Chances are, at some point in your life you've been given mercy of some sort.
Maybe as a child, you constantly disobeyed your parents and they forgave you. Or, maybe you really dropped the ball at work and your boss looked the other way. Perhaps you've really hurt a friend and they chose to put your mistake behind them and continue to remain friends. Maybe a teacher gave you a second chance on an assignment when you had failed.
And, chances are, you have also been the one to bestow mercy towards someone in your life. Whether that's you choosing to forgive your significant other for a serious mistake or simply letting someone cut you off in traffic, you've probably lived mercifully more often than you might think. You've probably even shown mercy to someone at some point who truly didn't deserve it.
Mercy Isn't Earned
That's the thing about mercy. It's never something that you deserve or earn. Mercy is defined as: "compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm" (Merriam-Webster). And, of course, God is certainly in the position to punish us when we sin. But, he chooses to be a merciful God instead, even when He has no reason to be.
Unlike other actions that typically must be earned, such as respect or trust, mercy is the one that comes to us when we least deserve it.
Everyone who is reading this needs mercy. That’s just a fact. We are all sinners. We have all made some truly terrible mistakes. Sins of impurity are egregious, there's no doubt about it. But, even as terrible as they are, they are not unforgivable. Just because you struggle with pornography does not mean that Jesus doesn't love you or won't forgive you. The beauty of our faith reminds us that nobody, not even us, is exempt from our Lord’s mercy. But, do we truly believe that?
In Saint Faustina’s Diary, she wrote, “Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity” (No. 1602). Notice how this is worded. God doesn’t tell us, “If they don’t commit X sin, there is no limit to My generosity” or “If they don’t sin X number of times, there is no limit to My generosity”. No, all He tells us is, if our trust “is great” than mercy will be ours. It’s that simple.
Mercy Is for All of Us
So often I think we look at the lives of those around us and assume that the beautiful things of our Catholic faith, such as mercy, are for people like them and not for people like us. We think we are too sinful, too unholy, too unfaithful, too…fill in the blank with whatever it is that holds you back. But, that’s simply not the truth. Mercy is made for you. It is made for me. It is made for all of us. And, even more importantly, God wants nothing more than for us to readily seek it in our sin-filled lives. If you struggle with pornography on a regular basis and feel that you have failed too many times to be forgiven, remember, our God is a God of forgiveness and all we need to do to attain that forgiveness is ask. But, how many of us are too afraid or too uncomfortable to do that?
Many of us feel that it is our sins that are unforgivable. This can be especially true for those who struggle with sins of impurity. We so often forget that we are not alone in our sin. But, all of us sin. We do it in different ways, perhaps, but all of us have sinned and offended God. Even the saints we admire all have a past of some sort...only they were willing to hand all of their shortcomings to God and accept His mercy and forgiveness, even though they knew they didn’t deserve it.
In this culture, we often feel guilty for accepting things that we “don’t deserve”. Think about how often we do this! If you didn’t go for a run today, you might feel like you shouldn’t eat dessert. Or, if someone gives you a gift and you’ve never bought them one, you may feel uncomfortable accepting it. We don’t like taking things we didn’t earn. And, in some ways, this is a good thing. It’s good that we would feel guilty if we took an item from a store without paying for it or for winning a game that we cheated in. But, God isn’t a shopkeeper or a referee, He’s our Lord and our Savior and he wants to save us.
God Wants to Forgive
Remind yourself of this, God doesn’t forgive you because He has to. He forgives you because He wants to. Remember the moments of mercy you’ve encountered in the past. Did your parents, friends, or loved ones forgive you because they had no other choice? No, they forgave you because they love you. That’s what makes mercy so beautiful.
Saint Pope John Paul II, who was known for his strong devotion to the Divine Mercy is quoted saying, “There is nothing more man needs than Divine Mercy – that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights to the holiness of God.” Ponder that for a moment. Think about these words: “there is nothing more man needs”. Nothing more! Not one thing.
So, this Divine Mercy Sunday, I encourage you to embrace His mercy. If you are struggling with sins of impurity, get to the Sacrament of Confession if you can and walk out of the confessional knowing that your sins truly are forgiven. Ask the Lord for His forgiveness and then thank Him for it once you’ve received it. Resolve to do better. Go to sleep at night knowing that you are forgiven and, should you fall again, you can return to His open arms and receive His forgiveness all over again. Mercy is not a one-time thing for us. It is an ongoing gift from a God who loves us dearly.
Remind yourself of this daily, as Saint Faustina wrote in her diary, “Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy'” (No. 301). This Sunday, resolve to start embracing the mercy made available to us and to also show mercy to those in our lives who need it from us. If there is one thing to take away from today, it is that mercy is for everyone, especially those who least deserve it.
You Are Loved
The Catholic Answers booklet You Are Loved is a confessional aid for priests to offer those who struggle with pornography. You Are Loved offers inspiration and hope for the countless individuals struggling to break free of pornography.
Audience: Priests to offer penitents
Resource type: Confessional aid
Cost: Pricing varies