Easter, The Feast of Mercy
By Father Aidan-Peter Rossiter CJ
Pastor, St Louis de Montfort Catholic Church
For Christians, Easter is the highlight of the year. We celebrate our belief in the rising from the dead of Jesus the Christ who inaugurates a new relationship with God, one based on infinite hope and trust that leads us into peace. I’m writing this piece just as we hear the dreadful news of more bombs and death at the hands of terrorists in Belgium. You might well ask where is this hope and trust and peace? The paradigm is essentially, if death can be overcome then so too can all violence and hatred etc. But the truth is, it starts with each and every one of us in our homes and neighborhoods etc.
Pope Francis has asked the Church in this year to have a special focus on Mercy. St Louis de Montfort Catholic Church on Clark is for this year a pilgrim church. You may have seen the banners and sign on the front of the building as you drive by. All people are welcome and can come and make a special journey to ask for the graces of God’s mercy. You can, of course, ask for this at home but the idea is that we make an extra effort, just as we do on Sundays. Just waking up on a Sunday morning, peering over the bed clothes and saying, “O God”, doesn’t really constitute keeping his day holy!
St John preaches the simplest and most profound definition of God, “God is love”, and Pope Francis teaches us that “the face of God is mercy”. We need to adopt this compassionate, merciful face of God in our lives.
We’ve all had occasions in our lives when we have really messed something up in a relationship, either with our partner, children, parents, or with whomsoever. We know we are at fault; we’ve got to go and apologize. We are fearful and also pretty angry with ourselves for getting into the mess in the first place. We summon the courage to go and see that person fully expecting to be chewed out or given the cold shoulder or worse. But, when we meet him/her they forgive us for our part in the breakdown of the relationship and reestablish the friendship, the right relationship. Not only is this a relief, but these moments are actually life changing. Forgiveness and mercy have a gracious and gratuitous quality to them. In human terms we do not deserve them, but when we experience these moments we touch something different in our lives. Essentially they are Easter moments. Our only response is gratitude and hopefully to grow up a little and then apply what we’ve learned to others. Perhaps on the international stage what we see as the rebuilding of a more positive relationship between the USA and Cuba could be seen as forgiveness for past wrongs, enmity, misunderstandings and suspicion. Someone had to make the first step. Nation is speaking merciful forgiveness unto nation.
At Easter, God essentially says to us “There is no room for violence between you and me, and there should be none between any of you”. Vengence is still God’s prerogative but he chooses not to act on it. He has given the tools of mercy, compassion and forgiveness to forge this new way of living. These are the qualities that change hearts and minds. The poet Alexander Pope’s old adage, “to err is human, to forgive divine” is so true. We can only change the face of the earth, using these Easter tools, as our thanksgiving for his love and compassion towards us and thus become Easter people.