‘Mercy always brings hope, but it is not a blanket of false acceptance that no longer challenges us to live virtuously,” Kathleen Beckman writes in her new book God’s Healing Mercy, published just in time for the Year of Mercy launched by Pope Francis today. “Mercy enables us to acknowledge and confront our weaknesses. It beckons us to turn away from sin and go back to Jesus,” she writes. We talk more about mercy and the jubilee year here. — KJL
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Why do you begin your book with a Pope Francis quote: “Do we believe that Jesus can heal us and bring us back from the dead?”
Kathleen Beckman: Pope Francis spoke these words in the context of his Sunday Angelus message on the Gospel that recounts how Jesus healed a woman suffering from a hemorrhage and raised a girl from the dead. He said, “Whoever believes ‘touches’ Jesus and draws from Him the grace that saves. He invites us to live in the certainty of the Resurrection: Jesus is Lord, he has power over evil and death, and He wants to bring us to the Father, where life reigns.”
God’s Healing Mercy is formatted to help readers “touch Jesus,” to encounter Christ as did the people in Luke’s gospel: “All the people were trying to touch Him because power was coming from Him and healing them all” (Luke 6:19). Do we still believe?
Based on scripture, the book spotlights the healing power of Divine Mercy for self, family, the poor, sick, suffering, friends, enemies, clergy, laity, doubters, believers, those with diabolical oppression, sinners, saints, marriages, children, elderly, the unborn, and the world.
Lopez: Who’s dead and how does Divine Mercy bring new life?
Beckman: Most believers acknowledge the “walking dead” among us, and even recognize that in our life there are areas of deadness where we disengage from God, compromise the Gospel, harden our hearts, or become paralyzed to go out of ourselves to love and serve. Spiritually speaking, where there is sin-sickness, there is deadness. Where there is evil there is darkness.
When Sophia Institute Press invited me to write this book related to the Jubilee of Mercy, I wanted to proclaim God’s healing mercy because it is my experience (in leading international retreats and missions) to witness amazing situations wherein Divine Mercy brought people back to life, revived their faith, hope, and love, restored their family’s broken relationships, triggered conversion of heart, and healed people physically. These stories in the book bring hope to those who are discouraged or have a sense of futility.
Like the woman in the Gospel with the hemorrhage, many lives, hearts, families, and marriages are bleeding and losing the abundant life of grace. God’s mercy enters to heal the wounds in unexpected but real ways. I write that Mary’s Magnificat refers to divine mercy with a promise and a condition: “His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him” (Luke 1:46–55). That is why the Pope asks, “Do we believe?”
Lopez: Some might be tempted to respond: You do know that Pope Francis did not invent mercy, don’t you? Why is he so seemingly incessantly insistent on it? Why a year devoted to it? And now? As wars rage and Christians are being persecuted and there is so much suffering that seems to require more than mercy — maybe more truth and justice.
Beckman: The theme of the Jubilee Year, “Merciful like the Father,” says it all. God the Eternal Father is the merciful One. By proclaiming an Extraordinary Year of Mercy, Pope Francis, like his predecessors, exercises his spiritual paternity for the good of the Church and world. Mercy does not preclude truth and justice. The pillar of Truth is Jesus, Mercy Incarnate. The Gospels reveal that divine justice and mercy intertwine. In the book I highlight Saints Peter and Paul as an example of this.
The Holy Spirit invites us to rediscover the undeserved divine mercy to better equip Christians for the current world events. In the book I mention that we are not bystanders in a world of disorder; believers are pivotal players in the noble salvific drama of ordering the world to the Gospel.
The Jubilee of Mercy offers an occasion to “get our house in order” or “clean up our act” so that, cleansed of the leprosy of sin (the indulgences offered for the Year of Mercy), we experience a Passover (crossing the threshold of the Holy Door) into the new thing that God wants to do in and through us.
