Many may remember a movie in 2000 called “Pay It Forward.” The lead line in the movie was, “When someone does you a good deed, don’t pay it back; pay it forward.”

In Ryan Hyde’s movie, it is described as an obligation to do three good deeds for others in response to a good deed that one receives. Such good deeds should accomplish things that the other person cannot accomplish on their own.

In this way, the practice of helping one another can spread geometrically through society, at a ratio of three to one, creating a social movement and making the world a better place.

Jesus teaches and models a “pay it forward” mercy

I often think, isn’t that what Jesus’ mission was all about… teaching us to pay the gift of God’s loving mercy forward. After all, God has first loved us and wants us to manifest that gift in our lives! Isn’t this what Jesus did?

And it changed and … is changing the world!

Around the year 100, there were some 25,000 Christians, amazing growth for the times. But in spite of many persecutions, by 300 AD, they numbered some 20,000,000!

Jesus taught this “pay it forward” theory in his parables

  • The good Samaritan wasn’t paying anyone back. He was simply giving the gift of his care without asking for anything in return.
  • The parable about the unforgiving servant makes the same point in reverse. The master, in effect, says… I gave you the gift of forgiveness. Why did you not pass it on and forgive another debtor his debts?

Both end with “go and do likewise”!

Jesus modeled “pay it forward’

Of course, the washing of the feet and Jesus dying for us is the ultimate expression of “pay it forward.”

Do this in memory of me! Wash one another’s feet. Lay down your life for your sisters and brothers.

Divine mercy in the eyes of Pope Francis

Listen to what Pope Francis has said…

  • Mercy is not a dimension among others, but it is the center of Christian life: there is no Christianity without mercy. John Paul II said that.  If all our Christianity does not lead us to mercy, we have gone the wrong way, because mercy is the only true goal of every spiritual journey.
  • “The hand that always puts us back on our feet is mercy: God knows that without mercy we will remain on the ground, that in order to keep walking, we need to be put back on our feet,
  • Jesus tells us that mercy towards a human life in need is the true face of love. That’s how you become true disciples of Jesus and reveals the face of the Father: “be merciful, as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6.36)
  • “Today I ask you, in the name of Christ and the Church, never tire of being merciful.”

Divine Mercy Sunday is a reminder to not only ask for and express gratitude for mercy we have received… but also “pay it forward.” Encouraging those we help to pay it forward can indeed multiply the good we practice. God shows us mercy and expects us to show mercy. It also sounds a lot like “deep evangelization” beyond words.

Of course, the catch is… If you don’t know recognize the mercy God has shown to you, you can not understand what paying mercy forward means.

When have you

  • reached out to someone who, maybe years ago, spoke hurtful words to you?
  • rolled away the stone of a past hurt and reached out with a hug, a smile, a handshake of forgiveness?

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