Forgive and You Will be Forgiven -Mercy Stronger than Misery

(April 15, 2022)

Bottom line: As we venerate the cross, hold these words in your heart: mercy is stronger than misery.

As we follow Jesus on the way of the cross, we cannot help think about nations racked by violence: obviously Ukraine, but also several nations in Africa, the Middle East as well our neighbors to the south, Mexico and Colombia. And countries like Peru, without widespread violence thanks be to God, who suffer in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Here in this Valley we can thank God for our relative tranquility and prosperity. People in other countries would envy us. Still, we have our own form of suffering. Many people feel adrift, isolated, left out. This seems to particularly affect our youth. And it causes anguish to parents and grandparents. Suffering, whatever form it takes, can only have meaning - and resolution - when we bring our troubles to the cross.

Tonight as we venerate the cross, we remember what Jesus has done for us. We heard this prophecy from Isaiah: he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. The Psalm also refers to the sufferings of Jesus: For all my foes I am an object of reproach, a laughingstock to my neighbors, and a dread to my friends. The Letter to the Hebrews speaks about the significance of Jesus' death: Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

This year Good Friday falls on April 15 - the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's death. I have referred to his death in this homily series. Preachers compared his death to Jesus. One said: Jesus Christ died for the world; Abraham Lincoln died for his country. Before his death, Lincoln tried to understand how the terrible suffering of the Civil War could come upon. In his Second Inaugural Address he said this: Fondly do we hope ~ fervently do we pray ~ that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.

Then he added: Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'

Lincoln expresses the biblical understanding that God's justice means that we pay a price for our misdeeds. Our sins make us debtors to each other and to God. It's a debt none of can repay. Only Jesus can pay the full price.

Lincoln was not a perfect man. In his speeches you can find things that would make people today cringe. Some want to take down his statues and effectively cancel him. I leave that debate to other people. Personally, I'm convinced that Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest men our nation has produced. But of course even he needs redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

As followers of Jesus, we stand against a cancel culture. Because of Christ's Blood, even the most vile people can receive redemption. I think of Rudolf Hoss, the commandant of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. In his youth he turned against the Catholic Church and eventually joined the Nazis. He was placed in charge of Auschwitz, possibly the greatest hell created by human beings. After the war he was sent to a Polish prison. Some of the guards showed him unexpected kindness even though he was responsible for the death of many of their countrymen. Before his execution, he asked for a priest. Rudolf Hoss made a thorough confession. The next day he received Communion as Viaticum, food for the journey. As an SS commandant, Hoss was trained not show emotions, but the guards saw him in his cell, kneeling and weeping like a child.

The priest who heard Rudolf Hoss' confession was Fr. Władysław Lohn. He was the director of the Divine Mercy shrine in Poland, dedicated to spreading the message that Jesus had given directly to St. Faustina. I conclude with an excerpt from her diary: "All grace flows from mercy...even if a person's sins were as dark as night, God's mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary: that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God's merciful grace, and then God will do the rest." As we venerate the cross, hold these words in your heart: mercy is stronger than misery. Amen

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Other Homilies

From Archives (Good Friday Homilies):

2021: Major Reason People Lose Faith
2020: Why We Long to be Back Together
2019: Source of Mercy
2018: What is Truth?
2017: Three Responses to Innocent Suffering
2016: Source of Mercy
2015: The Truth About Everything
2014 : Conformed to the Cross
2013 : The Contrast of Judas and Peter
2012: The Newness of Jesus' Death
2011: Suffering Is Everything
2010: Do Not Waste Your Suffering
2009: He Learned Obedience
2008: According to Your Word
2007: He Took Our Suffering to Himself
2006: The Hour of Divine Mercy
2005: The Conversion of Barabbas
2004: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
2003: The Host
2002: Testimony of Bishop Dolli
2001: Blood From His Side
2000: Vicarious Suffering
1999: Old Testament Fulfilled
1998: He took our place

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Kurt Nagel (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

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