DIVINE MERCY CONFERENCE 2015 Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
RDS Ballsbridge, 21st February 2015
“After a long day of reflection and activities, we gather as the day comes to a close for this special moment of prayer as we prepare to enter into the Mystery of God’s mercy revealed in the life and mission of Jesus Christ who gave himself up for us. In the Eucharist we recall Jesus’ self-giving love for us, even unto death on the Cross, and we recall how his death brought us new life.
Jesus died so that we could have life. Jesus emptied himself, being stripped not only of his clothing, but even more profoundly of what rightly belonged to him as God. His self-giving was total and he offers the fruits of his self-giving love so that we can be healed and saved. Jesus’ mercy reaches out beyond what our human limitations can understand, when we place our trust in him and not in our own merits.
In our Gospel reading the Pharisees and the Scribes protest that Jesus has no problem in being in the company of men and women who do not fit into their categorization of those who are just. Their negative judgments begin for them to have precedence over the way God shows his mercy.
We can only thank God that he does not think like those Pharisees and Scribes. Jesus reaches out to us in his mercy, even though he knows exactly who we are and what our failings are and where we sin and where we fall back into sin again and again. There is a sense in which Jesus prefers to be with sinners than with the virtuous. How can that be? Does Jesus not like Saints? Does he not have the same or even greater affection for those who fight sinfulness and try day-by-day to life a good life? Does he not recognise our effort and our sacrifice?
The virtuous about whom Jesus is speaking are really the false virtuous, those who decide themselves that they are virtuous and who think that if you follow some sort of rule-book and tick boxes about being good then you can consider yourself good. The problem with a mentality like that is that you inevitably end-up not just thinking that you are good, but that you begin to think that you are better than others with a totally self-centred understanding of what being good is.
Jesus comes to call sinners to repentance. He comes so that those who are sinners can recognise their sinfulness and reject any sense of personal superiority and can trust in the mercy of God which alone brings us healing, forgiveness and new life.
So often we have transformed the image of Jesus into that of a harsh judge who keeps a constant eye on us and our failings in order to punish us, rather than the Father of the prodigal son who does not spend his time lamenting and condemning the wasteful life of his son, but who is there every day watching the skyline in the hope that the son will return and can be welcomed back, not as a servant – as the son at most hoped to become – but once again to be a son welcomed fully into the warmth and love of the family.
It is when we recognise our sinfulness that the mercy of God can penetrate into the hardness of heart which is within each of us. The mercy of God is not something external which we use on our terms, like a healing ointment that we would rub on our wounds. The mercy of God changes us and transforms us and makes us men and women touched in the depth of our being by Jesus and his mercy and thus become ourselves merciful to all those we encounter.
Experiencing the healing of God’s mercy challenges us to wish that others can experience that same transforming power and that we in our lives work to ensure that everyone we encounter can be freed from whatever burdens them and can become truly the men and women who Jesus desires them to be.
Jesus offers his mercy to us before he in any way judges us. His mercy reaches us to truly heal us. When we experience the generous and gratuitous mercy of God our lives must be overturned and we must root out any judgementalism on our part. We receive mercy so that we can bring mercy. We experience the joy of being forgiven and enriched with God’s mercy, so that we can become messengers of God’s mercy to all those around us.
On many occasion I have expressed my concern about the violence that we witness on the streets of this city and in many parts of our country. There is a sense in which a society which loses a sense of God’s mercy slips into a climate of negativity and violence, of harshness and vindictiveness. When a society loses that sense common purpose and of wishing the good of the other, then a self-centredness inevitably enters in, in which anything is lawful that enables me to dominate rather than serve others.
Divine mercy is not an empty niceness. The call of Jesus is always a challenging call. The God of mercy is not a God who is happy that we remain as we are. It is the most radical call. You will have noticed in our Gospel reading that when Jesus called Levi, he immediately leaves everything. The call of Jesus is not a call to begin bargaining to get our terms. The fruit of Levi’s radical answer to the call of Jesus is that he brings with him many others whom society regarded as non-respectable, but who then come to that banquet of mercy where men and women can rejoice in the joy of the Gospel.
We pray that in the days of this Divine Mercy Conference we can open our hearts and root out all selfishness which prevents us from allowing the mercy of God to flood our minds and hearts and souls and make us then missionaries of his mercy in our world, especially to all who are alienated and frustrated and troubled and caught up in their own self-centeredness. ENDS