Sr. Connie Krautkremer, MM, reflects on the power of God's mercy to inspire us to forgive one another.
Jesus appeared to a Polish nun, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalski, in 1937. She recorded in her diary that when she told Jesus with satisfaction that she had offered him all of her life, all she had, Jesus answered that she had not offered that which is truly hers. “My daughter, give me your failings,” he said to her. “I am love and mercy itself; there is no human misery that can measure up to my mercy.” Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday and remember the incredible mercy of God.
“Lord have mercy.” We pray these words at the start of Mass. Have the prayers become so automatic we no longer pay attention to what we are asking? Do we honestly admit that we make mistakes and need help?
In today’s Gospel we see Jesus walking into a room locked by his frightened friends. He showed scars of nails driven through his hands and a side lanced with a spear. He had suffered, been betrayed by a disciple, judged by religious leaders, and hung from a cross. His message to the group? Peace. Forgive.
Let me tell you the story of two women I met in Tanzania. The two had been good friends, but because of rumors and village gossip one of them became so angry she wanted to physically harm the other. I was facilitating a seminar for women. One topic was our relationships with one another. The forty participants prepared short skits about ways we women put one another down, about gossip, jealousy, fear and resentment. The two women recognized themselves in the skits and decided they didn’t want to continue to live like this. They talked, said they were sorry and forgave one another. They shared the joy of their reconciliation with the whole group and asked me to pray with them to thank God (adding that they knew I was not a priest and this was not really confession!).
And I had nearly cancelled the seminar. That morning as I stood at the door of the parish hall waiting for arrivals, I noticed small groups of women with empty baskets, walking down the road, away from me. Where are they going? What about the seminar I heard everybody wanted to attend? When I learned that food was being distributed that morning at the village office I understood. Food was scarce and expensive and families were hungry because of drought the past couple of years in this semi desert. How could anyone come to a seminar about “spiritual” matters when food was being distributed down the road?
But because ten women had gathered, some having walked a long distance, we decided to start. Slowly others joined us. The skits changed the lives of these two women. God’s mercy and peace entered that hall and broke through their locked hearts. Sometimes mending a broken relationship is as important as having enough food.
Friendships fall apart. We can no longer speak honestly with a relative or trusted colleague. We are hurt and we hurt others. Do we recognize our wounds, admit our feelings of bitterness, some new, some years old? Do we need to hold on? Hidden wounds do not heal. Can we offer these to God, allow ourselves to be touched, to experience mercy, to offer mercy?
The apostles unlocked the doors and walked boldly into the streets, to heal the sick and restore relationships in the community.
When we can say we are sorry a load is lifted. Our hearts are opened and we are free. God is merciful, full of mercy, for all, for ALL!
Photo available on Unsplash.