|4/7/2016 9:00:00 AM|
Rich in mercy
BY BISHOP EDWARD B. SCHARFENBERGEROn Monday evening, April 4, many of the faithful joined me at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany in a consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
It was especially fitting in this Year of Mercy and at the conclusion of the Octave of Easter, the day after the Sunday of Divine Mercy. Mercy is the Easter word!
God blesses the entire human race with an abundance of mercy. God has compassion on us in our weakness and in our sinfulness. This is what the cross is all about. Man curses; God blesses. It is the essence of true love to give without holding back, to give without counting the cost. The cross continues to teach us that the greater the offense, the greater the mercy.
Why did Christ have to suffer so much? The answer is obvious -- or maybe not. We might say He could have just left us on our own, but it is not in God's nature to abandon us when we get lost.
Like the father who waits for the prodigal son and the shepherd who leaves the 99 "safe" ones in the corral, God goes after the lost sheep. The reason God does this is because God is rich -- rich in mercy!
As Jesus teaches us, wealth is meant to be invested and spent. It does no good if it is just stored or hoarded. Never is it said in the Scriptures that it is wrong to be rich, only that whatever we are rich in must be given, not kept to ourselves.
This is the key to happiness: that we see ourselves as cups overflowing with the water of God's generous grace. All the wealth that we have is a gift, and every gift we have is meant to be shared.
As human beings, the gifts we have tend to fall into the general categories of temporal, personal and material resources -- often called "time, talent and treasure."
We have only so many minutes on this earth. We are endowed with certain talents or, in the course of our lives, we develop certain skills. For different reasons, we may or may not have material possessions such as money, property and other temporal goods.
It doesn't matter what or how much we have, but what we do with what we have.
Jesus Himself had a relatively short time on this earth, not much more than 33 years. As for His talents and skills, we only know He was a carpenter's son, which would not have made Him a wealthy man. In fact, all signs point to the Holy Family as having been of humble means.
We do know, however, that Jesus was rich in what could only be called divine mercy. Out of the heart of Jesus pours constant, healing forgiveness. Everything He does is a mercy. Whether it is restoring corporal health -- sight, hearing, speech, motility, sanity -- or spiritual well-being (and the two are always somehow connected), He is always repairing what is broken in humanity and by humanity.
Not only is the cross the most vivid and evocative image of this Divine Mercy, it is the cause of it for all believers.
When God asks us to be generous with our gifts -- whatever they may be -- it is not because He is looking for some kind of payback. God does not need our stuff. What He knows well, however, is that we are made for love. In order to fulfill our human destiny as creatures made in the image and likeness of God, in order for us to be happy, we have a need to live and act in the way of the cross, the path along which Jesus leads us.
The way of the cross does involve suffering, because, in a sinful world, there is so much hurt and brokenness to be healed. The way of the cross is one of blessing in the face of cursing, of forgiveness in the face of offenses, of love in the face of hatred, of generosity in the face of greed and selfishness.
God never tires of pardoning us, as Pope Francis keeps reminding us. It is we who often tire of asking for pardon -- and of forgiving others.
So, let's get rich! If God is giving each of us so much mercy, so much love, kindness and forgiveness, how can we "afford" not to be incredibly, continually and sacrificially generous?
God spends his love lavishly on us. Jesus poured out His life for us. This is our model for humanity, the key to happiness, the source of all peace -- and our way to heaven.
(Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)
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