The nail that pierced has become the key to unlock the door: II.
I imagine that there may be a few people in the world like St. Therese of Lisieux, who have been protected by God’s pre-venient grace from committing serious sin. But even such people as these (perhaps especially such people as these) are aware of what they would have done, or what they would have been like, had God’s mercy and grace not been there to help them avoid serious sin. Most of us, however, have not received this kind of grace, and we may be woefully conscious of how much and how often we fall short of God’s commandments.
There may be times when such weak people as ourselves wonder if God can possibly forgive us? We feel that perhaps, of all people, we really should have done better, should have known better, and that this is what God will say to us – and more – when our hour comes and we stand in his presence. We feel very far from God’s mercy. But St. Bernard has an entirely different perspective on this. In the homily from which our quotation above was taken, he says, simply, “Surely the man who said, ‘My sin is too great to merit pardon’ was wrong…. Where can the weak find a place of firm security and peace, except in the wounds of the Saviour?”
What wonderful words: “Surely the man who said, ‘My sin is too great to merit pardon’ was wrong.” But there are even more wonderful words. St. Bernard exclaims that, as a member of Christ, he is entitled to take whatever he lacks “from the Heart of the Lord, who abounds in mercy.” Indeed, he claims that he may taste and see that the Lord is sweet…. They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. [Therefore] the nail that pierced has become the key to unlock the door, that I may see the goodness of the Lord…. Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of His heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high.
There is a “door” of mercy in the Lord, says St. Bernard, now permanently unlocked. How? The crucifixion shows us that this is what the Lord is like. He died for us. His death demonstrates that his mercy endures forever. The nail that pierced is the key. The door is open into the very secret of the Lord’s heart – now, no longer secret. And what is the secret? Shout it from the housetops: The secret of the Lord’s heart is that he simply never lacks mercy. For anyone. Ever.