Mercy Makes New – Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

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Read this Sundays’ Mass readings here

“Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”

If the Gospel could be summed up in a single scriptural verse, this would be it. We know that the human person is the pinnacle of creation and that each of us are infused with a divine dignity. Yet we also know that original sin has inflicted a deep wound upon all of creation, a divisive scar dwelling in the depths of the human heart. But Christ, the new Adam, came to restore and elevate creation, to free it and to transform it. In other words, Jesus came to make us into new creations.  I fear that many of us have failed to fully tap into the power of this amazing gift. This Great Jubilee Year invites us to reconnect with this power because the new creation that Paul speaks of is intimately united with this year’s celebration of mercy.

This may not, at first, be obvious. When we speak of God’s mercy, we tend to directly equate it with His forgiveness. “Lord, have mercy on us,” can sound the same as, “Lord, forgive us.” Mercy, however, isn’t only forgiveness. When we say, “Lord, have mercy,” what we are actually doing is falling at the feet of the master and crying out, “Lord, forgive me, heal me, transform me, and make me into that perfect new creation that you so passionately desire me to be!” Mercy is not only restoring what was lost, but elevating what we dare to hope for. Mercy begins with forgiveness, but it definitely doesn’t end there.

It follows that redemption itself enters into our lives through mercy. As Catholic Christians, we know that redemption does not end at the forgiveness of our sins but rather at our transformation into creatures capable of entering into the communion of life and love that is the Most Holy Trinity. Pope Saint John Paul II proclaims this when he says, “Redemption means, in fact, a ‘new creation,’ … it means taking up all that is created to express in creation the fullness of justice, equity, and holiness planned for it by God and to express that fullness above all in man …” (TOB 99:7). In other words, to be redeemed, we must be made anew.

Are we allowing Christ to make us anew? It is easy to say: “Of course I want to be a new creation!” And yet, we know that it is a painful process – and nobody wants that! The pain we experience in God’s mercy is the pain of the cross. It is the pain of being attached to the old in our lives in a way that their passing seems like loss. But that experience of “loss” is a deception. If we allow God’s mercy to heal our wounded hearts, we will find that we haven’t lost a thing, but rather gained riches beyond imagination.

The power of mercy is far greater than what we can imagine. It is a power that sends us to the confessional; it is a power that sends us to our knees in prayers of gratitude; and it is a power that sends us to our neighbor in joyful self-giving love. Lent invites us to reconnect with that deep and gnawing hunger of our hearts to finally become perfect new creations in Christ.

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Father Matthew Bozovsky was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 18, 2013. He received a Master of Science in Biology in 2004, a Master of Divinity in 2013, and a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 2014 with his thesis titled A Christocentric Ontology of Communion: John Paul II’s A Theology of the Body as the Hermeneutical Key for Integrating Gaudium et Spes 12 and 22. Father Bozovsky is an Associate Pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Libertyville, Illinois and holds appointments as adjunct faculty at the University of St. Mary of the Lake and the Permanent Diaconate Program of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

 

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