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By Marian Tascio

On the Friday after the 3rd Annual Divine Mercy Conference in the Bronx on Feb. 9, my husband and I attended Stations of the Cross at our parish. We used a booklet I had never seen before called "Everyone's Way of the Cross." One reflection that stuck out for me was the one about Jesus' first fall. The writer emphasized the fact that Jesus, in that moment of physical weakness, had to accept His human body for what it was — limited and feeble — and that we have to practice that same self-acceptance if we are to follow in His footsteps.

Those words made me remember the talk I had heard at the conference from Fr. Benedict Groeschel, entitled "Divine Mercy: Psychological Benefits." Throughout his talk, Fr. Groeschel referred to the need to accept ourselves, including our sins, before we can go about the business of growing in holiness. Acceptance, he added, does not mean approval. As people with Christian consciences, we cannot and should not approve of everything we are and everything we do. We can't do anything to change ourselves, however, until we have looked honestly at the material we have to work with and accepted that it is the way it is, flaws and all.

When I considered the words of that reflection on Jesus' first fall, I realized that nowhere in Scripture can we find even a hint that Jesus ever grumbled about His human weakness. He never bemoaned all the lands He would never travel to or the people He would never preach to because His physical limitations and finite time on earth wouldn't allow Him. He never begrudged Himself sleep, imagining that He could accomplish so much more if only He would stay awake. Rather, Jesus honored His Father and blessed us by embracing His humanity with reverent love for God's creation, exactly the way He had created it.

Self-acceptance can be hard, especially when our consciences are well-formed enough to detect how often and how badly we fall. I know that I often chastise myself for my repeated sinning and for the many ways I fall short of what I expect of myself. But at the conference, Msgr. James Lisante reminded us in his talk, "Divine Mercy: Unique Hope for the World," that perfectionism is "the sin of Adam and Eve" because in refusing to forgive ourselves, we put ourselves above God. Mercilessness toward ourselves means we tell God that although He has chosen to forgive us and take away our sins, we disagree with His choice and are determined to cling to the burden He wants us to lay down. "If Jesus can forgive you," Msgr. Lisante asked, "why can't you forgive yourself? And in His Divine Mercy, He does."

Forgiving and accepting ourselves, though difficult, is crucial, and not only because failing to do so is a sin. As Christians, we are charged with the task of sharing Divine Mercy with the world, and it's a well-known truth that we can't give what we don't have. Monsignor Lisante proposed that priests themselves could end the vocation crisis by proclaiming openly, "I love being a priest. It's the greatest work in the whole world." Authentic joy is attractive; if men could see how much joy the life of a priest holds, they would want to investigate that life.

By the same principle, we can bring Christ's light to the world by proclaiming how happy His mercy has made us. "Be a witness in the context of joy," Msgr. Lisante challenged his audience. By telling the world, through our attitudes and actions, "I'm forgiven. I'm delighted to be forgiven," Msgr. Lisante said, we can draw lonely, shivering souls into the warmth of Christ's love. They will dare to come closer because they will want to find out how to have the joy we have. However, it is impossible to accomplish this if Divine Mercy does not truly permeate our beings. When we fail to forgive ourselves, we refuse God's forgiveness, too, and His light cannot shine in us with its full brightness.

And in the end, we cannot be sane, functioning human beings unless we learn how to embrace forgiveness without the barrier of self-hatred. We all have what Father Groeschel described as "dark corners" in our personalities. They are, as Father Groeschel put it, scary places to go. Yet we need to go there if we are going to let Jesus in with his cleansing, healing light. Believing we are unforgivable will plunge us into so much despair and fear that we will hide from our own eyes and from God's; our dark corners will then become darker and will spread. If a sick person believes she is incurable, she won't let a doctor near her, and gradually her illness will consume her.

The theme of this year's conference was "Healing and Forgiveness Through Divine Mercy." There truly is no hope for the health of the world except Divine Mercy, and like so many other things, that hope — that healing and forgiveness — must begin within each individual soul that aspires to bring Divine Mercy to a hurting world.

Marian Tascio is a writer and English teacher who lives in Yonkers, N.Y.

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SD - Sep 16, 2009

Ed, I while I do believe in God, I do not subscribe to organized religion for the exact reason that you described. I believe that our God is a kind, forgiving, nurturing God and not a terrorist who expects you to follow the letter of His law or burn in hell for enternity. I do not believe that being human makes us sinners. I believe that we should try our best to be good honest people - friends, parents, husbands, wives - and that those who TRULY sin will be dealt with once they are gone.

If the bible terrifies you then put it down. There is enough in this world to terrify and if the Bible doesn't comfort you than just don't read it. What exactly is 'tow the line'.

Sometimes, when I read things like this, I wonder if organized religion hasn't made God out to be some sort of middle eastern terrorist leader who has people stoned or worse for human rights and freedoms that we take for granted in North America. When we read of the autrocities in the papers, do we not all feel sickened by the horror of it? Why would we expect God to behave that way towards us and have it be acceptable.

Ed, you must try to appreciate the person you are and enjoy the life you have been given. It is far too short to be tainted by a book.

K,S. - Mar 15, 2008

No where is scripture does it say we are to forgive ourselves. Acceptance is a better word. In the Our Father,..forfive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us" God forgives us, we forgive others (not ourself)... it takes faith in God's mercy to believe that God forgives us. Replaying our sins and not believing we are forgiven is not walking in the word...

S.M. - Mar 3, 2008

To Ed,
I will pray for you to forgive yourself. I do believe that you are on the brink of conversion. Try to get into a Catholic based bible study and get a Catechism. Pray the rosary, call on Mary and the Saints to help you Keep going to church, pray and go to confession as much as you can. Confession was very scary for me and made me very nervous but now it is a beautiful thing. I recently confessed all my past, horrible sins of my selfish youth. It took a long time to get to that point, where I was able to rehash the past which I was so terribly ashamed of, but I tell you, after I did it, I felt this wave of peace over me, I cried tears of joy. I felt like a new person. And it's all due to the grace and mercy of Jesus. It was a long process and day by day Jesus walks you through it, stick with him and he will show you a world you never knew existed. He will reveal things to you slowly as you are ready to take them, have patience, and remember its all in God's time and God's will. God will forgive you, don't make yourself greater than he....if he can forgive, why can't you forgive? God Bless! Keep The Faith!!

Ed Mavrinac - Mar 2, 2008

I just finished reading about the Divine Mercy. I am one of those people who is very hard on himself. It didn't occur to me that I was refusing to forgive myself. I recently read a book written bt Mary K. Baxter who is a minister in another christian faith at a churgh in washington DC. She writes that Jesus took her through hell to show her so that she could tell the world. This book terrified me. I started to read the bible. Prior to this I didn't read the bible much. I relied on the readings at Sunday Mass.I am in fear that I will go to hell if I don't really tow the line. Since reading this web page I find that I haven't forgiven myself.I will try my best to truely forgive myself.

Please pray for me. Thank You

A.V. - Mar 2, 2008

'And a sword shall pierce your own heart , that the thoughts of many shall be revealed ' ...looking at those pains and hurts , accepting them , along with our Lady of Sorrows can even bring the joy of the Cross into those sufferings !
Peace !