Then Peter approaching asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’
What sin do you think Peter was thinking of when he approached the Lord with this question? Perhaps it was a recent conflict and he came to Jesus right away, his heart stinging with the pain of a recent offense. Or maybe it was an older wound, one numbed by the passage of time, but still gnawing at him, no matter how hard he tried to move forward. Surely, he had already tried to forgive, but now, seven times later, he had grown weary.
“I don’t want to forgive anymore,” he must have thought.
A Merciful Heart
I have felt the same way. I am quickly offended. I hold tightly to grudges. I avoid conflict, but when it finds me, I am painfully slow to forgive. I, with Saint Peter, often wish Jesus has responded with, “Yes, seven times is more than enough.”
But that is not Who our Lord is. That is not how He forgives us, and so that is not how He asks us to forgive others.
Love and Mercy Itself
Jesus revealed to Saint Faustina:
My daughter, do you think you have written enough about My mercy? What you have written is but a drop compared to the ocean. I am Love and Mercy Itself. There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will mercy exhaust it, because as it is being granted—it increases. The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.
Just as we turn to Jesus, Love Incarnate, with our needs to love more completely, we turn to Him Who is Mercy Itself to cultivate more merciful hearts.
Here are a few ways we might increase our devotion to His mercy, and, in turn, ask Him to help us reflect that mercy to the world.
Learn about His Mercy
Showing mercy is impossible if we do not know what mercy is. Along with praying, asking God for the grace to understand His mercy more deeply, explore the resources of the Church. Saint Faustina’s diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, is a perfect starting point. Don’t let the page count intimidate you; since the book is divided into numbered paragraphs, it’s incredibly easy to digest piece by piece, meditating on just a paragraph or two at a time.
Pope Saint John Paul II has also written and preached extensively about Divine Mercy, including in his encyclical Dives in Misericordia.
Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet
My favorite thing about the Rosary is that it gives me a prayer to say when words fail me. It may be because I am too tired, too overwhelmed, too anxious, or even simply too distracted to speak to the Lord from my heart, in my own words. The Rosary gives me exactly what I need and what I can never pray for enough.
Likewise, the Divine Mercy Chaplet is a gift from God, revealed to Saint Faustina, to give us a prayer for mercy—on us and on the whole world. I believe this encompasses the mercy we show to others as Jesus’ disciples, His hands and feet on earth.
The Chaplet is short, easy to remember, and beautifully meditative. Find instructions on how to pray it in this post.
Practice Forgiveness for Small Offenses
Mercy is like a muscle. We can hardly expect to be merciful in the face of big, painful moments when we struggle to show it in small annoyances or inconveniences.
To strengthen your ability to show mercy, make a point to practice it often. When we open our eyes to look for them, we quickly realize that opportunities abound in our daily lives!
Take a deep breath and offer a prayer when you’re cut off on the highway. Complete an undone chore in your house with joy, giving the person who neglected to do it the benefit of the doubt. Let go of an overly harsh word, a sarcastic remark, a mean-spirited comment. Working this muscle means that when a situation that is truly difficult to forgive occurs, your mind and heart are better poised to handle it well.Mercy is like a muscle. We can hardly expect to be merciful in the face of big, painful moments when we struggle to show it in small annoyances or inconveniences. #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Consecrate Ourselves to Divine Mercy
To truly immerse yourself in the message and promises of Jesus’ mercy, consider making an act of consecration to Divine Mercy. Father Michael Gaitley authored a beautiful devotional entitled 33 Days to Merciful Love as an easy way for people to do exactly that. In a few brief pages per day, he walks the reader through a preparation for consecration to Divine Mercy, inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux’s Offering to Merciful Love.
Each time I’ve completed a “do-it-yourself retreat” by praying through the book, I have come away with a deeper understanding of Christ and what it means to both accept His mercy and show it to others.
Go to Confession
Have you ever felt as though there was a physical roadblock keeping you from full forgiveness? There very well may be: our own sin. We can best show mercy when we ourselves are filled with it. Carefully examine your conscience and make a good Confession.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a gift to us. It exists so that we can be freed from the chains of our sins through grace, and go forth into our lives with greater virtue—including that of mercy.
Showing mercy and forgiveness can truly be one of the most difficult aspects of the Christian life. If it is something you’re struggling with right now, do not be discouraged. Human mercy may run dry, but Divine Mercy never does. Jesus will not refuse our prayers when we ask Him to help us be more merciful.Human mercy may run dry, but Divine Mercy never does. #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself. Amen.
Cultivating a Merciful Heart #BISblog // Click To Tweet
This post contains affiliate links. Thanks so much for supporting the ministry of Blessed is She!