Forgive and You Will be Forgiven Week 10 - Mercy in the Face of Suicide

(April 24, 2022)

Bottom line: We need to experience the Divine Mercy so we can bring mercy to others.

For the past 10 weeks I've been giving a homily series on forgiveness. Forgive and you will be forgiven. As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, this difficult topic comes into a clearer focus. In the Divine Mercy prayer we say: For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Jesus brings forgiveness by his cross.

Why such a high cost? Couldn't the Father simply say, "That's all right. I forgive you"? People who say that are forgetting what sin is. Even a brief review of human history tells a story of exploitation, slavery and wars. What we see in Ukraine regularly happened to cities under siege: innocent civilians, the elderly, little children, the sick - huddled in fear of what the invaders would do to them..

Some claim that when we do bad things, we act like animals. That's a calumny against our animal cousins. My puppy Rosie misbehaves but never out of revenge or greed or cruelty. When we do evil, we act not like animals. We act like devils.

In his Passion, Jesus faced the full force of the demonic power: betrayal, mockery, torture, abandonment - they heaped on him the sins of the world. And he cried out, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. The wages of sin exact a high price, but Jesus did not demand payback. Rather he paid the full amount. He can forgive even the ugliest sins.

You will notice that when Jesus appears to his disciples, he shows them his wounds. He has a glorified body, but he shows them his wounds. Then he breathes the Holy Spirit on them giving them the power to forgive sins in his name. That power comes from what he suffered for us: For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

In his humanity Jesus experienced being God forsaken. "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Jesus can understand those who feel despair so great they take their own life. In Jesus we can pray even for those who commit suicide. Fr Chris Alar has written a helpful pamphlet: Divine Mercy After Suicide. He tells about losing his own grandmother to suicide in 1993. He was devastated along with the whole family. A college student at the time, Chris did not pray for his grandmother, even at the funeral. He thought she had no hope since she took her own life. Ten years later as a young working man, he attended a retreat where he made a General Confession. The priest introduced him to the Divine Mercy and showed him a way to pray for his grandmother. I'll let you read the pamphlet, but know that our prayers can help a person even reaching back to that final moment of life.

Since opening in 1937, some 1700 people have attempted suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Only 2% survive, about 34 people. Some survivors spoke about instant regret. In the year 2000, nineteen-year-old Keven Hines jumped from the bridge and survived, in spite of broken vertebras and lacerated inner organs. He later said. "There was a millisecond of free fall. In that instant, I thought, what have I just done? I don't want to die. God, please save me." Kevin has dedicated his life to helping others deal with suicidal thoughts.

All of us need help in facing the disappointments and sufferings which make up so much of our lives. I've drawn inspiration from Fr. Stuart Long. The movie Father Stu tells about his dramatic conversion to the Catholic faith and his subsequent call the priesthood. In his forties a debilitating disease struck him, leading to his death seven years later. He said, "My suffering is a gift from God. In this life, no matter how long it lasts, it's a momentary affliction preparing us for eternal glory." Father Stu added, "No one suffers perfectly...even Christ had his moments of despair."

We need hope. This Wednesday I will give a presentation on the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. I'll begin with hope which is the virtue we need most today.

Hope does not come naturally. We have to ask for it - beseech the divine mercy for the gift of hope so we can bring hope to others. One way we bring hope is by practicing the works of mercy. We have opportunities these days: On an international level through Catholic Relief Services, in our diocese by the Annual Catholic Appeal and in our parish through St. Vincent de Paul.

Hope comes through thoughtful assistance, but above all it comes from forgiveness. We need to experience the Divine Mercy so we can bring mercy to others. Or as Jesus tells us, "Forgive and you will be forgiven."


Divine Mercy Sunday homilies:

2021: Implications of Bodily Resurrection
2020: Let Go of Your Anger
2019: Two-Step Program
2018: MeToo & Need for Mercy
2017: Life in Christ Week 2: Take the Plunge
2016: Receiving Divine Mercy
2015: Disciples and Disciple Makers Week 2
2014: Journey to Hope Week 2
2013: Overcoming Fear - A Titanic Hero
2012: Divine Mercy in a Time of Crisis
2011: His Mercy Endures
2010: Believing Is Seeing
2009: The Eighth Day
2008: Reconciliation
2007: A Drop in the Ocean
2006: Mercy in Action
2005: The Grandeur of God
2004: God Loves Honest Skeptics
2003: The Truth Is Out There
2002: Divine Mercy
2001: Doubting The Doubts
2000: A Requisite for Faith
1999: Neither Gullible nor Rigid
1998: Be Not Afraid!
1997: Room for Doubt

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.

Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)

Parish Picture Album


MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru