Sunday, I was on my way to St. Ann's Catholic Parish while putting together this column as I walked (so I got in during the first reading - should have walked faster). Then I heard the Homily - it did not change what I said, but it did add a new perspective, which I share below. We are a nice parish and you can find us online at www.stann.org.
Divine Mercy is an interesting phrase and a bit
redundant. Everything about the Divine
is Mercy and all Mercy is sourced in the Divinity. So what is mercy? Is it a parent who comforts you after a good
thrashing? It depends. Was the punishment really essential for you
to remember or was it for violating some arbitrary rule? Or was there no thrashing at all, but only
hurt caused by bad behavior?
Mercy is not just forgiveness for breaking a law seen as
coming from God (but in reality is from man instead). It is mercy as the law – a law in keeping
makes life better – the yoke is easier and the burden lighter. The letter from John in the second reading
talks about loving the Lord by keeping his commandments. In other places, John talks about how the
commandment is to Love one another.
This sounds easier, but in fact is much harder than going to confession
and enumerating dirty thoughts and lapses in Friday abstinence.
To love one another was shown in the first reading from
Acts, where the Church had no poor because the rich gave all their wealth for
all. Nowadays it is the poor who give
and the mega church minister or Catholic bishop who drives the town care and
lives in a palace. While there are
certainly some priests and a pope who are an example of what the Church of Acts
did, they are notable as the exception, not the rule.
The Gospel from John is interesting – it’s the Gospel of Peace,
where Jesus gives the apostles the power to forgive sin. The interesting
question is, is this a function of office or it is given to everyone? Of course, if the latter, it’s harder for
bishops and popes to sell indulgences or claim a monopoly on forgiveness,
shared grudgingly with priests and not at all for the people to exercise. Now that would be radical – if sins could be
confessed to each other and considered forgiven. Indeed, it would be in keeping with the
stories of forgiveness, where to be forgiven at all, we must forgive. We say it every day in the Our Father. The story goes on to the next week, where
Thomas (really Jude, brother of Jesus – called twin because they looked alike)
could not get over the grief of his brother’s death until he saw – which Jesus
immediately forgives while giving a blessing to those of us who have never seen
him but seek his mercy.
On Sunday, Monsignor Mosley, the Pastor at St. Ann’s, where
I am now again a parishioner had an interesting take on John’s Gospel, focusing
on the term “Peace be with you”. Was it
Peace, and where were you guys last Friday night? Or was it peace – everything is fine – even the
fact that you were not there Friday night.
In short, it’s the latter and the homily explained it wonderfully. If you missed it, you missed it.
Of course, one cannot but think of the Synod on the
Family. Will the Mercy written about by
Cardinal Kasper stick to forgiveness of non-canonical second marriages (but not
the gay ones) or will it go beyond the original message by the Cardinal and
rethink the doctrine – not to give a free pass but to correct it when it is not
an instrument of mercy. When doctrine
creates wrongs from a puritanical bias rather than accepting people as they
are, whether seeking solace after a bad marriage or gay seeking companionship
for life. Will the Synod fathers put their faith in canon law, as Cardinal
Burke would counsel or in divine mercy, going even further than Cardinal Kasper
and the Pope dared dream at the prompting of the Spirit. We will certainly see.