“Blessed are the merciful,” said Jesus, “for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt. 5:7). But mercy, it seems, is easier said than done. It’s a hard practice — and perhaps especially difficult for men, who may see mercy as a “soft” virtue that doesn’t fit the image of rugged masculinity.
Yet Jesus was a man in full, the perfect man, in fact. And he was all about mercy. So as we approach the feast of Divine Mercy this Second Sunday of Easter, it is time to reflect on how men are called to show mercy.
“Our Lord told St. Faustina of the mercy he wants to give to the world, if only we will believe in his love,” writes Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers in the book Behold the Man: A Catholic Vision of Male Spirituality. He is one of the expert speakers in the Knight of Columbus Into the Breach video series. Men, as leaders of the domestic church, have a vital role in helping their families recognize the link between accepting God’s forgiving love and mercy, and extending that love and mercy in forgiving others. The process begins with seeking God’s mercy ourselves.
Jesus desires that the feast of Divine Mercy be “a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners,” he told St. Faustina. Yes, amid our pandemic of sin, we can “shelter-in-place” under his mercy! Jesus promises to “pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of my mercy.”
That outpouring of Divine Mercy is yours whenever you approach the sacrament of Confession with true contrition and a firm purpose of amendment. With the restrictions on receiving the sacraments due to the coronavirus, you may have to wait until social distancing rules are relaxed to go to Confession. But imagine the great feeling of relief when you do. “The greater the sinner,” Jesus said to St. Faustina, “the greater the right he has to my mercy.” It is not something you earn, but it is yours for the asking. So ask.
Be a man of mercy: Seek Divine Mercy by making a daily examination of conscience and receiving the sacrament of Confession frequently where and when it is possible in your diocese.
There’s a saying that we can’t give what we don’t have. In his encyclical Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), Pope Francis wrote that showing mercy to others “assumes that we ourselves have had the experience of being forgiven by God, justified by his grace and not by our own merits … If we accept that God’s love is unconditional … then we will become capable of showing boundless love” to others (108).
When we come out of the confessional, do we truly know and accept God’s mercy? We won’t be able to share Divine Mercy with others unless we have truly accepted it in our hearts. Christ absolves us in the sacrament, but we must also forgive ourselves of what we have done. That is part of our healing from sin.
Be a man of mercy: Meditate on this healing when you do your penance, and make it part of your daily prayer, something you can contemplate silently at points throughout your day. In this way you can deepen your experience of mercy.
Having sought and accepted Divine Mercy, we are now more free and able to show mercy to others.
That show of mercy should begin within the family, says Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the Order’s supreme chaplain. “Just as the Church exists to share God’s self-giving and merciful love, so too the domestic church, the family, is called to share God’s self-giving and merciful love,” he wrote in a 2016 message. A large part of that is teaching young people “how to give of themselves to others” and “how to be forgiven and to forgive in turn.”
A key to this mercy is forgiving the pain and resentment often experienced between family members, says Deacon Burke-Sivers. “The truth is that families cannot begin the process of healing until they face the Goliath in their lives,” he writes. Otherwise the resentment remains and family relationships can become difficult or even impossible.
Be a man of mercy: Archbishop Lori urges you to train your children in the sacraments, the Mass, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as essential tools to your family’s experience of mercy. Where hurt and resentment exist within families, Deacon Burke-Sivers suggests you first extend unconditional forgiveness toward the person who hurt you — and then ask forgiveness from that person. “In this way, family members open the graves of our hearts and rise to new life in Christ,” he writes.
If we and our brother Knights can effectively seek, accept, and practice Divine Mercy within ourselves and within our families, we will be that much better empowered to serve others, emphasized Archbishop Lori.
“How important is it that all of us, including Knights of Columbus families, tap into the power of God’s mercy as we seek to live the principles of the Order and build our broken world into a true civilization of love,” he said.
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