I am often fascinated by the relationship between mercy and reconciliation. In a very factual sense, mercy builds a bridge which, when those involved walk on, may lead to reconciliation. Reconciliation is the supreme desire at the heart of life and human relationships. We may not admit it, but it certainly is true that everything and every heart yearns for reconciliation. For reconciliation implies division, separation or alienation between two or more persons or things that ought to be in a friendly relationship. In other words, a relationship that ought to be friendly or harmonious has suffered some division, and the persons or group of persons involved have been separated or alienated from each other. This separation or division causes so much pain and suffering because that which thrives in a friendly togetherness has been divided. Reconciliation, therefore, is the act of healing the separation and making the relationship friendly or harmonious once again. It is in this sense that St. Paul expresses strongly that the entire creation, including ourselves, is groaning as in labor pains for ultimate redemption (reconciliation) of everything and our bodies in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:22-23). The reason is because creation, affected by the sin of human beings, has become alienated or separated from God, our creator. But in His mercy, God has built a bridge across the divide. God has healed this separation and reconciled us and the world to Himself through Jesus Christ and has given all of us this ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). This means that, on the one hand, we are to step onto that bridge and move towards God and towards others and on the other hand, help others to step onto that bridge and make the same movements.
We should never forget that this reconciliation of creation and human beings happened through God’s mercy shown in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mercy is larger and bigger than justice. Justice attempts to apportion punishment appropriate to the offense committed. In this sense, though justice tries to redress an imbalance created by an offense, it often ends up leaving the parties with soured hearts. But mercy is not interested in proportionality of punishment to an offense; rather, mercy reaches out in kindness and forgiveness to a person or persons who could have been given a harsher treatment appropriate to the offense. In spite of the offense and without underplaying the pain of betrayal and separation, mercy reaches out in an effort to win back the offender as a brother or sister and thus restore a friendly relationship that is harmonious and life-giving. In this sense, mercy is another name for love, compassion and forgiveness. God is merciful, then, means that God consistently and constantly reaches out to us with love and forgiveness because no one would stand if He were to punish us as our offenses deserve. This is a great mystery and will enable us to appreciate this year of Mercy and the Divine Mercy Sunday!
The Mercy of God is undisputable. But there remain, however, two important areas where mercy and reconciliation are greatly needed but often not talked about, namely relationship with oneself and relationship with others. All acts of self-betrayal, self-dishonor and self-disrespect create division between various parts of the person that otherwise should be in harmony. For example, whenever we live a double life or compromise our values or live a lie, we alienate certain parts of our harmonious self! This internal division or conflict or alienation could generate some psychological and spiritual turmoil, which are invitations to reconciliation through a return to live more honestly and honorably. The person realizes the wrong, takes the personal responsibility and makes the move to seek reconciliation concretely and sacramentally. To forgive oneself is often so difficult, and this difficulty frequently arises out of a prideful self-image that tends to deny our sinful inclinations. The same is true of relationships with others who have hurt us or whom we have hurt. I can be hard to forgive those who have inflicted deep wounds in us. But in each case, it is often a humbling experience to be open to give and receive forgiveness with a sincere heart. It is equally important to be able to give and receive mercy and forgiveness so that genuine reconciliation can happen in a friendship, family relationship or among groups of persons.
Divine Mercy Sunday, therefore, is a day we pray for healing at these three levels: our relationship with God, with ourselves and with others. May we receive this grace abundantly now and always. Amen.