Being Mercy: It's All Good

Author: Father Joseph V. Corpora, CSC, ’76, ’83M.Div.

Someone bumps into someone in the supermarket, “Oh, I’m sorry,” says the first person. “No worries,” the second person says, “It’s all good.” A student helps another student carry some books and accidentally drops them. “Oh, sorry about that,” says the first student. “It’s okay,” the second one says, “It’s all good.”


To be honest, I don’t like the phrase. But you hear it everywhere and I’m guessing it’s going to be around for a while.


Corby Confessional

Somewhere along the way it got into our minds and hearts that the goal in the life of any serious Christian is to stop sinning or to get beyond sin. I hear it all the time when I meet with sincere and earnest students. I hear it from people who take their life in Christ seriously.


We say it in the Act of Contrition. “I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.” If we are honest, even as we say those words, we feel a little inauthentic, because we’re fairly certain that we’re going to sin again.


Last Sunday I was traveling, so I went to an early Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in the crypt of the Basilica at Notre Dame. And for some reason, the words the priest spoke at the beginning of Mass, words that I myself have said tens of thousands of times when I preside at the Eucharist, really struck me. “Let us call to mind our sins to prepare ourselves to celebrate these sacred mysteries.” And then, of course, we ask God’s mercy upon us.


Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.


Two competing views?


On the one hand we promise to try to sin no more, and on the other we say we cannot begin celebrating these sacred mysteries without first calling to mind our sins. Is it possible that we cannot even think about truly celebrating the Mass without knowing ourselves as sinners? Or that perhaps our sinfulness is what makes us — like nothing else does — need to celebrate the Eucharist?


We all know truths like this: God does not save us as saints. Rather he saves us as sinners. In the Hail Mary, we say, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” The Lamb of God that we pray at every Mass repeats, “Have mercy on us.” Moments before we receive Holy Communion, we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” And in Luke 5:32 we read, “I have not come to call the upright but sinners to repentance.”


Our daily lives are filled with a constant awareness of our sinfulness and our desperate need for God’s mercy, and reminders that God’s mercy is infinite.


Maybe when we say, “I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to sin no more” while reciting the Act of Contrition, we should pray instead, “I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to accept my sinfulness and trust that in God’s mercy even my sins will lead me to him.


I always say that as long as I am alive the Church will fulfill her mission to forgive and welcome sinners. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I would love to stop sinning. I have not given up on this. Actually I won’t stop sinning, but God will bring me to a point where I no longer sin. From all evidence that will not be in this life, rather it will be in the life to come. I can wait and trust. In this life, I will continue to sin and I will continue to trust in God’s mercy and in God’s forgiveness.


I think it would be better if we began thinking this way. Some might say this would give us license to stop trying, to stop caring. Hardly. What it would do is to help us know much more deeply that we exist and depend entirely on the mercy of God. That’s the truth.


Next month will mark one year since the Extraordinary Year of Mercy ended. And yet as the Holy Father has noted, the fruits of that year continue to flourish. I think one of those fruits might be just this: That we would all become that much more aware that God’s mercy endures forever and that we will need it forever.


And maybe that overused phrase has it right: It’s all good. That doesn’t mean sin is good. But it can mean that the way that God uses our sin is good.


It’s all good. Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.


Father Joe Corpora, CSC, is the director of the Catholic School Advantage campaign within Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program and associate director, pastoral care of students, in the Office of Campus Ministry. He is one of 700 priests whom Pope Francis appointed in February 2016 to serve as Missionaries of Mercy and his book of reflections on this experience, The Relentless Mercy of Godwas published last spring by Corby Books.