It often occurs that as a man gets older, he looks back on his life and worries about the sins of his past. As we grow spiritually closer to Jesus, even though we know that Jesus has forgiven us in the Sacrament of Penance, it can bring us pain to reflect back on those occasions when we turned from Him. When we have these thoughts, it is imperative that we consider the Divine Mercy of Jesus.
In the 1930’s, Jesus appeared to a Polish religious sister named Faustina Kowalska, and revealed His message of mercy. As part of His message, Jesus explained that He wished a special Feast to be established, during which souls may seek His special mercy. As St. Faustina explains in her diary, Jesus spoke to her in these words:
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. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.
I’ve often thought that the greeting line in Heaven is composed not of the greatest saints, but of the greatest (repentant) sinners, as an eternal testimony to the unfathomable mercy of Jesus. Perhaps that is why, on the confessional box at the shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, a sign reads: “The greater the sinner, the greater his right to God’s mercy.” His mercy is for sinners.
If the thought of your sins begins to overwhelm you, remember that Jesus came to earth and suffered and died to save your soul. When Jesus was crowned with thorns, and was nailed to the cross, and rose from the dead, he was thinking of you.
And this mercy should never be doubted. Jesus explained to St. Faustina that He is sometimes hurt more by doubting souls who do not trust His forgiveness than by the sins they have committed. We should never doubt that the Passion and Death of Our Lord was enough to save souls. Because we might be tempted to doubt, Jesus gave us a prayer that we should say for the grace of trust: “Jesus, I trust in You.” Your sins may be great, but the mercy of Jesus is greater. Whenever you are tempted, say this little prayer.
But there is another component to this message of mercy, and this is one that directly affects us as Catholic home schooling fathers. The message of Jesus is that we should show mercy towards others. As Jesus explained to St. Faustina:
Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it.
It is important to Jesus that, just as He shows us mercy, we show mercy toward others. There are 14 works of mercy, broken down into corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The seven corporal works of mercy are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, and bury the dead. The seven spiritual works of mercy are: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently; forgive offenses willingly; comfort the afflicted, and pray for the living and the dead.
You may not have realized it before, but if you wrote a description of the life of a Catholic home schooling father, the list would pretty much look like this. The works of mercy are just fancy ways of expressing the things you do every day. The last time you bought or cooked dinner for your family, gave your daughter a glass of iced tea, helped your son get dressed for Mass, said the Rosary with your children for the souls in Purgatory, paid your mortgage, helped your son with Phonics or Spelling, ordered a History book for your daughter, gave your wife a hug, or drove your children to Confession, you probably didn’t think it was a big deal. But it was a big deal. It was then that you imitated Jesus. It was then that you were answering the call to be merciful. The works of mercy are the résumé of an authentic Catholic father.
St. Thérèse reminded us that sainthood is often achieved, not through magnificent works, but through a “little way” of serving Christ through others. Catholic home schooling is often difficult, but we must always recognize the opportunity it presents. Every day is a chance to show mercy toward others, and often, we don’t need to look far to do it.
Fathers, make Divine Mercy a part of your lives. As Jesus instructed us, immerse yourself in His mercy, and please pray that I may do the same.