During Holy Week, we’ve been reminded once more of the terrible price that God paid for our sins. Perhaps you had a chance to go to Confession and the graces of the holy season penetrated your soul as never before. Or perhaps you looked on with the same weary eyes as before, wondering if God is faithful to His promises — if the glories of His Passion, death, and Resurrection can make a difference in your life. Has another season of grace come and gone without effect, causing you to keep God at arm’s length and to wonder at the meaning of it all?
The celebration of the sacred Triduum and the Easter octave flows into “little Easter,” the second Sunday after the Passion, which has now been dedicated to the Divine Mercy. In the midst of the 20th century — that bloody century marked by wars, gulags and unspeakable devastation — God repeatedly emphasized His abiding love to a young Polish nun named Sister Faustina Kowalska in messages that spanned from 1931 to 1938. Did the horrors from which so many suffered end with those revelations? Not at all — and indeed they only grew worse — but His children were comforted amidst the darkness with the truth that no human sin is more powerful than His mercy.
No matter what cunning devices humans concoct to evict God from His creation, no matter what depraved behaviors they insist on calling enlightened, God will still be God, and He will remain here in our midst, hoping for the slightest response to His solicitousness. He cannot be scared off, nor can He be horrified at our degeneracy, for He has already walked the gauntlet of wickedness and conquered it.
What is mercy, this curious dimension of God that makes Him so steadfast in His love for creation, and particularly His love for us? Is all mercy love, or is it different? We hear that God is love, and we’re familiar with the explanation that love is His very essence — He must love, for that is Who He is — but how can He love us, especially when we find ourselves so unlovable?
While we understand the relationship between sin and justice, whereby reparation must be made for offenses against God, sin also adds to our understanding of His love. When a person bears love for that which is perfect, it is simply love, but when love embraces that which is imperfect, we see that perfect love includes mercy, for now there is the forbearance of a defect that wasn’t previously necessary. In that sense, our intransigence didn’t change God — He is immutable — but we subsequently learned that the love which was intrinsic to His nature included an unquenchable mercy, which does not shrink from us even in our corrupt state.
Is there no limit to what He will forgive? Evidently not, as he stressed to Sister Faustina that His mercy and kindness are always at the disposal of all people — especially those who suffer — and He pointed to the gift of His Passion and death as proof of His desire that we be freed from the consequences of our sins. That gift stands for all time, and just because our depravity seems to have intensified in recent decades, that doesn’t mean that He’s withdrawn His offer in disgust. In fact, the greater our propensity for self-destruction, the more radical, the more astonishing is His healing by contrast.
How instructive it is that Eastertide is longer than Lent, and is the time for celebrating God’s great mercy. Embrace it — and let it embrace you!
[The Anchor 4.6.12]