It was a one-mile incline journey to the top of the mountain. The view over looked the hills of San Juan. The pathway up was filled with many slopes and rocky platforms. I was leader on a church retreat for a parish that is relatively new to me but that I have learned to call home. There were about twenty teens and a few leaders striving to reach the top of the mountain so that we could finally rest at the cross that lie there waiting for us. After the long and challenging journey, we finally reached the cross. There was a cry of rejoice as we admired the beautiful sights.
As we all sat there in admiration, it was not a coincidence that the word Mercy had been clinging to my heart. With the Jubilee year of Mercy coming to an end, I felt challenged to dig deeper in the thought of Mercy. Earlier in the day my Youth Minister asked the question, “Do you see yourself worthy of God’s love?” Throughout the day, that question of whether or not we feel worthy of God’s love stood out to me constantly, because sometimes I don’t.
We hear stories about how we should be showing other’s Mercy because the mission God gives us in life is to spread his love and mercy. But it came to my attention earlier this week that we often don’t accept the Mercy we are given for our own faults and mistakes. Throughout the retreat, I realized that many of the teens as well as a few leaders had a difficult time receiving the Mercy we are given. Therefore, we struggle with showing ourselves Mercy.
So often we get tied up in our sins and we begin to feel so ashamed of our wrong doings that we start to carry a heavy burden of shame on our hearts. Whether if its constantly beating ourselves up for doing that one thing we were told not to, fighting with the ones we love, lying to those we care about, or for constantly giving into the empty promises of this world. Along with this shame we also become so overwhelmed by the darkness that we begin to believe that God can’t change us of our ways or that he could never forgive us of our mistakes.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we read about how both Judas and Peter denied Jesus. When Judas denied Jesus, he found himself unable to accept the Mercy God was willing to give him. Judas was so overwhelmed with shame and because he wasn’t willing to receive God’s Mercy, he ended up hanging himself. However, Peter acknowledged what he had done and knew that he was wrong. But instead of holding a burden of shame on his heart, Peter seeks God and his Mercy. And because of this, his relationship with Jesus was restored.
We often underestimate the power of God. But if we truly go to God in full surrender, and vulnerability, allowing him to break the chains and open our hearts. Then we will be able to see how God can cleanse us of our shame, lighten our hearts, and change us in his ways. God wants to give us life in his ways so that we may live in everlasting love and Mercy. But it is up to us to decide that we are tired of living with this shame and in the ways that are not of him, but of this world. It is up to us to decide that we must lie down out lives at the cross and be willing to openly love and receive his goodness and Mercy he always wishes to grant us.
Although that journey to the top of the mountain was an obstacle of its own. I couldn’t help but see every rocky incline as the struggles we face every day, but through God we are given the grace to overcome it all. God does not see us as failures or sinners. God sees us as his Children. His love for us is unconditional and everlasting. He seeks to captivate our hearts and fill us with what breathes of him. He looked suffering in the eye and took it up on the cross, in love for us, so that we would not have to suffer because of our sins. He died so that we may experience his Mercy and be able to fully receive it. Because of the cross, our debts have been paid.