The abundance of God’s divine mercy

Easter is a 50-day celebration of the brand new life that Jesus gives to those who know, love and believe in Him. It is an invitation to participate in and celebrate His mighty victory over Satan, sin and death. It is a spring time of new life bursting upon our world … without the side effect of allergies.

Jesus truly offers that victory to us. He promises His healing grace so that we can overcome our weakness, brokenness and sinfulness and live as a brand new creation in Him. For those who encounter Jesus, believe in Him, and live their lives in union with Him, the victory is real.

The Acts of the Apostles proclaims one of the most powerful ways in which the early Christians experienced this transformation in Christ. "The community of believers was of one heart and mind …" The Resurrection of Jesus became a tremendous source of unity for His followers. They were so united in Him and in the Gospel way of life He laid out for them that they were willing to set aside their differences and live with a striking unity. Petty differences, personal preferences and silly disagreements were set aside for the good of this new life in Christ and the mission entrusted to them - how wonderfully refreshing.

The unity among Christians went so far as to transform their sense of ownership: "… and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common." The power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in their hearts made them set aside the immensely strong drive for personal ownership and give of their possessions to take care of the less fortunate. "There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need."

The share in Jesus' victory also included a share in His mission. "With great power the apostles bore witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all." The Resurrection changed their lives and filled them with zeal so that their new charge was to bear witness to Jesus' Resurrection. They found the one who had loved them like no other, forgave them with unprecedented mercy, restored them to a brand new life and shared His very mission with them.

One particular dimension of sharing in that mission was the proclamation of the forgiveness of our sins. The Resurrection was a confirmation of both Jesus' desire and power to forgive every human being of their transgressions. The Resurrection was the Father's bold statement that Jesus was indeed His only-begotten Son who accomplished His mission of redeeming every person from sin and death and restoring them to new life.

The proclamation of this forgiveness is a central task of every member of the church. So is the building of relationships with our neighbors who have not encountered Our Lord and the timely and charitable invitation to come to Our Lord and drink from His fountain of mercy.

St. Faustina of Kowalska is a shining example of actively participating in this task. Jesus appeared to this humble Polish nun during the 1930s in a series of private revelations. She was inspired by Christ to encourage the universal church to proclaim ever more loudly and boldly the message of God's mercy which flows from His wounded side. Every human being is invited by the Father to find comfort and seek refuge in the heart of Christ, pierced for our offenses.

Our Lord's message to St. Faustina is enormously encouraging. She reminds the world that the greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to Christ's mercy. Souls that appeal to Christ and His mercy bring delight to the Lord. To such souls, Christ grants even more graces than they ask. St. Faustina is a powerful example of someone who was willing to spread the good news of God's mercy.

Additionally, Jesus handed on the apostles, and correspondingly our bishops and priests today, the capacity to actually offer that forgiveness in His name. Easter Sunday night is when Jesus instituted the sacrament of penance: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." The whole church must encourage the world to come to Christ for His mercy, and the bishops and priests offer it in a real and sacramental way in the confessional.

Christians share in the victory of Christ over sin and death. That victory manifests itself in many ways including a remarkable unity and generosity among His followers. It also manifests itself in brand new creations that can't help bringing to the world the good news of God's overflowing mercy.

Fr. Peterson is assistant chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington and director of the Youth Apostles Institute in McLean.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015