionist times that the standard of God’s calling never changes.

The Good News is that God too never changes. He is always stooping down to us to raise us to that faithful communion. He began raising us up at His Incarnation and continued it when He mounted the cross and was buried in the grave. This stance of divine mercy condescending-to-lift-up is present and effected in every sacrament, especially in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of Confession. 

If we experience and respond appropriately to divine mercy offered to us in the past, present, and future, we will surely find hope now for fidelity to God and the fullness of life with Him in heaven.

Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!

Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash

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Fr. Nnamdi Moneme OMV is a Roman Catholic Priest of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary currently on missionary assignment in the Philippines. He serves in the Congregations' Retreat Ministry and in the House of Formation for novices and theologians in Antipolo, Philippines. He blogs at  www.toquenchhisthirst.wordpress.com.

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