One day a mother came into the presence of the 18th century French military and political leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, and pleaded for the pardon of her son — who was soon to be executed.
Napoleon was indeed moved by the mother’s heartfelt petition — yet he explained that this was her son’s second offense. Therefore, justice demanded death.
The mother said to Napoleon: “I do not ask for justice. I plead for mercy.”
“But,” Napoleon replied, “he does not deserve mercy.”
And the mother said: “Sir, it would not be mercy if he deserved it — and mercy is all I ask for.”
The compassion and clarity of the mother’s logic prompted Napoleon to respond: “Well, then, I will have mercy.”
And, yes, the son does cooperate with Napoleon’s offer of mercy!
Mercy is a two-way street. When it comes to forgiveness of our sins, God’s offer of mercy demands our cooperation. Without our cooperation, no mercy! Without our cooperation, we are asking for the justice we deserve!
So thanks be to God that Pope Francis has called all of us to participate with full cooperation in this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy!
And given that the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is a special pilgrimage destination during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, what can you expect if you arrive at the shrine seeking God’s mercy?
Well, hopefully more of the usual! At the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, among other works of mercy, the shrine priests seek to proclaim, charitably, the fullness of Catholic teaching on faith and morals.
All of us can find wonderful presentations of Catholic faith and morals in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. Work your way through one of those books and you will not regret it! You can even get the USCCA on a set of CDs for your home or car.
Also, the shrine priests spend many hours each week in the confessional, charitably offering the fullness of God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.
One or more shrine priests are in the confessional each day from 10-10:45 a.m. (9:15-10:45 a.m. on Saturdays), and anytime by request, especially right after Mass. Confessing at the shrine is a great way to hide your past-and-forgiven sins from your parish priest!
Our recent popes have recommended that we all make a good sacramental confession at least once a month. Who would deny that most of us need frequent sacramental absolution so as to navigate a safe path to heaven?
St. John Paul II said that the scary evil we see and face in our modern world is obviously beyond mere human weakness. From the USCCB website: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Especially if you have not made a good sacramental confession for about a year or more, you would probably want to prepare by making use of a pamphlet that offers a thorough examination of conscience.
We have such pamphlets available at the shine and you can also find one on the Fathers of Mercy website, fathers ofmercy.com.
Imagine feeling physically ill and suspecting that you may be suffering with cancer or some other serious disease. You go in search of a doctor who can make an accurate diagnosis and get you on the road to healing and renewed health.
Yet in your search for such a doctor, you are “mercifully” told again and again, doctor after doctor, that “nothing is wrong with you.” All lies! What kind of mercy is that? Time is running out!
Finally, you meet up with a doctor who shows you real mercy. He or she tells you that you are going to die within a year unless you get into a drastic treatment program.
That treatment program will make you feel horrible for at least six months, yet at the end of the treatment program, you will be looking at a 99 percent probability of total recovery!
Is that doctor being truly merciful, far more than the other doctors you visited? Yes! Truth plus powerful treatment equals TRUE MERCY!
And that formula is, of course, what Jesus offers us in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. Sinful addictions, in particular, demand powerful treatment!
Of course, we have Our Lady of Good Help interceding for us, so that we make a thorough examination of conscience — and then make a totally honest sacramental confession!
A heavenly Mother-Son spiritual health team — to our rescue!
Fr. Stryker is rector at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion and a member of the Fathers of Mercy religious order.