No More "I Forgive, but...": Mercy without Limits


This morning, I had the great blessing of being a visitor for Divine Mercy Mass at St. Anastasia Catholic Church in Los Angeles. The homilist, Monsignor Royale Vadakin, preached a compelling homily on today’s gospel from John 20.

Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Msgr. Vadakin helped me to view a passage I’ve prayed over countless times with a fresh (and greatly needed) perspective. While I’ve always related to “Doubting Thomas” in the next portion of this particular gospel passage–the guy who couldn’t believe until he saw and felt–today Msgr. Vadakin preached about true mercy and forgiveness in a way that put me into Christ’s shoes in John’s gospel. While I can’t unfortunately quote him verbatim, Monsignor reminded us that Jesus had every reason to be justified in qualifying his remarks to his disciples with phrases such as “Where were you on Calvary?” or “Peter, why did you betray me?”

But he didn’t.

He entered, stood amidst them and said, “Peace be with you.” Christ didn’t give those who had abandoned him the cold shoulder or treat them with a passive aggressive attitude. He didn’t say, “I forgive you, but I’m still mad at you…”

He said, “Peace be with you.”

Generous and Joyful Servants of Mercy

In today’s homily for Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis paints a vivid portrait of true mercy:

In God’s mercy, all of our infirmities find healing. His mercy, in fact, does not keep a distance: it seeks to encounter all forms of poverty and to free this world of so many types of slavery. Mercy desires to reach the wounds of all, to heal them. Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters. Curing these wounds, we profess Jesus, we make him present and alive; we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as “Lord and God” (Jn 20:28), as did the Apostle Thomas. This is the mission that he entrusts to us. So many people ask to be listened to and to be understood. The Gospel of mercy, to be proclaimed and written in our daily lives, seeks people with patient and open hearts, “good Samaritans” who understand compassion and silence before the mystery of each brother and sister. The Gospel of mercy requires generous and joyful servants, people who love freely without expecting anything in return. (Read homily in full here)

Did you catch that last sentence (the blogger writes, asking herself)?

The Gospel of mercy requires generous and joyful servants, people who love freely without expecting anything in return.

All too often, when I feel that I have been been wronged–especially by a loved one–I feast in an unhealthy fashion on the self-righteousness that assures me that I am owed my sense of hurt and anger. My form of “lashing out” is the silent treatment, the inward turn, the “they should know I’m mad” frown and downcast eyes. I’m certain that with some of those around me, this unChristian behavior goes entirely unnoticed and the one who is most harmed is me, my mental health and most wretchedly my soul that desires to be in right relationship with my Creator.

Today, on Divine Mercy Sunday, I am praying for the grace to cast off a few, “I forgive you, but…” sentiments that have been floating around in my heart lately. I deeply desire to be a generous and joyful servant.

I know the value of that part of my “yes” intellectually. It’s time to get busy dropping the limits and being truly immersed in all that mercy is meant to be.

A question for you: Do you have a hard time truly being merciful when you feel emotionally wronged by a loved one? What has aided you in expressing generous and joyful mercy?

Copyright 2016 Lisa M. Hendey
photo credit: Mother and son via photopin (license)


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.


  1. Oh Lisa, this is so spot on! It made me recall the night my husband told me that it was his fault my son suffered his accident. I remember so vividly that I was given a choice: to lash out in anger and take the stance of “How could you?” which could have ultimately jeopardized my marriage and the way my family would heal from the trauma – or I could take the road less travelled and stand with mercy and forgiving his mistake. By choosing mercy (which is truly humility in action when you think about it) it frees everyone up to be able to forgive themselves for their mistakes and allows you to become a source of healing instead of hate.
    Merciful Lord Jesus, help us to imitate Your ways!

  2. It’s so easy to hold back the rest of that mercy. Even when Peter denied him and the disciples didn’t walk the whole way with him, Jesus offers them full mercy. Thank you for sharing, Lisa!

  3. I often struggle with granting my kids the mercy they need sometimes….any thoughts on punishment, discipline, and mercy as it relates to parenting?

  4. Oh Lisa, you hit on such a relevant topic here! That weight of unforgiveness is best left at the foot of the cross…which is easy to type and hard hard hard to do! Thanks for this!

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