When the early 20th century British journalist G. K. Chesterton was asked why he converted to Catholicism, his answer was very pragmatic. "To get my sins forgiven," he stated. And truly, that is why we are all here, at the heart of it. Your own personal reasons for being a Catholic may be different. You may be a Catholic because that is how you were raised. Perhaps you chose to become Catholic after being influenced by a faithful Catholic in your life. Or maybe you attended a Mass one Sunday on a whim and were overwhelmed by the beauty of the liturgy. However you arrived in the Catholic faith, there is one reason and one reason only for you to stay; that is to become holy. To get your sins forgiven.
This is why I am not bothered when people point out some of the bad things that the more flawed members of the Church have done in the past. These people think they can expose the Church as corrupt when they do so, but they fail to see the point. For the Church is not some exclusive club, open only to saints. Rather it is a hospital, meant to heal sinners. We are all here because we are sinners. We want to become saints. And for that, we need forgiveness. We need mercy.
The conduit of that Divine Mercy is the Church. In today's gospel reading (Jn 20:19-31) we see the Apostles encountering the Risen Lord, appearing suddenly to them inside of a locked room. After greeting them with His peace, Jesus tells them, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And then we are witness to a very special moment. He breathes on them, and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." This is the moment when Christ establishes the Sacrament of Confession, or as it is also known, Reconciliation.
There is an earlier episode in Matthew's Gospel (Mt 9:2-8) when Jesus forgives the sins of a paralytic man. The Jewish scribes are scandalized by this, for only God has the authority to forgive sins. They believed Jesus was blaspheming because they did not understand Him to be the Son of God. Only God has the authority to forgive sins. Jesus is the Divine Son of God, and so possesses that authority. And here we witness Christ passing that authority on to the first leaders of the Church.
This is what St. Paul refers to as the "ministry of reconciliation" that Christ gave to them (2 Cor 5:18-20). He says that the Apostles are "ambassadors of Christ, since God is making His appeal through us." That appeal is one of mercy and forgiveness, so that we may be reconciled with God, our creator. And that ministry first entrusted to the Apostles is carried on today by their successors, the bishops of the Church, and all those ministers in solidarity with them. This is the ministry of the Church.
So that is the Church's job. What is our job? Our role here is to be recipients of that grace which God is offering. We need only to be open to receiving His mercy. One of the visions of Christ granted to St. Faustina, that humble Polish nun in the 1930's, related this message: "He who does not enter through the door of my mercy must pass through the door of my judgment." We are given that choice. Well, I know which door I choose! I fear to pass through the door of Christ's judgment because I know I am not worthy. But I trust in His mercy, and am thankful for it.
And so we can all pray with the psalmist from today's psalm (Ps 118).
Let the house of Israel say,"His mercy endures forever."
Let the house of Aaron say,"His mercy endures forever."Let those who fear the Lord say,"His mercy endures forever."I was hard pressed and was falling,but the Lord helped me.My strength and my courage is the Lord,and he has been my savior.
St. Faustina recorded these words of Christ in her diary, to serve as a comfort for us all:Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.
--Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska, entry 699
Today, on this feast of Divine Mercy, renew your faith with this simple prayer: "Jesus, I trust in You!"