In his Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate n. 80-81, Pope Francis says: “Mercy has two aspects. It involves giving, helping and serving others, but it also includes forgiveness and understanding. …Giving and forgiving means reproducing in our lives some small measure of God’s perfection, which gives and forgives superabundantly.” In this article we focus our attention on mercy through forgiveness and remission of sins.
I start the presentation with a principle in our journey of life: It is impossible for us to be merciful towards others if we do not have a deep experience of God’s mercy towards us in our inner selves. In fact the mercy that we may have towards others is nothing else than a reflection of God’s mercy experienced in the depth of our hearts. This is the creative movement we are called to have in our journey of life: Mercy received and given. The mercy of God always comes first!
God’s Desire To Forgive
One of our greatest blessings is the fact that the desire God has to forgive is infinitely greater than the desire we may have to be forgiven by Him. The Holy Scripture is clear about this. We can remember Jesus forgiving a sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50), and the three parables of mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the merciful father (Luke 15).
Moreover, it is good for us to remember that we have a great power: the power to give joy to the Heart of God. We do this when we recognize our need to be saved, when we proclaim Jesus as Savior of the entire world, and when we finally accept Him and His forgiveness with gratitude. We also need to remind ourselves that while God forgives without ceasing, He also asks us to forgive “not seven times, but seventy times seven,”(Matthew 18:12) namely always.
I am always struck by the petition that Jesus puts on our lips and in our hearts every time we pray the Our Father: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matthew 6:12) Jesus asks us to pray in this manner because we need to understand the importance of mutual forgiveness.
However, I often ask myself, “What would happen if God were to answer this prayer every time we offer it to Him?” In fact, how many times do we fail to forgive? And if we forgive, how often do we find forgiveness very difficult to give? Because of this, we may want to add a new twist to our daily prayer: “Lord, give us the grace to forgive others as you forgive us, finding strength for doing this, in the experience of your mercy towards us.”
The Merciful Father
Since it is from God that we learn how to be merciful ourselves, let us analyze some surprising details of the parable of the Merciful Father (Luke 15:11–32) which proclaims the mercy of God.
Here are the details in all their magnetism:
By asking for his rightful part of the inheritance, wasn’t the younger son wishing for his father’s death? Yet, the father consented to the request of this reckless and disrespectful child.
The father is old, but still has the energy to run to meet his son, like a young man who would run to meet his fiancée whom he has not seen for a long time. I do think that the father ran with great enthusiasm.
It was not customary for an elder to move to meet a younger person, as this was considered humiliating for the elder and not proper for the young person. However, the father was more concerned for his son than in cultural niceties.
The father did not inflict an examination of conscience on his son. He did not ask him how he had fallen so low, or whether he had returned out of love or because he needed to eat. He simply accepted him with great love and joy.
What a great lesson for us and what a challenge!
(To be continued)