do we say, Kýrie, eléison—“Lord, have
mercy”? Doesn’t this mean that God will overlook our
od is always pouring down His love
upon everyone; the holy and the wicked all receive freely of His
love. God’s mercy, though, is a different matter.
God’s mercy releases us from severe judgment and condemnation even though we might
deserve it, but God gives His mercy only to those who ask for it with
humble and contrite hearts.
Nevertheless, some people believe
that their claiming to accept Jesus as their Savior guarantees their entrance
into the Kingdom of Heaven. Because of this, they also believe that all of their
sins, while an offense to God, have already been forgiven
in Jesus while He was on the Cross. Consequently, they conceptualize all this as
a matter of God “overlooking” their sins.
a Life-long Battle
Yet the truth is that God does not
“overlook” our sins as a matter of course.
Through His death on the Cross,
Christ paid for our redemption.
Redemption (sometimes called justification) is God’s gift
to us. It’s a gift completely unmerited on our part. It’s a gift that flows
from God’s love for His creation. It’s a gift that pays the mystical penalty
for our Original Sin. This penalty, which no person by his or her own efforts
can ever pay, and which even obedience to the sacred Jewish Law cannot erase,
was paid through the sacrifice of Christ. It’s all the culmination of the great
Promise that echoes through the prophets and the scriptures. As Saint
Paul said, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the
scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Consequently, all souls have
been redeemed by the mystical sacrifice of Christ, but every soul individually
needs to accept that redemption by repenting
its sins and living a holy lifestyle; this
pursuit of a holy life can lead to the soul’s
salvation from the eternal separation from
God that results from a lack of repentance.
The salvation of any soul requires
a profound, life-long personal battle against
evil. That’s why Saint Paul tells us to “work
out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians
2:12b)—and to do this, we need to cry out to God for mercy.
In making this cry for mercy, we in
effect say to God, “Lord, we have done nothing to merit the redemption you offer
us, but we are willing to do the hard work to accept that gift. Look upon us with
compassion as we, wretched sinners that we are, take up this struggle to accept
and make good use of your gift.”
Yet when many of us say,
“Lord, have mercy,” we are not really speaking from a place of
profound heartfelt contrition, and we aren’t trembling at the battle
before us; instead, we are thinking, “Lord, go easy on me.” The unspoken
implication of this thought is that salvation shouldn’t be a lot of hard work.
Thus, in thinking like this, we show ourselves to be too lazy, too arrogant,
and too self-indulgent—too lukewarm—to
be willing to surrender ourselves completely to divine love.
A Hollow Shell
Covering Inner Fear
Psychologically, most of us are
lazy and arrogant because, as a result of growing up in
dysfunctional families that manipulate us
into obedience to arbitrary authority through game-playing and emotional
dishonesty, some dark part of us believes we
are worthless and don’t deserve the purity
of genuine love. We crave that purity, but we’re angry
that we have to do the hard work to attain it, and the anger hardens our hearts.
That proud, hard heart, however, is just a hollow shell covering up its inner
What is it everyone
fears? We’re all afraid that if we really change our lives and witness
the truth, our families will reject us. We’re afraid that our husbands
or wives will divorce us and we will lose a nice, comfortable life. We’re
afraid that our co-workers and friends will criticize us. We’re afraid
that our social prestige will suffer. We’re afraid that our careers
will be threatened. In short, we’re afraid of what we might
Therefore, we look for any easy way.
Like a convicted criminal, we cry out, “Mercy!” hoping to get off easy without
This is because, in its judicial sense,
mercy means to withhold some—or all—of the punishment demanded by justice, if the
guilty person shows sorrow for his or her behavior. Of course, a guilty person can
make a fine show of sorrow to please the court, all the while having no real sorrow.
That’s the psychological flaw in social justice.
Mercy: Its Theological
In its theological implications, mercy
transcends psychological deception. For example, we can have mercy on others by
showing kindness to them simply in the hope that they might overcome their fear and
enter into real sorrow for their sins. This follows from the compassionate example
of mercy given by Christ Himself who sat with sinners, not to wink at their sins,
but to call them
This understanding of the theological
meaning of mercy points to the fact that God is always offering His mercy to us,
despite our arrogance. All we have to do is accept His mercy, despite our
fears. In this transaction of divine mercy, there is no place
I do not want to punish
aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart.
I use punishment when they themselves force me to do so; my hand is reluctant
to take hold of the sword of Justice. Before the Day of Justice I am sending
the Day of Mercy. . . .
I cannot punish
even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the
contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable
mercy. . . .
that no one shall escape My hand; if they run away from My Merciful Heart,
they will fall into My Just Hands.
—told to Saint
Faustina by Jesus,
Diary (1588, 1146, 1728)
The real problem, then, is that in
our proud, hardened hearts we refuse to accept
the mercy so graciously offered to us. In trying to defend our self-esteem
from the emotional wounds of family dysfunction,
we try to convince ourselves that we are self-sufficient, and we end up believing
that begging for mercy is just another game—like all family games—that
will lead to more humiliation.
