Being Mercy: Loving God

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

I often ask myself if I love God. I know for sure that I want to love God with all my heart and soul and mind and being. But I don’t know if I do. I don’t know if I can prove that I do.


Samuel Arnold O Give Thanks WebSamuel Arnold's "O Give Thanks," in the hand of Thomas Barrow, Wikimedia Commons

St. Bernard wrote this about seeking God: “You would not be seeking me if you had not already found me.” In a similar fashion, I like to think that I would not want to love God with my whole being if I did not already do so. Please, God, may this be true.


Here is one thing I can point to. In the seventh chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus goes to dine at Simon’s house. While he’s there, a sinful woman washes his feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. Jesus says of her, “She has loved much because she has been forgiven much.” Well, if this is true of the sinful woman, I hope this can be said of me: “Joe has loved much because he has been forgiven much.” And indeed I have been.


Not long ago someone asked me, “Father, if you had your life to live over again, would you?” And my first response was, “No way.” The person was surprised and asked why I wouldn’t want to live my life over. I said, “There’s absolutely no way I could be so blessed a second time around.”


Father John Dunne, CSC, used to say, “The worst thing that can happen to you in your life is not that your life plan fails, but that it works, because God’s life plan is always so much bigger and better and deeper than anything that you could have ever thought up for yourself.” That is certainly the case in my life, which has been filled with more opportunities and blessings than I could ever have imagined. God has been unspeakably good and generous to me and has accompanied me through ups and downs, successes and failures, hopes and disappointments, good times and bad.


I have known more forgiveness than I ever thought I would need. God has shown me a lifetime of mercy, again and again and again. I often wonder how I could have been so lucky, so blessed, so fortunate, so how could I not spend my life in service to God and to others? God has been so reckless with his mercy and forgiveness towards me that I cannot not give my life over. God has given me so much that were I not to share it in ministry, I would be hoarding. And all God’s gifts are given for the good of the community, not for the individual.


And so I serve as a priest out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, always hoping that others might experience how rich and blessed and cherished they are by God, how God always has their back, how God has constantly shown them forgiveness and mercy.


I gratefully and willingly celebrate the Eucharist in dorm chapels, at Dillon Hall’s Milkshake Mass and the Sunday Mass in Spanish, at the basilica and in parishes, always looking for opportunities to preach about the mercy and love of God.


I hear confessions whenever I’m able because the sacrament of confession remains a unique opportunity to extend God’s mercy to others.


I work in Campus Ministry and the Alliance for Catholic Education, always trying to accompany students on their journey toward God, helping them know that they are immensely cherished and loved and redeemed and forgiven by God.


I live in Dillon Hall with about 300 undergraduates, always trying to be a sign of God’s mercy and forgiveness to a generation that thinks it has to “earn” these gifts from God.


I do what I can do because God has given me so much and has been so good and generous to me. In the end, how could I not? When Pope Francis appointed me to be a Missionary of Mercy in February 2016, I said, “God has shown me a lifetime of mercy. How could I not share it with others?”


Do I love God with my whole heart and soul and mind and being? I have been forgiven so much, have been shown so much mercy, that I pray Jesus will say of me what he said of the sinful woman: “He has loved much because he has been forgiven much.”


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 God was published this spring by Corby Books.