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When we sin, we offend God. When he has mercy on us, he does not simply shrug his shoulders and say “Forget about it.” Justice must be paid — and Jesus Christ paid it.
It is easy to see why justice must be paid if we look at the case of notorious sinners. We cannot imagine Adolf Hitler or Osama bin Laden coming before God only to be greeted with a grin and a “don’t worry about it.”
But the same is true of all sin. When someone harms us in our personal life, we see very clearly the injustice of it. When someone takes what is ours, we don’t want them to say “sorry,” we want them to give it back. We know that this is how our health insurance company, the IRS and our employer work. What is owed must be paid; what we have earned we expect to receive.
In our relationship with God, everything we have is a gift from him; we owe it all back. If we use our possessions, our talents, and our will to insult him, or to place ourselves as a higher priority than him, or to serve the will of the Devil instead of his will, our infraction cannot simply be shrugged off.
What is owed must be paid. The beauty and joy of Divine Mercy Sunday is only made possible by the horror and sorrow of Good Friday.
When Jesus stood before the High Priests and Pilate and was accused of crimes that deserve death, he did not defend himself. He could not defend himself, because he was guilty. He made himself guilty of our sins.
The Catechism quotes St. Francis of Assisi on who killed Christ: “We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt” (No. 598). “Demons did not crucify him,” said St. Francis, “it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.”
Today when we are grateful for Divine Mercy, do not thank Jesus for overlooking our misdeeds and deciding to give us a pass.
Thank him for standing in our place to pay what is owed. Thank him for taking on a crushing burden so great that it made him sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, and cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.
Thank him for sacrificing himself his whole life long so that we would not have to suffer the consequences of our actions after squandering his gifts.
The Gregorian Institute is Benedictine College’s initiative to promote Catholic identity in public life by equipping leaders (the Gregorian speech digest), training leaders (the Gregorian Fellows), defending the faith (the Memorare Army for Religious Freedom), and celebrating Catholic identity (the Catholic Hall of Fame).