THE SOURCE OF MERCY AND FORGIVENESS
Rev. John Kha Tran
Two men were engaging in a conversation. The subject of their conversation was the punishment of sin.
The first one asked, “Do you mean to tell me that God will punish for an eternity in hell a sin that lasted but five minutes?”
“Sin,” answered the other, “is not measured by how long it lasts but by how serious it is. When God punishes sin, He pays no more attention to the time it lasts than does the civil law.”
“What do you mean?” asked the first.
“An example will show this. Suppose a ditch digger throws a handful of dirt in a fellow worker’s face. He might get a punch in the nose. Suppose he throws a handful of dirt in the foreman’s face. He will probably get fired on the spot. Now suppose he throws a handful of dirt in the governor’s face. He will probably be fined or imprisoned for disorderly conduct. Finally suppose he throws dirt in the President’s face. His action might be enough to get him a stiff prison term. Each act takes the same amount of time; yet the punishment differs with the person offended.
Now sin is like the throwing of dirt into God’s face. God is offended and the punishment is infinite, because the dignity of God is without limit.” (Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, Treasury of Catechism Stories # 56).
In other words, it is ugly if you pick a handful of dirt to throw at your brother. It would be worse when you throw the dirt at your parents. Your action is to tell your parents that you disrespect them; you do not want to honor them; you want to cut off your relationship with them; you do not want to consider them as your parents any more.
The Consequence of Sin
We would treat God the same when we commit a serious sin. When we sin, we are saying to God that we do not want to be on his side. We do not respect his sovereignty. We do not want to submit ourselves to him. We want to go the opposite direction. We do not want Him to be our God. That would means we want to cut ourselves from the source of life and love; because God is the source of life and love. And the consequence of it is death. St. Paul captures it very well, “Just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned” (Rom 5:12).
The Cost for our Redemption
Sin has been with us from the beginning of human history. Sin has shattered human’s relationship with God. Human life since the fall of Adam and Eve has become a battle field. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel” (Gen 3:15).
God, however, has not allowed sin to dominate our life. He does not want us to be cut off from His relationship; because He is the God of love and of life. He is a compassionate God. He determines to save us. He is willing to sacrifices His only Begotten Son for our redemption. And His Son, Jesus Christ is also willingly to carry it out. Saint Paul points out, “By the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17).
God’s mercy is revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He came into the world because of his love for us. He died by sacrificial death on the cross because he loves us. Once he accomplished this sacrifice; he returned to his disciples to restore peace in their hearts and to commission them to go into the world to preach the good news of forgiveness.
The Agent of Mercy
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples. His greeting to them is “Peace be with you.” Sin disturbs our tranquility. Sin causes fear. Sin takes away the peace in our hearts. Only forgiveness can restore us to peace, tranquility and trust again. Jesus appears to his disciples to forgive them and to give them peace.
The celebration of Divine Mercy on the second Sunday of Easter is a reminder for us that Jesus is the manifestation of God’s love and mercy. Mercy comes for God, and forgiveness comes only through Jesus Christ, the source of our redemption. And Jesus commissions the Church as the agent to distribute God’s mercy in the world. “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:22-23). What we can do is to “give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting” (Responsorial Psalm).