We know that each of us and our entire world needs mercy. We feel a law written on our hearts and we have fallen short. Sometimes people think that Christians made up the idea of sin and have imposed guilt. But consider last year's Me Too movement. It didn't come from Christians. Non-believers as well as believers know that we should treat each other not as means to gratification but that each has inner dignity. You've probably heard the saying: we should use things and love people. Too often we love things and use people. That's wrong. We know it.
The philosopher Emmanuel Kant called this the categorical imperative. Treat people as subjects not objects - as ends in themselves, not means to our own ends. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We know this principle in our hearts, yet we violate it.
With the Me Too movement we saw prominent people lose their jobs and politicians removed from office, yet no one wants to mention that three letter word beginning with "s." You know what I'm talking about: sin.
If we're going to recover sanity we need to recognize sin, especially our own. Only then can we know the joy of the Gospel. For sure, I've been wronged as no doubt have you. But more to the point, I have done wrong - and so have you. You and I have sinned. If you are ready to acknowledge your sins, I have some good news for you. Jesus says, "Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them." This applies to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It also applies directly to our lives.
Forgiveness is not cheap grace. It requires accepting responsibility, openness to change and the willingness to forgive others. If we forgive one another, God will forgive us. As Jesus taught us: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We offer mercy because we long for mercy. We thirst for mercy because we have become like a dry weary land without water.
Regarding that desire for mercy, I've been thinking about Fr. Narciso Valencia and Sister Barbara. People were readily attracted to them. Why? Well, they were humble and accepting; at the same time they could call people to account. As Police and Fire Chaplain, Sister Barbara ministered not only to those in distress but officers and families. At her vigil one of them joked about how Sister was always supportive of those getting married and those having babies - in that order! She had a way of helping people who had fallen off the tracks. Some of the men told me how a word or look from her could steer them in the right direction. Fr. Valencia could do the same. Many told me how he helped them in confession. I experienced it myself. "Oh, Felipe," he would say but he channeled Jesus' healing mercy.
Regarding Fr. Valencia we have his first anniversary Mass on April 24 followed by a dedication of a living memorial by the Knights of Columbus. Regarding Sister Barbara we have several events: Our youth are purchasing school supplies for the Mary Bloom Center in her memory. They have their first fundraiser after Mass - a bake sale. This summer at our parish picnic we will invite the entire community to dedicate a memorial for Sister Barbara. It will feature the turtle symbol. As she used to say, the turtle makes progress only when it sticks out its neck. Sister is an example for all of us: keep going even when progress seems slow. It's fitting this weekend to bless those with anniversaries of matrimony - a great example for our young people. Don't be afraid to stick your neck out and keep going.
In relation to keeping on, I discovered something when I was reviewing our Annual Catholic Appeal results. Sister Barbara still owes part of her pledge - obviously because of her illness and death in February. At the 5 pm Mass I mentioned that I needed seven people to donate $50 each so I could fulfill the $350 remaining on her $600 pledge. People responded so generously and lovingly by handing me a total of $446. I thought, why not double Sister's pledge? It would honor her and help our parish as others for different reasons have not completed their pledge. If you'd like to make a gift in honor of Sister Barbara let me know after Mass.
Remembering Sister Barbara and Fr. Valencia is a way of keeping their example before us: their way of keeping on and being channels of God's great mercy. We need mercy, as we learn today, because we have strayed from what's deepest in our hearts. In doing so we have hurt others and we have hurt God. The Me Too movement dramatized the moral law written on the human heart. To violate that law is to sin. That's the diagnosis. We want more than a diagnosis; we want the cure. We see it on Divine Mercy Sunday. Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sin you forgive are forgiven them. Amen.