St. Thomas the Apostle thought the Resurrection of Jesus was too good to be true.
Despite the fact that it’s all his friends would talk about for over a week, he COULD NOT bring himself to believe… unless he could stick his fingers in the Lord’s hands. Or place his hand in the Lord’s wounded side!
He just didn’t buy it… It all seemed too good to be true.
I wonder… Is that how we approach Divine Mercy sometimes?
Does Mercy ever seem… too good to be true?
Does it ever seem unreasonable to you that God would show unconditional Goodness towards the absolute worst of sinners? Not “nice” sins. Little, one-time sins that we can more or less brush off as momentary weakness. No — the most wicked, most deliberate, most devastating, most habitual sins! The things you regret the most. The choices you wouldn’t dare tell anyone about. The stuff you struggle with day in and day out…
Divine Mercy is available for precisely THOSE sins.
Think about it for a moment: There is nothing you could ever do, no sin you could ever commit, no betrayal that Jesus Christ will not completely and totally forgive — if you only come to Him with true sorrow, with true contrition and firmly resolve to change your ways. And all of this is totally freely given! You can’t earn it! It’s grace!
THAT almost seems too good to be true!
Now…at some level, this reaction might actually be good. At least it’s honest!
Because let’s face it: Divine Mercy IS outrageous. It’s scandalously good news. It does not make sense. It’s overwhelmingly amazing. The fact of God’s infinite and inexhaustible mercy towards humanity is just as crazy as when St. Thomas first heard that Jesus — his crucified, dead and buried friend — was somehow alive again.
In fact — if Divine Mercy is too believable to you, too obvious to you, too predictable or automatic in your mind, then I have to wonder if you have the right idea of what Divine Mercy actually is…
So perhaps before going any further, we should first say what Mercy is NOT.
Mercy is NOT about being nice.
Mercy is NOT about saying God could never allow anyone to go to Hell.
Mercy is NOT about pretending that our choices don’t matter or that there will never be any consequences.
Mercy is NOT about ignoring sin.
Mercy is NOT about repeatedly putting God to the test, or presuming upon His forgiveness as if we never have to change.
Mercy is NOT about ignoring the real pain and damage sin does to our families and our communities.
Mercy takes sin seriously. Absolutely seriously! True Divine Mercy admits that breaking our relationship with God and our neighbor is eternally awful. That it ruins our souls and shatters lives —That it makes us sub-human!
We cannot confuse Mercy with moral flabbiness or worse — moral apathy! When the Church declares that God’s mercy endures forever, She is not saying that we all just need to be more easy-going, or that we need to start turning a blind eye to real issues, or that we need to be less concerned with the state of our souls.
Because if that’s all Divine Mercy is… then it’s not that great… and it’s not even really worth believing in. You can get that kind of mercy out in the world: A cheap, reductive, uninteresting, fake mercy. That’s a mercy that says: “You’re fine. Don’t worry about it. Just do what you want.”
No, if we’re going to take Divine Mercy seriously, then we have to take sin seriously. Jesus says: “Whoever commits sin is a SLAVE to sin.” St Paul tells us that the “wages of sin is death.” Choosing something less than God hurts us and the people around us… period. And Mercy doesn’t discount that reality for a second.
I suspect, however — that for those of us inside the Church, this really isn’t the problem most of us are wrestling with…
Perhaps instead of presuming upon God’s mercy in an automatic sort of way, we find ourselves instead doubting that Divine Mercy is even possible for us…
That it really is too good to be true.
Maybe all you can see is God’s justice? Maybe all you can imagine is a harsh, angry, ultra legalistic God who demands retribution for every single one of your past mistakes? Maybe you’re caught in scrupulosity — obsessed with wondering if you’ve crossed the line into mortal sin, rather than being obsessed with loving God!
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe in Mercy.”
If that describes you at some level, then I invite you to listen to these soothing and yet challenging words of Jesus to St. Faustina:
“I want to keep pouring the flames of mercy out upon souls! But souls just don’t want to believe in my goodness!”
Do you hear that? Jesus WANTS to offer you perfect and complete mercy. He WANTS you to let go of all your burdens, to be totally free of the guilt and shame. But too often, we don’t want to believe! We doubt His Goodness! How tragic! And apparently, that’s what happened to the fallen angels!
Christ also said these words to Faustina:
“Even the devils glorify my Justice, but they do not believe in My Goodness.”
Why? Why did they not know that God the Father wanted to lavish them and ravish them with His Goodness… Why didn’t they believe?
Because they thought it was too good to be true!
And so the demons laugh. They belittle. In their rage and pain, they tear everything down and hurl insults. They cannot imagine a truly Good, Merciful God. A God who is a tender, generous Father towards weak, broken little sinners like us.
Don’t listen to their deception!
They want you to think Divine Mercy is too good to be true. They want you to think it’s too late for you. You went too far this time. You broke that commandment one too many times. You’ve confessed that same sin to that same priest countless times, and he’s getting annoyed. He’s getting impatient. It’s over. Mercy has run out for you. You are a failure.
Here’s the good news of Divine Mercy Sunday: YOU CAN IGNORE ALL OF THAT GARBAGE.
Just turn and look for a moment at Jesus in this image of Divine Mercy. Don’t you see His Goodness there? His eyes are so serene. He is so calm. There is no harshness. No hatred. No trace of “I-told-you-so.”
Only — Peace.
That’s the word he speaks over his apostles when he first visits them in that Upper Room after rising from the dead:
Peace be with you.
Peace and Divine Mercy always go hand in hand.
The prayers of the Mass and of the Sacraments testify to this. At every liturgy of the Eucharist, we hear the priest pray: “Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles — Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.”
What peace are we talking about? The peace that comes through the Blood of the Cross! The Blood that takes away the sins of the world. And then the priest immediately adds a prayer for mercy: “Look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church!”
Faith in what? In God’s steadfast love and mercy that endures forever! That’s the faith that “conquers the world!”
Or think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which Christ instituted in today’s Gospel when he breaths on his apostles and tells them to go and forgive sins — What do we hear in the “prayer of absolution” but these amazing words: “Through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and…. peace.”
Pardon and peace. Mercy and peace! They are inseparable. Jesus’s words to St. Faustina come to mind again here:
“Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.”
This is not wishful thinking. This is not “too good to be true!”
It’s precisely what our Risen Lord wants to create in you today.
Jesus says to you and me, just as he once said to Thomas: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe!”
Come to the Fount of His Mercy, come to those Sacred Wounds and BELIEVE.
Believe in the Goodness of God! Believe that Mercy hasn’t run out and that it never will! Believe that the Fount of Mercy is truly inexhaustible.