As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, I’d like to share a little story with you. We are encouraged to see and understand the important connection between sin and mercy. Because Christ suffered so much and still continued to love and forgive, even the hardest of hearts can find hope and life in Christ. So, here’s the story….it’s called A Close Call.
Many years ago a parish priest wrote about an experience where he learned this truth in a powerful way. He called on a older man who was dying. The man was hanging on to his life with all his might, because he didn’t feel ready to die.
When he was a little boy, he had been horribly beaten, almost to the point of death, by a man who was supposed to be taking care of him. And he had nurtured an intense hatred for that man for the rest of his life. He confessed to the priest that because of his bitterness, for all those years he had not been able to pray—not even once. He also admitted that for all those years he couldn’t bring himself to go near a church.
An incredible case of anger had been festering in that man’s soul down through the years.
The priest continued to visit with him, talking to him about a man named Jesus who also had been beaten to the point of death, but who, instead of expressing hatred for those who beat him, forgave them. And three of four visits later, when the priest walked into the old man’s room, before he could even say “Good morning.” The man said, “I did it last night. Last night I forgave him, and for the first time, I prayed.”
By the next morning, the old man had died…
When Jesus appeared to his frightened disciples that Easter night, the first thing he did was to show them his wounds, so they would never forget what the sin of the world did to him. When the Lord of life came, we sinners killed him. But then, he did something extraordinary. To those who had denied him, betrayed him, ran from him in his hour of need, he said, “Shalom” (“Peace”). So, think of this, the one whom we offend in every sin greets us, not with condemnation, but with a word of forgiving love. And this means in principle, there is no sin that God cannot forgive.
Notice how the Risen Lord came to the Apostles—through the locked doors of the place where they were hiding. Though we lock ourselves away in a narrow space of self-reproach, Jesus enters in, overcoming whatever barrier we set up against him. Even when we cannot forgive ourselves, he pardons us; even when we can’t find peace of heart, he offers us Shalom.
And what are the Apostles asked to do? As they have been forgiven, so they must share this same gift with others. It’s only when we see ourselves as forgiven sinners that we can then richly share this essential gift with one another. The message of this Divine Mercy Sunday is so key to who we are as believers in Christ.
Here’s what Bishop Barron says about this passage from Scripture:
“In it’s every detail, this short narrative of what happened in the locked Upper Room on Easter night is an icon of the Church.”
It’s who we are! Take it out of the mix and we stop being who we’re supposed to be!