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Where can we find and experience the merciful love of Jesus? The answer: everywhere.

Where Can We Find God's Mercy?

Dr. Robert Stackpole Answers Your Questions on Divine Mercy

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By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Oct 10, 2007)
One of my best correspondents for this column is someone known to me only as "JP." He (or she) has sent in several excellent questions in the past that I have answered on-line, and here is another one:

Is the Sacrament of Reconciliation the only way we can concretely and confidently experience Jesus' mercy? ... I'm sure that experiencing His mercy is not just limited to this sacrament; I'm just not sure what other ways are out there.

Thanks, J.P. Of course, in one sense the answer to your question may depend upon what you mean by "concretely and confidently." The experience of the mercy of Jesus Christ is indeed "concrete" and assured in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, because when we have sincerely confessed our sins, and the priest pronounces the words of absolution over us, we can be absolutely certain that it is really Jesus Himself who is pronouncing those words of absolution through His priest, granting us His forgiveness in an authoritative way, because He gave His Church the power to do this in his name: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven" (Jn 20:23).

But, as a matter of fact, we can find this same degree of assurance in all the sacraments. We can have every confidence that when the priest consecrates the bread and wine at Holy Eucharist, they really and truly become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ: our merciful Savior giving Himself to us in the most intimate and personal way ("This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me" (Lk 22:19).

Likewise, in all the other sacraments of the Church: it is really the merciful Jesus who baptizes us with water and His Holy Spirit, Jesus who confirms and strengthens us with that same Spirit, Jesus who marries Catholics, ordains Catholics, and anoints them for healing — all through the instrumentality of His priests.

Moreover, none of this depends upon the dispositions that we bring to the sacraments. That is to say, even if we come to the sacraments with no faith at all, Jesus still pours out His grace upon us anyway (although without at least some measure of faith in us to enable us to receive His grace and cooperate with it, it will not do us much good!).

This is what the Church means when she teaches us that our Savior mercifully pours out His grace in the sacraments ex opere operato — that is, "by the very fact of the sacramental action's being performed." It doesn't depend on your own holiness, or even on the holiness of the priest administering the sacrament. Rather, it depends only upon the promise and power of God.

So, the first answer to your question, J.P., is that our Lord's merciful love is poured out, and can be experienced "concretely and confidently" in all of the sacraments of the Church, not only in the sacrament of reconciliation.

However, behind your good question, there seems to be an implied understanding that Divine Mercy means only God's "pardon," God's "forgiveness." I am guessing that this is the reason why you felt that it is primarily in the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we can experience the "mercy" of Jesus. To be sure, pardon and forgiveness are two very important ways that our Lord bestows on us His merciful love. But "Divine Mercy" means so much more than that as well!

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, and Pope John Paul II "mercy" is "love's second name" (See the encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia). "Love," in general, can be defined as a sharing and giving of oneself to another, a selfless seeking of the good of another. "Mercy," however, is a particular form of love: love that seeks to meet the needs and overcome the miseries of others.

Here is how I put it in a new book that will be coming out in January, entitled Divine Mercy Guide; from Genesis to Benedict XVI:

According to the first epistle of St. John, "God is love" (4:8). He is infinite, eternal, self-giving love within His own being, among the three persons of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. From all eternity, therefore, within His own infinite essence, He enjoys the fullness of love given, love received, and love returned. He enjoyed that fullness of perfect love before He ever made the world — and even if He had never made any world at all, He still would have enjoyed this perfect beatitude of eternal love, for "God is love."

In the infinite, eternal love that He is, in the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, there is no need for "mercy," for there is no "want" or "misery" or "suffering" that needs to be overcome in the Infinitely Perfect Being. What then is Divine Mercy?

Saint Thomas Aquinas defined mercy in general as "the compassion in our hearts for another person's misery, a compassion which drives us to do what we can to help him" (ST II-II.30.1). Divine Mercy, therefore, is the form that God's eternal love takes when He reaches out to us in the midst of our need and our brokenness. Whatever the nature of our need or our misery might be — sin, guilt, suffering, or death — He is always ready to pour out His merciful, compassionate love for us, to help in time of need:

In fact, God's love for His creatures always takes the form of merciful love. As we read in the Psalms (25:10), "all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth." And again in Pasalms (145:9), "His tender mercies are over all His works."
When He created the world ex nihilo, therefore, and holds it in being at every moment, it is an act of merciful love: His merciful love overcoming the potential nothingness, the possible non-existence of all things.

When the divine Son became incarnate and dwelt among us, that was an act of merciful love too: His merciful love in sharing our lot, showing us the way to the Father, and making the perfect offering for our sins.

When He sends His Holy Spirit into our hearts to refresh and sanctify us, that too is His merciful love: His merciful love pouring into our hearts the power to grow in faith, hope, and love, and to serve him with joy. Psalm 136 says it best; while celebrating all the works of the Lord in creation and redemption, the psalm bears the constant refrain: "for His mercy endures forever."

