The Year of Mercy began yesterday on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. With the multitudes of different definitions for various words, we should look at what the proper definition of mercy is from a Catholic perspective.
Mercy: Compassion for the sufferings, whether bodily or spiritual, of others, arising from charity; an act of charity bestowed through sympathy.
Mercy can not exist without justice. Justice recognizes that each and every person receives what is due to them, both the good and the bad. When it comes to crime, mercy acknowledges that a transgression has occurred, but alleviates the punishment that is due to the transgressor.
An example would be a thief who steals some money. Depending upon the amount that this thief has stolen, justice demands that he spend time in jail to serve out his punishment. Mercy can allow for a reduced sentence, depending on if the thief is repentant and is sorry for the crime he has committed. However, even if a thief is truly sorry for what he has done, it is merciful and just to those he has offended by allowing him to serve out his term that justice demands.
Mercy has been unfortunately hijacked in the Church today by the very enemies of mercy. The enemies throw justice out the window and use arguments for sinners such as “we need to be merciful and allow them to go free” without the sinners being sorry for their sins. Legitimate mercy requires that the individual receiving mercy is sorry for what they have done. But mercy sounds much more compassionate these days than justice, so we all need to use the incorrect version of “mercy” to appease the Church’s enemies.
When it comes to God’s mercy, it is endless; all we have to do is ask Him to receive it and beg for His forgiveness. One way we can do this is to go to confession whenever we have committed a mortal sin. Justice demands that those who die in the state of mortal sin go immediately to Hell. It is a part of Catholic teaching that at the moment we die; we are judged and sent to either Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell. God, in His mercy, has given us the sacraments to utilize so that we can confess our sins and reenter the state of grace. When we die in the state of grace, we are then deemed either fit to enter into Heaven if there are no attachments from worldly affairs, or Purgatory if we are attached.
God has also instituted Baptism to wash away the stain of original sin. Many Catholics are fortunate enough to have received baptism as an infant, but there are plenty of non-Catholics who have not received baptism. Baptism is required to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, as Jesus said in the Gospels: “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16). Likewise, membership in the Church which Jesus founded is also necessary for salvation.
For this year of Mercy, I suggest you make good use of confession as frequently as you need it. Once a month would be a good starting point, if you require going more often, then please do so, as your soul is not something you want to gamble on. Hell is real, and if you die and are judged to receive eternal damnation, there is no getting out of it. If you are not a Catholic or have left the Church, please join or re-join the Church, as again, your salvation is essential.