FATHER Gerard Francisco Timoner III, OP, prior provincial of the Philippine Dominican Province, wrote the following Easter reflection while visiting the ancient Dominican mission in the Babuyan Islands. He e-mailed the reflection to the Inquirer through the assistance of the Office of the Mayor of Calayan. Because of poor communications due to the remoteness of the Babuyanes, the transmission took quite some time.
Father Timoner is the only Filipino in the International Theological Commission, an advisory body to Pope Francis.
We hold in faith that the sacramental celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus during the Easter Triduum moves us to repent, to seek God’s mercy and obtain forgiveness.
And on this year of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, we are invited to become more keenly aware and more grateful for God’s merciful love.
Theologians say that before humanity fell from grace or sinned against God, there was only love, pure and unqualified love. But when we disobeyed God, we inflicted on others and ourselves pain and suffering.
Yes, disobedience is the root of all human misery. Graft and corruption that causes widespread poverty is simply the rampant disobedience of the command “Thou shalt not steal.”
Broken homes and disobedience
How many young people grow up in homes broken by acts of disobedience to the command “Thou shalt not commit adultery?” All these pain and suffering necessitated the transformation of love to mercy, for mercy is love that seeks to alleviate, if not extinguish, the pain of the beloved.
When we approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we seek God’s mercy not just to take from us the guilt of sin, but also to help us overcome our sinful tendencies that cause pain and suffering on others.
Beating our breasts in sorrow for our sins during the penitential rite at the beginning of each Eucharistic celebration is not an eccentric exhibition of what some frown upon as “Catholic guilt,” but a celebration of God’s merciful love and a manifestation of our desire to take away the suffering that results from our sinful ways and to radiate the same merciful love.
Mercy is a blessing
God’s mercy blesses us. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a penitent begins the confession of sins with: Father, bless me for I have sinned! (Though I also hear at times: Father, bless my sins!) A confrere wrote: “Forgiveness is not the scrubbing out of our sins, pretending as though they never happened. Forgiveness is a blessing through which even our failures are taken up into God’s grace and become part of our way to God”.
Pope Francis makes an urgent appeal in this Jubilee of Mercy: “Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace. I will never tire of insisting that confessors be authentic signs of the Father’s mercy. We do not become good confessors automatically. We become good confessors when, above all, we allow ourselves to be penitents in search of his mercy (‘Misericordiae Vultus,’ 17).”
To be concluded next week