Things Jesus Never Said Week 2
Things Jesus Didn’t Say Week 2
You Get What You Deserve (Divine Mercy Sunday) (First Communion)
This is the second week of new our message called Things Jesus Didn’t Say. There are lots of things Jesus did say, and there are things that maybe we think he said, but he didn’t. We are looking at some of those things for the next few weeks.
Here are some common phrases Jesus never said, finish it for me:
-What goes around … (comes around)
-Your past will come back to … (haunt you)
-You made your bed … (now lie in it)
All those statements tell us that we get what we deserve, but Jesus never said that.
Put yourself in the upper room with the apostles on the night of the resurrection. Two days earlier you saw the Lord killed, being hammered full of blood and pain to a Cross. That morning a former prostitute ran to the upper room with words that made her seem like a lunatic, that Christ had risen from the dead, bringing back hauntingly Christ’s words of prophecy that he would be killed, but three days later Rise. Then, fearful of everything, with the door tightly bolted, Jesus came through the closed doors and said his first words to his apostles. What words would you have expected? “Surprise!” Or, “Long time no see!” Or maybe, “I’m back,” like in that old movie the Terminator.
No. Jesus’s first words were obviously very important. He’s just triumphed over death and he was coming to proclaim the Good News himself to those whom we would send out to proclaim it after his Ascension. His first words, therefore, are very important.
As they hid, he could have called them cowards. He could have asked once again, why don’t you trust me, why are you not proclaiming the news of my resurrection. He could have been very hard on them. Even if we can understand or if we can’t blame the disciples for hiding, I think we would all agree that if they got what they deserved it wouldn’t have been the words Jesus actually says here.
However, in mercy Jesus came and stood before them and said, “Peace be with you!” It is an act of mercy. And because Jesus is God, it is Divine Mercy.
One thing we should realize about mercy, however, is that it is never earned. Mercy by definition and it’s very nature is freely given. It is given when justice could be. We cannot earn mercy or else it is no longer mercy.
And yet the idea that you should get what you deserve is pretty popular—probably because it makes a lot of sense. It seems fair. It seems normal. Think about it. Life is full of transactions. We go to work and get paid. We hand over some of that pay to get our favorite coffee, lunch, or a ride to work. A farmer plants and gets a harvest. A child disobeys and gets a time out. A student works hard (or doesn’t) and gets a fair grade. It’s no wonder we easily come to believe that we all get what we deserve.
But there are just too many holes in this thinking. You’ve probably already wondered to yourself, Did a hungry infant deserve to be born into a region of the world where food is scarce? Does the Ukraine, Ethopia, and other war-torn countries deserve what is happening to them? No, they didn’t earn that. You could think of plenty of other examples.
We might say an “amen” when we read a quote like, “Salvation is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” But do our stress levels, maximizing self-talks, and our latest attempts at spiritual improvement believe it? Of all the good in your life, is any of it worthy of a blameless, perfect human (let alone Son of God) dying a painful death? On the other hand, if you produced perfect behavior, incredible generosity, and incessant kindness starting today—for the rest of your life—would you have earned what Jesus did for you?
You can breathe a sigh of relief because Jesus never said, “You get what you deserve.”
Jesus said things like “Your sins are forgiven”, “Go and leave your life of sin”, and “Forgive them for they know not what they do”. And as He hung on the cross, He told a remorseful criminal, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise”. The criminal realized who Jesus was and what Jesus was doing for him as they were both dying, nailed to a cross. The criminal had no chance to climb down and start reading his Bible every day, get involved in a church, and serve his community. Nope, he had no opportunity to earn what he was asking Jesus for—what Jesus freely gave him.
Like the criminal, we have no chance to earn mercy from God, but we have every chance to show Him our love, generosity, and obedience. Not as payment, but as worship. And doesn’t following Jesus as worship make so much more sense than adding it in as one more transaction in our day? So thankfully, we don’t get what we deserve. We get undeserved grace, instead.
If God was to give us what we truly deserve, we wouldn’t like it, we wouldn’t want it. Because of our rebellion and sin, we don’t deserve mercy, we deserve justice.
So if we don’t get what we deserve, how do we receive what Jesus offers us?
While we desire mercy, it may not be easy to receive. We often reject mercy from God and from others because of various impediments.
At times pride is an impediment. When we are prideful we rely on our own strength. It convinces us that we are not wrong or that we shouldn’t be weak and that receiving help or mercy shows weakness.
To combat pride, we must grow in humility. Humility is the acknowledgment of one’s limitations or flaws in comparison with God’s perfection. Humility is not the mindset that we are less worthy or less valuable. To be humble does not mean that we demean ourselves or focus solely on our flaws. Rather, humility reminds us to see ourselves from the perspective of God, and to see that we have dignity and worth in being His children. In humility, we recognize that all good things come from God and that we should rely on His strength and goodness.
At other times, doubt is an impediment to mercy. We doubt that we can be forgiven. We think our failings are too great to overcome. We conquer doubt with faith. Saint Paul encourages us to “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”
Another common impediment to receiving mercy is shame. Shame is a painful feeling of distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. Shame can be good as it helps us to identify our sins, but it can also be dangerous if we let it rule us. Mercy is greater than shame and God teaches us to bring our sins to light and face our failures. But it must not stop there, receiving His mercy leads us to give Him our sins and let our shame go.
When we are hungry and someone offers us food, we grow in humility. When someone else forgives our wrongs willingly, we experience forgiveness, healing, and peace. When someone else counsels us in our doubt, our faith grows. When we experience mercy from others, we experience the presence of God.
I want to challenge you this week to look for opportunities to receive a work of mercy. Perhaps you rely on another to care for you when you are sick or serve you when you need help. Or ask someone close to you to honestly and lovingly admonish you. Or you ask others to pray for you. Ask God to help you notice moments when you could receive mercy. Ultimately, mercy is a cycle in our lives. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.”
Nothing shows us the mercy of God more than when he invites us to this divine meal of mercy by receiving him in the Eucharist, body, blood, soul and divinity.
We have some young ones ready to receive him for the first time today, and what a joy it is to share in the mercy that God offers us by coming to this table and altar, to the supper of the Lamb. As we receive, we are reminded of the mercy that God the Father offers us, and which he, in turn, expects us to share with others.
Both giving and receiving mercy brings about the presence of God. When we show mercy to others, people are cared for, physically, and spiritually, and God’s presence, love, and care is made known to them. When we receive mercy we are cared for and God’s presence, love, and care is made known to us.