In short, J.P., where can we find and experience the merciful love of Jesus? The answer is: everywhere, if only you and I had eyes well enough to see! More and more, with the help of His grace, we will be able to see that, I trust. Saint Catherine of Siena put it best: "Wherever I turn my thoughts I find nothing but mercy!" (The Dialogue, no. 30).

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. Got a question: e-mail him at [email protected].

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Father Bill Dinga - Oct 11, 2007

In the first readings from Mass these past few days we have heard how the prophets Jonah and Malachi - after doing their jobs find it difficult, in their own limited human way of looking at justice, to believe that God could indeed bestow his mercy on everyone: the good and the bad, the just and the unjust, the holy and the unholy, those who fear God, and those who don't! God can do what he wants with his love and his mercy! The imperfect perspectives of both Jonah and Malachi help us to understand that all of us have a faulty vision of what "God's kind of justice and mercy" are all about! All God requires is a sincere turning about - half-hearted as it might seem at the beginning! He is always ready not only to offer us the opportunities to "convert" our off-center way of living but also to help us every step of the way! The mercy of God as it is distributed in so many ways in the Church is evidence that God will not give up on any of us until the last trumpet has sounded and the last sheep has been assigned a place to spend forever! May we be found at the right hand of Jesus on that terrible and wonderful day! Blessings to all!

George K - Oct 11, 2007

The second word for love is mercy! Initially, love that is poured out from God's heart through the sacrements is His Divine Mercy, given as a gift, to free us from sin and to strengthen us for spiritual warfare. That freedom turns to joy in one's soul. The soul can then accept and allow this Merciful Grace to work in him or her. Then like "Show and Tell" that soul desires to share this treasure he has found with others. Through conversion a deeper awareness of the impending potential for the loss of souls in the world can turn to a desire to become a fisherman for Christ. Wether Clergy or Laity a soul can then work to help to prepare other souls to see the light of Christ by pouring out Christ's Mercy to others. Only God The Father knows the time of Christ's Return, wether it be for an individual or all of God's Chosen people. We have the affirmation of God's Word to us in Holy Scripture that those who hold out to the end will be saved. Knowing this we as Apostles of God's Mercy must not be "too" afraid to share, in a gentle and merciful way, what God has given us when it comes to those who don't believe, don't worship God as we do, don't follow God's laws or follow false god's. We have abiding in us God's Presence and Grace. A person has a "right" to their own journey to God or away from God. It is their choice. We only have to see anothers journey to God with acceptance, faith, prayer and, if so called, with a sense of Christ's Mission of Love and Mercy for all. You can't get into the thick of battle and not get a little of the fight all over you. Peace can create peace. When it comes to spreading Divine Mercy it seems to me the best way is to remember that "Jesus would not snuff out a candlewick." He always trys to build others up. To make them stronger in Him, in faith. Treat others with love and mercy while acknowledging their "right" to their own journey to God, whatever form that takes. Pray for their salvation, pray the Chaplet, become more aware of events good and evil, get involved and walk with Christ.

A.V. - Oct 10, 2007

'Treat him (the priest) as sacred , for I, The Lord, who consecrated him, am sacred' is in the book of Numbers ;to be truly sharers in that sacredness of God...is that our deepest yearning ...and all of salvation history - about man's missteps and God coming through.... to the extent of granting us , all the Infinite Merits of His Passion ..that we may treat ourselves and others, as sacred .. looking at The Cross , instead of the fallen nature ..and say - yes, sacred ...holy .. as in The Novena - every person , every occasion.... brought to Him..into His Merits ..and peace !

donna .e. - Oct 10, 2007

Only a merciful God would allow us to have absolute free will, and it is absolute. Even if it is to our detriment he loves us so much he allows us to do, try, say, think, whatever we so please and he will ALWAYS be waiting for us to come back to his mercy. When we say "thy will not mine be done" he takes it seriously, however if in the next moment we take our own will back and for example jump off a cliff and break our legs, he loves us enough to let us do that even though we just asked for his will to be done. His mercy is all encompassing. The question isnt so much where to find it (because it is all encompassing) rather in my humble opinion its whether or not we choose to live in it to the best of our ability, and try to be aware of it all of the time both inside and outside. Be merciful to everyone and to yourself as well, realize they have free will as much as you (and your loved ones as well whom we sometimes try to force our will upon) we need to be merciful if they do something to hurt us and or ultimately themselves we need to be there waiting for when they need our mercy just like our Lord. Just being aware that we are all priceless children of God with a shepherd to guide us through this often confusing race. Continual awarness of his mercy is omnipitent, as is he, *and we who reflect the Lords Glory are being transformed into his likeness*(2 Corinthians).