THE MERCY OF GOD - December 3, 1950
One of the most consoling teachings of the Church is the mercy of God. "I will forever sing the mercies of the Lord," says the Psalmist. Each one of us should sing the same, because no one can be saved except by the direct act of the mercy of God. This doctrine of the attributes of God called mercy, has encouraged the saint, it has been the hope of sinners, and it has been the consolation of the dying.
Both justice and mercy are attributes of God. The question naturally arises: how can we reconcile God's mercy with his justice? Well, God acts mercifully, not indeed by going against His justice, but by doing something more than justice; thus a man who pays another two hundred dollars, though owing him only one hundred, does nothing against justice, but acts liberally or mercifully. The case is the same with one who pardons an offense committed against him, for in remitting it he may be said to bestow a gift. And so, the Apostle calls remission a forgiving: "Forgive one another, as Christ has forgive you." Hence, it is clear that mercy does not destroy justice, but in a sense is the fullness of justice.
The Psalmist says that no nation has its gods so close to them as our God is nigh unto us. Too many of us have the feeling that God in His mercy dwells away off in the blue-vaulted dome of heaven. We fail to understand that the whole of creation is an act of God's mercy, and we are such scatterbrains that we fail to realize that the mercy of God is right at our finger-tips in the confessional. All we have to do is pull a curtain or turn a knob.
Our Lord is the Perfect Psychologist. In the pages of Sacred Scripture, we always find Him talking to men of good will so knowingly and kindly. e.g. He doesn't mention the word confession, a word which makes some people wince and even shudder. I wonder what the grass we walk on thinks of the word we call it? It is so much nicer than its name!
When Our Lord talks about His mercy, about His forgiving of our sins, He hardly mentions sin. It is almost more about Himself than us. There are at least three beautiful parables in the Gospels which tell us most forcefully about His mercy and forgiveness: the Shepherd who has lost his sheep; the lost goat; and the prodigal son. There is no concern about the lost sheep; it is all about the concern of the Shepherd. Then there was the woman who had lost the goat. Some think that it was her wedding goat and, therefore, a piece of money highly prized. There is no description of how the goat was lost but of the woman's concern. And the woman's concern was to portray God's concern. God had lost something, a sinner, and he wants to find him. But confession, the tribunal of God's mercy where sinners are found by God, is approached by some as if they were going into take a whipping, instead of experiencing the kindly hand of God's mercy.
Then, take the most beautiful of all the stories of God's mercy: the story of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32 - please read it.)
Almost from the beginning you've got sympathy with the young man, haven't you. He seems a nice sort of young man. Our Lord managed to describe the young man in such a way that you feel compassion for him. He was foolish but he wasn't wicked down deep in his heart. It is almost impossible to feel a grievance against him and say he was a bad lot. May God forgive us if we ever say that about anyone. We ought to say as the saints: he is not quite as bad as we are. The saints meant it. Let us mean it too.
So rejoice in the thought of God's mercy! Seek God's mercy in the tribunal of the confession and say with the publican: "O God, be merciful to me a sinner."