Sinners AND Saints Alike Need Mercy

 This post was written by one of my favorite authors and speakers, Christopher West.  I heard him speak at the 2014 ACNA Assembly.  He is an amazing young Roman Catholic layman with a great message and ministry.

I would encourage you to consider following his daily blog at

This Sunday is the Feast of the Divine Mercy. The first thing I want to say about mercy is – I need it! There is no progress in the Christian life – indeed, there is no Christian life – without mercy. We could even say that progress in the Christian life is itself an ever-deeper awareness of our need for and experience of God’s mercy.

I bet, like me, you’ve kinda rolled your eyes whenever you’ve read the saints talking about what “wretched sinners” they were. Yea, sure you were, Mother Teresa … whatever! But the more I’ve journeyed into intimacy with Jesus (which is to say the more I’ve journeyed into the depths of God’s mercy, which is to say the more I’ve journeyed into the depths of my own misery), the more I’ve come to believe that these saints really were aware of how sinful they were. And that’s what made them saints: they didn’t cover up their sinfulness with a pious mask; they didn’t hide their sinfulness behind self-righteous “accomplishments.” They simply basked and bathed – continually – in God’s mercy.

That’s the journey of the Christian life. It’s the journey of realizing that all we are before God is a gaping, bleeding need for his mercy. And there are no exceptions. That’s what our humanity is. Even Mary, conceived without sin, is a nothing in her humanity but a need for God’s mercy – a need that, in her case, was met right at the moment of her conception and sustained her throughout her life, but nonetheless a need!

We get the impression growing up, don’t we, that “saints” are somehow those who are no longer “sinners”? That’s the dichotomy; that’s the way we talk – saints and sinners are two groups of entirely different kinds of people (as if saints weren’t also sinners).

Growing up with this false dichotomy in my head, I thought I needed to hide my sin to be “acceptable,” to be “lovable.” For years I hid my inner misery from myself, from others, from God, because I thought it was repulsive; I thought it made me “unlovable.” To those who aren’t full of mercy, it is repulsive. But guess what mercy means? The Latin (as you’ve read in my blog previously) is misericordia and it means “having a heart for the misery of others.” Our misery actually entices God. It attracts his heart to us.

Hiding my misery from God and others, I came to believe I had some sort of “strength” to offer my wife, my kids, the Church, and the world. The Lord in his mercy (and my wife in hers) has been helping me see that all I really have to offer is my weakness. To this end, I have found St. Therese of Lisieux’s teaching of great benefit. Pope Pius XII summed up her insights well when he wrote: “We must take St. Therese at her word when she invites the most unregenerate as well as the most perfect to count nothing of value before God, save the radical weakness and spiritual poverty of a sinful creature.”

Speaking from experience, it seems only through various (painful) trials, in which our misery becomes undeniable, do we come to accept that God’s grace is sufficient for us, that his power is made perfect in our weakness (see 1 Cor 12:9), and that he is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4). And if he is rich in mercy, then we should have no fear taking an honest look at our gaping, bleeding need for it.

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