Pay Praing

Bible Speaks

By Pastor Julian Harris

Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. So what do You say?”

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.”

When they heard this, they began to go away one by one, beginning with the older ones, until only Jesus was left, with the woman standing there. Then Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, Lord,” she answered.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Now go and sin no more.” (John 8:4-5, 9-11)

 

 

St. Augustine described the scene as the meeting between Misericordia et misera, Mercy and misery.  Jesus and the convicted sinner, these two remained when justice required the supreme penalty—death.

 

On the Second Sunday of Easter of the Jubilee Year 2000 at the Mass for the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, Pope Saint John Paul II declared the Sunday after Easter be called Divine Mercy Sunday. St. Faustina was a Polish nun who received revelations from Jesus, including one of Jesus wearing a white garment with beams of red and white coming from His heart.  She wrote in her diary:

 

I want the Image to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it…

My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.

 

PLENARY INDULGENCE

 

According to the vision, the revelation, those who receive Holy Communion with prior Sacramental Confession receive total forgiveness of sins, that is to say, a plenary indulgence.

 

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that a when a person sins they acquire a debt of guilt and punishment.  A mortal sin (one that is grave or serious in nature and is committed knowingly and willfully) is considered to be an active refusal of communion with God, and to separate a person from Him to the end of suffering the eternal death of hell.  In addition to the eternal punishment due to mortal sin, every sin, including the lesser or venial sin, is a turning away from God through an “unhealthy attachment to creatures”, an attachment that must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory.  This purification gives rise to “temporal punishment”, because, not involving a total rejection of God, it is not eternal and can be absolved.

 

The temporal punishment that follows sin is undergone either during life on earth or in Purgatory.  In this life, as well as by patient acceptance of sufferings and trials, the necessary cleansing from attachment to creatures may, at the least in part or in full, be achieved by turning to God in prayer and penance, by works of mercy and charity and indulgences.  Indulgences help towards achieving this purification.  A plenary indulgence such as the one offered on Divine Mercy Sunday remits all of the temporal punishment due to sin.

 

Pope Saint John Paul II spoke about the image in his homily for the canonization of St. Faustina:

 

From that Heart, Sr. Faustina Kowalska, the blessed whom from now on we will call a saint, will see two rays of light shining from that heart and illuminating the world. “The two rays”, Jesus Himself explained to her one day, “represent blood and water” (Diary, 299).

Blood and water! We immediately think of the testimony given by the Evangelist John, who, when a soldier on Calvary pierced Christ’s side with his spear, sees blood and water flowing from it (see John 19:34). Moreover, if the blood recalls the sacrifice of the Cross and the gift of the Eucharist, the water, in Johannine symbolism, represents not only Baptism but also the gift of the Holy Spirit (see John 3:5; 4:14; 7:37-39).

 

His Holiness echoes the revelation that St. Faustina received that mercy flows from the pierced side of Christ Crucified:

 

Today the Lord said to me, ‘Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it.

 

We must never confuse mercy with license. The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen says that mercy perfects justice.  In other words, there can be no mercy without conviction and sorrow for sin.  Today this relationship between sin and forgiveness, justice and mercy is confused inside and outside of The Church.  Archbishop Sheen saw this coming and wrote these “prophetic” words in a small booklet entitled The Way to Happiness, 1949:

 

As the world grows soft, it uses more and more the word mercy. This could be a praiseworthy characteristic if mercy were understood right. But too often by mercy is meant letting off anyone who breaks the natural or the Divine law, or who betrays his country. Such mercy is an emotion, not a virtue, when it justifies the killing by a son of his father because he is “too old.” To avoid any imputation of guilt, what is actually a murder is called euthanasia.

 

Forgotten in all such mercy pleas is the principle that mercy is the perfection of justice. Mercy does not come first, and then justice; but rather justice first, then mercy. The divorce of mercy and justice is sentimentality, as the divorce of justice from mercy is severity. Mercy is not love when it is divorced from justice. He who loves anything must resist that which would destroy the object of his love. The power to become righteously indignant is not an evidence of the want of mercy and love, but rather a proof of it.

 

There are some crimes the tolerance of which is equivalent to consent to their wrong. Those who ask for the release of murderers, traitors, and the like, on the grounds that we must be “merciful, as Jesus was merciful,” forget that that same Merciful Saviour also said that He came not to bring peace, but the sword.

As a mother proves that she loves her child by hating the physical disease which would ravage the child’s body, so Our Lord proves he loved Goodness by hating evil, which would ravage the souls of his creatures. For a doctor to be merciful to a typhoid germ or polio in a patient, or for a judge to be tolerant of rape, would be in a lower category than as for Our Lord to be indifferent to sin. A mind that is never stern or indignant is either without love, or else is dead to the distinction between right and wrong.

