“Only where there is mercy does cruelty end,” said Pope Benedict XVI in a rare and recent interview. “Only with mercy do evil and violence end.”
The Church is in the midst of a great celebration of mercy, the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which began Dec. 8. And this week, the Church celebrates the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; the most incredible witness of God’s mercy the world has every seen.
As we celebrate the Easter Octave this year, which concludes with Divine Mercy Sunday on April 3, the Church recognizes that Jesus Christ’s resurrection is a sign that God’s mercy conquers all things—even death. If God’s mercy can conquer death, as it did when Christ was resurrected, there is no cruelty, or violence, or evil that mercy cannot conquer.
Pope Benedict said that in sinfulness, men and women in the modern world live in the “dominion of evil.” But, he also said, “the counterweight to the dominion of evil can consist in the first place only in the divine-human love of Jesus Christ that is always greater than any possible power of evil…. The reality of injustice, of evil, cannot be simply ignored, simply put aside. It absolutely must be overcome and conquered. Only in this way is there really mercy.”
To conquer the evil we face in our lives, we must address it in the power of God’s mercy. To overcome our own sinfulness, we must seek God’s mercy in the sacrament of penance. To overcome the evil of conflict, or worry, or anger, or anxiety, or cruelty, or hatred, we must consecrate our families, communities, and nation to the merciful heart of Jesus—entrusting the world to God’s mercy.
We must also be, as Pope Francis reminds us so often, “missionaries of God’s mercy.” Our families and friends need God’s mercy to overcome the evil in their own lives.
Pope Benedict said that, “everyone is looking for the mercy of God.”
“In my view,” Pope Benedict said, “under a veneer of self-assuredness and self-righteousness, the man of today hides a deep knowledge of his wounds and his unworthiness before God. He is waiting for mercy.”
In these weeks, as we celebrate Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, we should call to mind the ways in which God’s mercy has healed and transformed our own lives: conquering sinfulness, overcoming struggles and letting go of past hurts. And we should consider how we can, how we must, reveal the mercy of God to those “waiting for his mercy.”
Revealing God’s mercy begins with the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. With bearing wrongs patiently, and forgiving generously, with feeding those who hunger, with welcoming the lonely into our homes and lives, and with mourning alongside those who mourn. Practicing the works of mercy sets us apart, they make it clear to the world, and to our friends, that disciples of Jesus Christ live differently: giving their lives for love of others, instead of living for their own desires, wants and needs.
Of course, we can only dedicate our lives to the works of mercy if we avail ourselves of God’s mercy first, especially through the sacrament of penance and reception of the Holy Eucharist.
In his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis said when Jesus suffers on the cross, “he reveals the true face of God, which is mercy.”
The pope said, “we are called to choose His way: the way of service, of giving, of forgetfulness of ourselves.” As we receive God’s mercy during this sacred season of Eastertide, let us choose the way of Jesus: giving ourselves, practicing mercy, and revealing the merciful face of God.