Jonah, we often begrudge God’s gift of mercy
seemingly well-meaning yet self-deceived claims, as many do today—saying
that hell does not exist, and that
sin is an outdated concept irrelevant to today’s
world, and that everyone will go to heaven “because God loves
us”—only serves as a psychological
defense against the terror of human
brokenness. Like all heresies, such
claims injure others because they deny to others the truth that they need
in order to repent their sins and turn to
To trust in
The Divine Mercy is to
believe in the reality of sin and to tremble before
the Divine Justice that punishes all unrepentant sin.
pray for mercy on yourself—and on others—means that you are making
your contribution to facilitate a general sense of repentance that this world
so desperately needs.
Therefore, to say, “Lord,
have mercy” in full spiritual honesty means that you are begging God
not to be easy on you but to give you the life experiences that will break
you and humble you—not humiliate you—and
crack open your hardened heart. Then, in that crack of
contrition, maybe true
love will begin to take root and grow, and spread and transform the hardness
Furthermore, divine mercy does
not stop there, with pure contrition—that is, when a soul sees and realizes
the gravity of its sins. Even humble, repentant souls striving for holiness
need to adore Christ’s mercy.
I desire that
these souls distinguish themselves by boundless trust in My mercy. I myself
will attend to the sanctification of such souls. I will provide them with
everything they need to attain sanctity. The graces of My mercy are drawn
by means of one vessel only, and that is—trust. The more a soul trusts,
the more it will receive. Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort
to Me, because I pour all the treasures of My graces into them. I rejoice
that they ask for much, because it is My desire to give much, very much.
On the other hand, I am sad when souls ask for little, when they narrow their
—told to Saint
Faustina by Jesus,
True Christian life, therefore,
is not just a matter of the initial
repentance; it requires a constant
struggle to provide a good return on the investment
of graces that God makes in us (Matthew 25:14-30). We can do this only by
detaching ourselves from the
illusions of this world
and trusting completely in God—adoring God’s mercy for our own
good, and performing works of mercy for the good of others.
Blessed are the
merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
— Matthew 5:7
A Genuine Plea
O LORD, I am
weak and broken, surrounded on all sides by corruption and perversion.
LORD have mercy on me: protect me from my enemies who would
devour me, and guide me in the Way of Perfection. No matter what happens around
me, whether it be attack or seduction, may my love for You protect me from
falling into sin. May I live a holy life no matter what others do around
Comfort from the Book of
From the book of Wisdom 11:20b-12:2, 11b-19
Concerning the mercy and patience of God
You have disposed all things by
measure and number and weight, O Lord.
For with You great strength abides always;
who can resist the might of Your arm?
Indeed, before You the whole universe is as a grain from a balance,
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
But You have mercy on all, because You can do all things;
and You tolerate the sins of men that they may repent.
For You love all things that are
and loathe nothing that You have made;
for what You hated, You would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless You willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by You?
But You spare all things, because they
are Yours, O Lord and lover of souls,
for Your imperishable spirit is in all things!
Therefore You rebuke offenders little by little,
warn them, and remind them of the sins they are committing,
that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in You, O Lord!
Neither out of fear for anyone
did You grant amnesty for their sins.
For who can say to You, “What have You done?”
or who can oppose Your decree?
Or when peoples perish, who can challenge You, their maker;
or who can come into Your presence as vindicator of unjust men?
For neither is there any god besides You who have the care of all,
that You need show You have not unjustly condemned;
Nor can any king or prince confront You on behalf of those You have punished.
But as You are just, You govern all things justly;
You regard it as unworthy of Your power
to punish one who has incurred no blame.
For Your might is the source of justice;
Your mastery over all things makes You lenient to all.
For You show your might when the perfection of Your power is disbelieved;
and in those who know You, You rebuke temerity.
But though You are master of might, You judge with clemency,
and with much lenience You govern us;
for power, whenever You will, attends You.
And You taught Your people, by these deeds,
that those who are just must be kind;
And You gave your people good ground for hope
that You would permit repentance for their sins.
Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid
of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising,
consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and
bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially
in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting
the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms
to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also
a work of justice pleasing to God.
Psychological Healing in the Catholic Mystic Tradition
by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
A treasure of a resource for psychological
and spiritual healing. Information gathered from my websites is now available at your fingertips
in book form with a comprehensive index.
Psychological defenses help to protect us from
emotional injury, but if you cling to the defense mechanisms that were created in your
childhood and carry them on into adulthood—as most everyone does unconsciously—your quest
for spiritual healing will be thwarted by overwhelming resentments and conflicts.
Still, God has been trying to show you that there is more to life than resentment and
conflict, something so beautiful and desirable that only one thing can resist its pull:
So now, and in every moment until you die, you will have a profound choice between your
enslavement to old defenses and the beauty of God. That decision has to come from you.
You will go where you desire.