Divine Mercy Sunday is a day celebrating one of God’s greatest attributes: His Mercy. Many homilies that we hear on this day remind us that God’s Mercy is boundless and that we have nothing to be afraid of if we go to Him with complete confidence. We are told that God wants to forgive us and offer us His Mercy and that He desires this more than we can desire it ourselves. And all of this is true. But what seems to be avoided, perhaps in fear of being too “rigid” or in an erroneous understanding of being pastoral, is that in order to receive this boundless and overwhelming Mercy, we must be filled with contrition and have a desire to turn away from our former actions and truly change our lives. And if we don’t have this attitude, yes, God will still love us, but we will not be able to obtain His Mercy.
My Mercy does not want this, but Justice demands it. (Diary of St. Faustina, 20)
These words of Jesus to St. Faustina describe His feelings toward the suffering souls in Purgatory during a vision that she had. They let us know that we cannot just live life relying on the Mercy of God if we are not willing to truly have contrition and try to change our ways. If we don’t properly accept His Mercy, we will be subject to His Justice. And in fact, the Mercy of God is supposed to make us want to turn our lives around and be truly contrite. We should look at how willing He is to open His arms to us and what He did for us and realize that He wants the same self-giving from us. “A humble and contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn,” Psalm 51:17 tells us. God will not turn us away if we are true penitents, but this is the prerequisite. His Love may not be conditional but His Mercy is. Jesus still loved the Pharisees, but He could not extend His Mercy to them unless they were willing to put aside their former lives and humble themselves to accept His Love. And so it will be with us. This Divine Mercy Sunday, let us ask ourselves how willing we are to approach God humbly and contritely and be truly worthy of His Mercy by making conscious efforts to put our former ways aside and walk with Him through life.
5 thoughts on “Divine Mercy Sunday: Remember, Mercy Isn’t Free”
Mercy is not free, but Christ alone has paid our debt. There is no more work to be done. God alone is the entirety of our salvation, and we do not help God save us. We are passive recipients of God’s grace. If we need to merit grace, it isn’t grace. If we earn mercy, it isn’t mercy.
James 2:26 says that “just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” It is by our works that we demonstrate our living faith. Jesus explains in Matthew 7:16-23 that every tree that bears bad fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire and that not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter eternal life, but only those who do the will of His Father in heaven. By His Passion and Death on the Cross, Christ has opened the gates of heaven for us and made eternal life possible, but by virtue of the free will that we were created with, it is still our choice to accept or decline this gift. It would not make sense to say that we believe Christ died for us but then turn around and live lives unworthy of Him, for example, by committing murder and other condemnable acts
If Christ only made it possible, then He is not the Savior. He would merely be a catalyst. James tells us that without works, our faith is dead *to show the importance of faith*. James isn’t saying “your works save you” but that “faith without works is dead”. The subject is still faith. Once we receive the gift of faith, works naturally follow, but these works do not justify us. Christ’s work justifies.
If we need to accept or decline the gift, then there is no mercy. If we need to complete our acceptance in works like Confession, it is not mercy. If the law is still binding (mortal sin), then we are not free.
And of course it would not make sense to say that we believe in Christ then turn against Him. That would mean we didn’t have faith in Christ in the first place. We are called to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect; anything shy of that needs mercy. No work on my end is going to purify me to the point where I am worthy of being with the Lord, but I am blessed with a Mediator who imputes His righteousness to me.
In summary, Faith saves and faith causes works. Christ’s work alone grants the grace to those the Father gives Him.
I understand that Martin Luther taught that grace acts as a sort of cover that goes over a human soul to make it acceptable to God but underneath the depravity of the soul never really changes. But Catholics believe that grace does work intrinsically in our souls and that in Baptism original sin is wiped away and we are made a “new creation” as per 2 Corinthians 5:17. Romans 3:22 says that “the grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us.” Thus we truly become sons of God and as the Second Vatican Council says, we must continue to hold on to and complete this holiness in our lives through the kind of lives we lead.
Even though Baptism does have the power to cleanse, the effects of it remain, including the tendency to sin, which is why we need the graces provided in the Sacraments, particularly Confession and Holy Communion.
Christ did indeed save us, and it was through the mercy of God that He was sent to us, but if we were truly meant to just be passive recipients of this grace and mercy, then it seems the world would have gone back to the state it was in before the Fall of Adam and Eve, because there would be no use for things like suffering and evil and laboring to earn a living because we use these things as a redemptive means to continue the work of our salvation. But God didn’t do that because it would have taken away our free will.
https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/faith-and-works-0. Here is something that I found that explains it well Evan. Hope it helps!