AN INVITATION TO SHARE IN THE LIFE OF GOD
“In the midst of the Sermon on the Mount Our Blessed Lord says ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48). I have also seen this translated as ‘You must set no bounds to your love just as your Heavenly Father sets no bounds on His’. It can also be understood as ‘Be you merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful’.
This sounds like an impossible command but should we understand it as a command at all? Would it not be more helpful to consider it as an invitation to share in the life of God? Jesus is not ordering us to be perfect like some policeman ordering us to cross the road. He is sharing with us the secret of His life.
THE UNIQUENESS OF CHRISTIANITY
Throughout the whole of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is telling us about God and who God really is and inviting us not simply to have these nice thoughts about God, but He is offering us true happiness by having the same thoughts and feelings as God. He is inviting us to know God from the inside and not only thinks about Him from the outside.
This is the real distinguishing mark of Christianity vis-a-vis all other religions. They all claim to tell us about God and how to honour Him and please Him, but our Christian faith alone asks us to share in His life and to know His heart in the depths of our hearts. It is never enough to know things about Christianity to understand it. One can only ever know about Christianity by living it. You only understand mercy when you show it and feel it in your heart.
This saying of Jesus brings us to the very heart of the devotion to the Divine Mercy. Having devotion to the Divine Mercy is not simply about receiving mercy in one’s own life, or indeed being merciful to other people, it is about sharing the life of God Himself. Our Christian faith is not simply about saying things about God or Jesus, or even taking Jesus as an example of how to live, it is a much deeper calling to live with the heart of God.
FROM HEART TO HEART
When we look at the image of the Divine Mercy, we see the red and white rays of light coming from the Heart of Jesus, but these rays do not simply light up the world – they are flowing from the Heart of Jesus into our hearts. These rays flow from heart to heart. When these rays deeply penetrate your heart with their divine love and mercy and then cause your heart to flow with the same love and mercy you are beginning to understand the devotion to Divine Mercy and indeed to be a Christian. Indeed you could say to be a Christian is to have these same rays coming from your heart also. We don’t simply look at these rays coming from the Heart of Jesus, we receive them and wounded by such love, we become these rays in our world.
RADIATING THE LOVE OF GOD IN THE WORLD
Recently here in Ireland the leader of the government said that he was a politician who was a catholic and not a ctholic politician. I have no idea what the man meant when he said these things but it has caused me to think about the role which mercy has in our lives. To be a catholic means that the love of God has conquered you, it has entered deeply into your heart to such an extent that you in turn radiate the love of God in the world.
How can one radiate the love of God sometimes and not at others? How can you say that there are areas of your life that the presence of God does not enter? How can you say I will allow the love of God to be present in this area of my life, especially when I am receiving that love and not show my love in my turn. It simply doesn’t make sense. Surely the more one lives the faith the more just and peace loving one becomes. Surely such people are the very ones one would want in politics.
Being a catholic is not about following rules and regulations it is about loving. It is a love that is lived in truth. What kind of love is that which says to one’s wife I love you while at the same time being unfaithful? What kind of love is it if I only show it when it makes me feel good but cares nothing of the other person. Is it true love when I place the other person’s soul at risk by practising it?
The rays of love which we see in the Divine Mercy devotion show us true love. It is a love which costs you, Jesus shed His Blood and gave His life for you. Secondly it is a light which gives life wherever it shines and washes away any stain of selfishness and sinfulness.
THE TRUEST PICTURE OF GOD EVER WRITTEN
St Paul in his famous hymn to love in his first letter to the Corinthians tells us what love truly is: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
If you take out the word ‘love’ from this hymn and replace it with ‘God’ you see the truest picture of God ever written in the history of Christianity, so it now reads as follows: God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. He does not dishonour others, He is not self-seeking. He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.
A PICTURE OF US?
This is what we are being invited by Jesus by asking us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Put your own name into this hymn and see if it is a true reflection of yourself. ‘Patricia’ – ‘John’ – ‘Mary’ … is patient and kind… If it is, then you know what it means to be a Catholic and a true devotee of Divine Mercy.”
– This article by Fr John Harris OP entitled “Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful” was published in the “Divine Mercy Newsletter” 2013 Vol. 71 [capital headings added afterwards]. Contact address for the Divine Mercy Publications: Maryville, Skerries, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Tel. (00353) 1 8491458