Photo Credit: Lauren Heaton. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
By Lauren Heaton
23 April, 2017
Last year was declared the Year of Mercy by Pope Francis. Little did I know just how God would teach me about mercy that year.
2016 was the most challenging year of my life, in fact the damage done in a four month study abroad trip still wreaks havoc on me, body and soul. However, I came to know God’s great mercy in a much deeper, intimate way and for that I am extremely grateful. It was when I came home safely and was in the midst of hurt, confusion, and slow healing that I began reaching out to people asking what mercy and forgiveness means to them and how they try to live it. I desperately wanted to learn from other people because I could not understand or grasp the amazing mercy of God and how to live it as the broken human I am. Each person I asked acknowledged how difficult it is to extend mercy.
A wise, young priest explained to me that he views mercy like a blank check. You sign your name and give it to the person who has hurt you, no cost, no expense, no tallying how much they hurt you in an effort to get them to pay you back. Mercy is the gift of forgiveness that must be freely given expecting no gift in return.
Another person described their understanding of mercy to be more than forgiveness because mercy helps us see the other’s brokenness. When we recognize our own brokenness and need for forgiveness, we can begin to understand the other’s brokenness and work for their healing as well. St. Thomas Aquinas said mercy is “the compassion in our hearts for another person’s misery, a compassion which drives us to do what we can to help him.”
Forgiveness is also not a once-and-done sort of deal for many of us. The pain comes back through triggered memories and we are called once more to cry out in prayer for the graces necessary to forgive those who wronged us. Sometimes forgiveness must be given on a daily basis. Even God extends his mercy to us daily:
“His Mercies are new every morning” Lamentations 3:23
I don’t know who has wronged you in the past, I don’t know the pain you have felt or continue to feel. But I do know this: God’s merciful love for us calls us to forgive each other and it is by his mercy that we sinners are set free.
I have learned to forgive, and the grips of anger and hurt no longer strangle the life out of me. Learning to extend mercy in such extreme circumstances has helped inspire me to give mercy easily and quickly in my everyday life.
I want to forgive as God calls me to forgive in the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us.” I had to look God in the heart, stand before him in prayer and tell him, “I love you, and because of your great love for me, I forgive those who hurt me.”
This Sunday we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, instituted by St. Pope John Paul II in 2000 because of St. Faustina’s 14 revelations recorded in her diary. One such revelation goes as follows:
My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. … Let no soul fear to draw near to Me. … It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy. (Diary, no. 699)
Lauren Heaton is soon to be graduate from Colorado Mesa University with a BBA in marketing. She loves working with high schoolers and leads a high school youth group and bible study, in addition to singing at church. Lauren is a modest fashion enthusiast, pancake connoisseur, promoter of faith and fitness, and lover of all things family oriented.
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