THE GRACE OF DIVINE MERCY FOR A NEW BEGINNING
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Gen 3:9-15.20; Eph 1:3-6.11-12; Lk 1:26-38 ]
All of us have had a bad start in life. This is what the story of the Fall wants to tell us. From the beginning of the Human race, humanity started on the wrong footing. As the second reading tells us, God has chosen us from all eternity, that is, we are predestined to share in the glory and life of God. St Paul wrote, “And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things as he decides by his own will; chosen to be, for his greater glory, the people who put their hopes in Christ before he came.”
This bad start did not just happen to our first parents but to us as well. From the moment we were born, we suffered the same fallen human nature of our parents. How do we know? We grew up repeating the mistakes of our ancestors and that of our parents. We are proud and stubborn, wanting things our way. We are disobedient, like our first parents. We want our autonomy without founding our autonomy in God. As a consequence, we have become lawless. Left to our disorientated will, we allowed our passions, especially of the flesh, to take control of our lives. We fell into sin and suffered the consequences of our sinful actions; not only ourselves, but our loved ones suffered with us as well.
What is even worse is that most of us cannot forgive ourselves for the mistakes we made. We cannot forgive our past and our follies. We are filled with shame for what we have done. We suffered in guilt for the mistakes that we made, causing our loved ones especially, to suffer. This was the same sentiment that Adam and Eve went through in the first reading. We read that after disobeying God, they hid from God because of shame. The “nakedness” of Adam and Eve is not so much a physical nakedness but that of the heart and of the mind. Their thoughts were laid bare before God. Their pride and self-centeredness were exposed.
To save their pride, they tried to justify themselves and put the blame on others. The man accused the woman for leading him to sin. The woman in turn blamed the serpent for tempting her. So no one dared to admit guilt but sought self-justification. The attempts of humanity to rationalize and justify their wrong doings are the consequence of fear and shame. These are the offspring of the sin of pride. When things go wrong, how often do we blame someone else too? The boss blames his subordinates for not checking their work properly before passing it on to him for endorsement. The children who failed their exams blame the teachers and their parents or the environment. The man who falls into the sin of greed and lust blames the situation or the woman for tempting him. But very few dare to say with King David, simply and plainly, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
What is worse is that not only do we condemn ourselves, but society condemns us too. People will not forgive us. Our spouse will never forgive us for our past infidelity. They will keep reminding us again and again how we had once been unfaithful. Our parents keep reminding us how much they had done for us and how ungrateful we are. Our children will never forgive us for those times when we failed them or punished them. And if it were a public crime, then society will write us off completely. There is no second chance. They will not believe in us again. Once labelled a convict or a criminal, we will forever be so in the eyes of the world. Even if we try to change, their perception of us will not. Once convicted, we will never be able to look at the world again with confidence. We will have to hide in shame for the rest of our lives, because the media will keep on bringing up the crimes we committed in the past.
But thanks be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Our God is a God of mercy and compassion. His divine mercy is pure grace. He gave us a new beginning the moment humanity fell from grace. When our first parents fell into disgrace, God immediately offered grace to them. He said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, ‘Be accursed beyond all cattle, all wild beasts. You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust every day of your life. I will make you enemies of each other: you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. It will crush your head and you will strike its heel.'” Indeed, God’s assurance to humanity is that Satan will not triumph in the end. His grace and mercy will prevail over the human race. Humanity might have suffered a temporary defeat and wounded in the heel, but eventually, we will crush the head of the serpent. We therefore need not fall into despair and hopelessness. We need not resign ourselves to be slaves of our past and our failures in life. We too can have a new beginning.
Today, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we see the beginning of a new humanity at work. God in His goodness and mercy has predestined Mary, the mother of the new humanity, the New Eve, to begin her existence without any blemish. This was in order to illustrate the fittingness of Jesus, the New Adam, who was to be born of the Virgin Mary, uncontaminated by sin and not under the bondage of the Evil One. This grace of being freed from original sin from the very first moment of her existence is a unique privilege given to Mary, not because of her merits but purely because of God’s grace. It was given in view of the coming of Christ who is the New Covenant of God.
Very soon, at Christmas, we will celebrate the birth of Christ who is the new beginning of the human race. Jesus will be the source and the throne of grace as the letter of Hebrews tells us. In Christ Jesus, we will see the divine mercy at work, in His life and in His ministry, especially in the works of healing, reconciliation and deliverance. The apex of this mercy of Christ is demonstrated in His passion, death and resurrection. Through His saving grace given to us by His death and resurrection, we too can share in the new beginning with Mary, who received it by the preemptive work of Christ, whereas we received it by the redemptive act of Christ.
Through baptism, we receive a new life, a new beginning, because like Mary, we are once again called the children of God. Such is the great mercy of God that St Paul wrote, “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ. Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for his own purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved.” All our sins have been forgiven and we are given a new start as adopted sons and daughters of God, sharing in Christ’s glory and suffering. Indeed, we are now able to live a life of holiness and overcome sin through love and in His presence. The grace of love, the mercy of God that we experience, will give us the strength to fight against sin and die to self, like Jesus, for the love of God and our fellowmen.
For this to happen, we must make an act of faith as Mary did. As St Paul tells us, we are justified in Christ by faith through grace. Let us contemplate on the love and mercy of God in Christ for us. Like Mary, in faith we say to the Lord, “I am the handmaid of the Lord…let what you have said be done to me.” We need to believe in His grace and mercy. With God, nothing is impossible. He can do all things for us. With God, there is always hope. We only need to cooperate with His grace like Mary did in faith. She courageously answered the call of God to be the mother of the savior in faith and trust in God’s power.
So let us not give up hope in ourselves or in others. Let us not condemn ourselves for the Lord has forgiven us. Let us not give up on ourselves because of our past mistakes in life. Let us not give up on our wayward children who fail in their exams or have lived a wanton and rebellious life. Let us not give up our marriage that did not start well. Let us not give up our faith in the Church that is holy and yet comprised of sinful pilgrims. Let us know that we have a new start in Christ. We have a new beginning. This is the grace of God that comes from His divine mercy.
Indeed, it is the Lord who will make all things possible. His Holy Spirit will work in us as He worked in Mary and brought about the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. When Mary said to the angel, “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?” the angel assured her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God.”
All we need to do is to work with the grace of God by frequenting the sacrament of reconciliation, contemplating on His divine mercy, celebrating the sacraments, rendering charity to the poor and forgiving those who have hurt and betrayed us. In this way, everything will be restored to its new order and everyone has a new beginning. So with the psalmist, we say, “Sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders. His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation. The Lord has made known his salvation; has shown his justice to the nations. He has remembered his truth and love for the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout to the Lord, all the earth, ring out your joy.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
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