That de-finitely is a tall order. Even more, it is an impos-sible task, for how can a human ins-trument, no matter how gifted he is intellectually, morally and spiritually, ever think that he can give God’s mercy, so full of mysteries that simply go beyond even the most brilliant and smart methods we can ever develop?
I shudder at the thought that a human instrument has been given the responsibility to dispense the very mercy of God to penitent sinners. Thus, prayers have been formulated to calm down the apprehensions of priests before hearing confessions, and to make them aware of what they need to be, to have, and to do.
One such prayer goes this way: “Grant to me, O Lord, that wisdom that stands beside Thy throne, / that I may know how to judge Thy people with justice, / and Thy poor ones with equity. / Let me so use the keys of the Kingdom of heaven that I may open to no one upon whom they should shut, / nor close them to any for whom they should open.
“May my intention be pure, my zeal sincere, my charity patient, my labor fruitful. / Let me be gentle without weakness, severe without harshness. / Let me not disdain the poor; nor fawn upon the rich. / Make me kind that I may attract sinners, prudent in questioning them, adroit in directing them.
“Grant, I beseech Thee, skill to lead them back from sin, zeal in confirming them in good, diligence in elevating them to better things. / Grant me good judgment in answering questions, correctness in counseling. / Give me light when things are obscure, wis-dom when they are entangled, victory when they are difficult. / May I myself be not lost. / Amen.”
But we cannot deny the fact that Christ himself gave the power to the apostles to forgive sins, a power meant to be handed down to their suc-cessors, the bishops, and shared a-mong the bishops’ hel-pers, the priests.
Let’s reprise that scene when Christ gave this power to his disciples. It’s in the gospel of St. John. “Jesus said to them, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so also I am sending you.’ When he had said, this, He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” (20,21-23)
These words show us how intent Christ is in giving his mercy to all of us, and how effective that will of his is. After all, for that all-powerful mercy to be given to us, he had to die on the Cross, assuming all our sinfulness and conquering it by rising on the third day.
In short, he has built a formidable fund of divine mercy that can take care of whatever sin and predicament, we can get into. It also is a rich deposit of divine mercy that just cannot be wasted due to the limitations of the human instruments.
As he was sent by his Father, so was he sending his apostles to carry out the redemption of man through his divine mercy. And he continues to send his disciples today, the way he was sent by his Father, to go on with that divine mission of the salvation of man till the end of time.
We need to see this angle of the whole phenomenon of how God’s mercy can come to us. In spite of the limitations of the human instruments, there is an organic consistency between God’s will of divine mercy and the power of the human instruments to dispense it, or perhaps a better term for it is to disburse divine mercy.
To dispense mercy is simply to distribute it, without as much referring to the source of such mercy. To disburse mercy is to give it away from a sure source that can never be depleted. God is rich in mercy.
In fact, this divine mercy is given to us in abundance, and as long as the human instruments and those who would like to avail of it have at least the minimum proper intentions and dispositions, and the constitutive acts of the sacrament of divine mercy are done, that is, there is contrition, confession and penance, then that divine mercy is disbursed.
The effectiveness of the sacrament of divine mercy depends more on the will and power of God as carried out by Christ than on the qualities of the ministers and the penitents. Fr. Roy Cimagala is Chaplain, Paref-South-crest School, Banilad, Cebu City, Email: roy firstname.lastname@example.org.