You ask about “more justice and truth.” There was a time when I wanted only justice, not mercy, for the murderers of my father-in-law. I wanted them to be punished for their heinous crime! I understand the horror of unspeakable crimes and the all-consuming grief that chips away at faith. However, a few weeks following the murder, in Eucharistic Adoration I was prompted by Christ, “Will you repeat My words, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’?” (Luke 23:34). At first I could not. But the more I reflected on the Lord’s Passion and His words of forgiveness from the cross, the more I realized that Christ empowers me to forgive as He asks. The first and longest chapter of the book focuses on forgiveness.
Each chapter ends with a “profile in mercy” wherein tragic situations in the lives of saints are transformed by acts of forgiveness. Unfailingly, God provides saints (heroes) needed to renew the Church and world. Christians are being persecuted and terrorism is spreading, but the blood of believers is not shed in vain; new life springs forth. We are in a great spiritual battle, and I devote a chapter in the book to this also.
Lopez: What’s so “healing” about God’s mercy? You talk about “healing” as another way to say “redemption”? Why is the “healing” word important and the connection just as important?
Beckman: In the book I quote the Catechism (CCC 1503):
Christ’s compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that “God has visited his people” and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins; he has come to heal the whole man, soul and body; he is the physician the sick have need of.
The book is scripturally based on the healing ministry of Jesus that manifests the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The book references biblical incidences of healing such as the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:13), Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14), and more. Included are examples of healing and deliverance from evil, as in Luke 9:42, when Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.
In Greek the word “redemption” is “lytrosis,” meaning a ransoming, deliverance, or rescuing. Paul writes: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9). Ultimately, we are saved from God’s wrath because God placed His wrath upon Jesus Christ. Divine Mercy, healing, and redemption are interwoven through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Lopez: “We are called to exercise our prophetic voice to protect the sublime authenticity of sacramental marriage.” Is there any point to that anymore? And how is it merciful to insist on excluding some from marriage, and at a time when same-sex marriage is the law?
Beckman: One chapter is titled, “Rays of Mercy on Marriage: Healing from Spiritual Weakness to the Beatitudes.” There, in light of the Beatitudes, we consider that no amount of persecution can justify that we forsake the moral, natural law in favor of civil law when they are in opposition. Christians are called to live Christ’s law as revealed in the Gospel and Tradition. There will always be those who do so with heroic virtue. There will always be those who oppose, refuse, or ridicule. It’s easy to cower to cultural pressure, but we believe, “Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world” (John 4:4). In this chapter I make the case that sacramental marriage is one of the greatest goods of divine mercy. Divine mercy is always the protector of chaste love.
Christians are called to live Christ’s law as revealed in the Gospel and Tradition. There will always be those who do so with heroic virtue.
The book features St. Maria Goretti as one of the “profiles in mercy,” and we are invited to consider that perhaps this pure young girl was more concerned with the chastity of her attacker than her own. Divine mercy defends and upholds what is good, true, and beautiful. Believers can do no less. Divine mercy demands truth wrapped in charity because it sets us free from the tyranny of sin, evil, and death. Merciful discipleship is compassionate but not complicit.
Lopez: You write: “Jesus invites us to receive His merciful love for healing, holiness, happiness.” Can Divine Mercy really guarantee happiness?
Beckman: Jesus, the Divine Mercy, is relevant to healing, holiness, and happiness. The Gospel states, “Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life” — there is no other. Therefore, Jesus, the Divine Mercy, is the Lord of healing, holiness, and happiness. Discipleship includes a life-long process of receiving God’s merciful love that is transformative. God came that we would have life in abundance (John 10:10), a life healed from sin, evil, and death, a life sanctified by His grace, a happy life because Jesus is our joy. Paraphrasing St. Catherine of Siena, “All the way to heaven is heaven because Jesus is heaven.” Even in times of profound sorrow we can experience abiding joy from knowing Christ. This is not naïve, but a relativistic culture may disagree. Many refuse to acknowledge the need for Jesus Christ for healing. Few understand the universal call to holiness. Unbelievers do not connect happiness with knowing Christ. The book addresses how divine mercy can help to heal the culture.