Today’s Gospel passage is also the first part of the Gospel for Divine Mercy Sunday.  Jesus enters the Upper Room for the first time after the Resurrection.  And his words to those gathered there are “Peace be with you.”  Then, he gives them the ability to forgive sins.  This ability was clearly reserved to God alone before Jesus gives this gift to them in the Upper Room.

James 2:13 tells us that God’s mercy triumphs over judgement.  God is a God of infinite love.  When that infinite love encounters a repentant sinner, his mercy is beyond measure.  If we repent, we do not receive what we deserve.  What we deserve would be justice.  Instead, our debts are forgiven.  We receive what we do not deserve.  We receive the gift of God’s mercy…of God’s forgiveness. 

This is the reason for the sense of urgency regarding our repentance.  Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of Mark are “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  We do not know the hour at which we will be called back from this world to the next.  Jesus tells us to always be ready.  We are called to repent of our sins.  Not later.  Now.  That we might experience God’s mercy now.  Not later.  And certainly not such that we miss the opportunity entirely. 

This gift of forgiveness of sins given from Jesus to the Apostles that is passed on to bishops who share it with priests at their ordination is a gift from a God of mercy.  It is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession.  God knows our flawed human nature and that we fall into sin.  He does not condone our sins.  But he offers a rescue from them.  He does so that we might get back on the path that leads to good habits, or virtues.  A path of virtues leads us back toward that for which we were made – eternal life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

God gives us this great Sacrament of Reconciliation that is essential for forgiveness of mortal sins.  But, for those isolated in a health care facility in this time of pandemic and unable to see a priest, the Church provides the alternative of a perfect Act of Contrition with a promise to make a good confession with a priest at the earliest opportunity. 

This Act of Contrition prayer is a good practice regardless.  It is a part of Night Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours that priests pray daily.  It is a good idea for all Catholics.  Plenary indulgences remit temporal punishment of forgiven sins.  But they must be forgiven.

So, we want to make use of what we have through Jesus and the Church to experience God’s mercy, to receive forgiveness, and to remain close to God always.