 

Love can be stern, forceful, or even fierce, as was the love of the Savior. It makes a scourge of ropes and drives buyers and sellers out of temples; it refuses to give the courtesy of speech to moral triflers like Herod, for it would only add to his moral guilt; it turns on a Roman Procurator, boasting of Totalitarian law, and reminds him that he would have no power unless it were given him by God. When a gentle hint to a woman at the well did no good, He went to the point ruthlessly and reminded her that she had five divorces.

 

When so-called righteous men would put Him out of the way, He tore the mask off their hypocrisy and called them a “brood of vipers.” When He heard of the shedding of the blood of the Galileans, it was with formidable harshness that He said: “You will all perish as they did, if you do not repent.” Equally stern was He to those would offend the little ones with an education that was progressive in evil: “If anyone hurts the conscience of one of these little ones that believes in Me, he had better been drowned in the depths of the sea with a mill-stone tied around his neck.”

 

If mercy meant the forgiveness of all faults without retribution and without justice, it would end in a multiplication of wrongs. Mercy is for those who will not abuse it, and no man will abuse it who already started to make the wrong right, as justice demands. What some today call mercy is not mercy at all, but a feather-bed for those who fall from justice; and thus they multiply guilt and evil by supplying such mattresses. To become the object of mercy is not the same as to go scot-free, for as the word of God says: “Whom the Lord loveth, He chastiseth.”

 

The moral man is not he who is namby-pamby, or who has drained his emotions of the sterner stuff of justice; rather he is one whose gentleness and mercy are part of a larger organism, whose eyes can flash with righteous indignation, and whose muscles can become as steel in defense, like Michael, of the Justice and the Rights of God. (Garden City Books, 1949).

 

 

Then Christ said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see My hands, and bring your hand and put it into My side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

(John 20:27-28)

 

Easter afternoon Our Risen Lord became a fellow traveler with all who walk the road of despair, who want to believe but doubt, and with those who stringently refuse to believe.  Seven days later Saint Thomas the Apostle, still refusing to believe says that he will not believe until he can put his fingers into His hands and his hand into His side.  St. Thomas’ doubts arose, for the most part, from his despondency and from the depressing influence of sorrow and isolation; for he had always been a man apart from his fellow Apostles and disciples.  It is a picture of a person apart from the Church and the faith community, who is convinced that he or she can go it alone and need only speak to God directly without the mediation of friendship, fellowship, Sacraments, or priests.  How many times have I heard:  I don’t need to confess to a priest; I go directly to God.  Oh really? Christ established His Church and His Sacraments, including the priest, to be a channel of mercy that comes after justice, after one is convicted of her or his sin by The Holy Spirit, is sufficiently sorrowful to run, not walk to confession and there receive the undeserved words of pardon:  I absolve you of all of your sins.  That is mercy according to God, not man.  Let us conclude this mediation on mercy with Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s meditations on Saint Thomas:

 

When Our Lord appears in the Upper Room He speaks of peace.  There is no trace of faultfinding with Saint Peter then or later at the Sea of Galilee, or with Saint Thomas for demanding proof.  There is every reason to believe that St. Thomas did as he was invited to do, just as there is every reason to suppose that the other 10 Apostles had done the same thing on the First Appearance of Our Savior on Easter evening.  He was convinced by positive proof, threw himself on his knees and did Christ homage.

 

In one burning utterance, Thomas gathered up all of the doubts of a depressed humanity to have them healed by the full implications of the exclamation, “My Lord and my God.” He, who was last to believe, was the first to make the full confession of the Divinity of The Risen Savior.

 

Thomas thought that he was doing the right thing in demanding the full evidence of sensible proof; but what would become of future generations if the same evidence was to be demanded by them?  The future believers, the Lord implied, must accept the fact of the Resurrection from those who had been with Him.  Our Lord thus pictured the faith of believers after the apostolic age (with the death of the last apostle) when there would be none who would have seen it; but their faith would have a foundation because the Apostles themselves had seen the Risen Christ.  They saw that the faithful might be able to do so without seeing, believing on their testimony…Some gratitude must always, however, be credited to Thomas, who touched Christ as a man, but believed in Him as God.  (The Life of Christ, 618-620)

 

St. Thomas was right.  I would never place my life in just anyone’s hands, but only in the hands of He who made me, forgave me and redeemed me with pierced hands and an open side in which I might hide myself in God, where a poor sinner like me is invited to take refuge on Mercy Sunday.

 

For you have died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God