God's mercy renews us to live Easter love Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Apr. 09, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

Lent, Easter, and the Jubilee Year of St. Paul invite us to receive God's mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. God offers us these healing gifts to renew us to live our vocation of Christ-like love when we sin and lose the Way of Jesus.

In Genesis 1:27 it says, "God created man in his image; in the image of God, He created him; male and female, He created them." In 1 John 4:8 it states, "for God is love." Since God is love, we image God best when we truly love. But the sin of Adam and Eve wounded our ability to love. Consequently, we commit sins which enslave us and weaken our love ability.

Jesus redeemed us

Out of compassion for us, our Creator Father gave us Jesus, His Son, to redeem us from sin and to grace us to love the way the Father intended when He created us in the Divine image. During his public life, Jesus showed us how to do the Father's will by loving God and neighbor, especially those in need. Jesus died on the cross and rose so he could offer us the gift of Heaven. The crucifix and Jesus' empty Easter tomb remind us of God's infinite mercy and love.

When Jesus rose and returned to the Father, He left behind a visible body of believers to represent him. Jesus also sent the Holy Spirit to empower them and us, his Church, to call Him "Lord," and to continue his work of love on earth.

Sin weakens our ability to love

On the night before he died, Jesus commanded his apostles and us to love one another as he loved us. In our journey through time to Eternity, we may get stuck in the mud of sin and selfishness. This weakens our ability to love in a Christ-like way. When this happens, we need God's mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation to rescue us and to renew us to love more like Jesus.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus forgives our sins and we are reconciled to God and the Church. Jesus' forgiveness gives us a second and a third chance to love others as he loved us. Jesus' merciful forgiveness of St. Paul and the apostles changed them and Church history.

In the "Our Father," we pray that God will forgive us as we forgive others. Unwillingness or failure to forgive can block the flow of God's gift of forgiveness to us. It can also prevent us from forgiving others.

Forgiveness not easy

Jesus never said that forgiveness and reconciliation would be easy. The cross reminds us that it is not. But to heal our ability to love more like Jesus, we need forgiveness and reconciliation. But since God has forgiven us, we have a responsibility to forgive and be reconciled with others. To love more fully as Christ loves, we need to be persons of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The conversion of the apostles and St. Paul can inspire us in our efforts at forgiveness and reconciliation. Just hours after Jesus called them friends, the apostles abandoned him in his hour of need. St. Paul persecuted the Church of Christ. But Jesus forgave them, gave them a second chance, and they responded.

The Holy Spirit transformed Paul and the apostles into courageous witnesses of Jesus who helped spread the Church from Jerusalem to Samaria to the ends of the earth.  

Anniversary of St. Paul

The 2,000th anniversary of St. Paul's birth offers us a graced opportunity to grow in the image of Jesus by receiving a plenary indulgence. The conditions for receiving the indulgence are Sacramental Confession, reception of the Eucharist, prayers for the pope's intentions, total detachment from sin, and participation in a public act of devotion to the apostle Paul by June 29th.

May the Holy Spirit, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the example of St. Paul and the apostles help to transform us into courageous witnesses of Jesus.

May our reception of God's mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation help us to celebrate the Paschal Mystery with renewed faith during Holy Week and the Easter Season. May we live with Easter love each day of the year.

Fr. Don Lange is pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.