Bishop Ricken

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The Most Rev. David L. Ricken is the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay.

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A transformative mercy

By | April 8, 2009

And yet Jesus forgives. The people are clamoring that he is “death-guilty.” They scream that he is deserving of death because of his guilt and they call for him to be crucified. He counters with “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

They call for his blood to be on their children and on their children’s children. He can only see them through the bloody slit in his battered eyes but he can also only see them through the cosmic lens of perfect mercy.

He chooses to forgive them and to pour out mercy on them because of their ignorance and their complicity in a scapegoating lynch mob – out of control with fear, blame and self righteousness. They condemn themselves and their children to a baptism in the blood of an innocent man who is also God.

The God-man bathes them, for all generations to come, in the baptism of forgiveness and mercy. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

It would be easy for us, the men and women of today, to scapegoat the people of Jesus’ time, especially his judges, tormenters and executioners. It would be easy for us to play the Pilate, but we know that we can not “wash our hands of this travesty.”

We realize that part of that torture, abuse and death on a gibbet on the mount of Golgotha is due to our sins and selfish preoccupations. It is due as much to our refusal of the love of God with our self-assured convictions that we have no need of God. We can get along – all by ourselves, thank you very much. Deep down, however, we realize we are equally culpable as the jeering crowds and the mob-crazed looky lews out for a little pre-Sabbath entertainment that Friday afternoon.

“There is a deeper truth here for us to learn. It is that God seeks always to forgive. He will look for every reason to make excuses for us, to understand. Nonetheless, he looks into our hearts to find sorrow, or at least the beginning of it. He expects us to be sorry and to say so: to recognize the wrong we have done. There is comfort in remembering that he will not spurn a humble and contrite heart. … Sorrow for sin is never too late, wrongdoing never so great that forgiveness will be refused. Others may ignore, forget or lose interest. God never does. However you or I may have wandered, whatever wrong you may have done, despair must never be a word you know. He wants us more than we have ever wanted him or ever could.” (Basil Cardinal Hume).

What a transformative mercy! As we journey through Holy Week and celebrate the power of the Resurrection in the Easter Mysteries, we renew our consciousness of this transformative mercy. This mercy has come at a great price by our loving Savior. Have a wonderful Holy Week and Easter!

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