Saturday, March 31, 2018

Divine Mercy

We should not think, as one skeptic said to me, that to ascribe self sacrificial mercy to God is to imply He is sad and weak, which are anthropomorphic attributes, not divine. "A deity must be all powerful and stoic!", he claims. Of course, the same skeptic also claimed God is cruel for allowing souls to go to hell. In other words, God was either a horrid human invention, or a cruel despot. The truth is, this skeptic was really drawing on the problem of suffering, though he couched it in rhetoric. Yes, there is suffering in this life, and potentially in the next for some. That is a reality no serious theologian will ignore. Having just observed Good Friday and having Easter in front of us, it is reasonable to take note of the fact that Jesus suffered as well. In fact, He suffered more than any human can possibly imagine, having taken upon Himself the tremendous weight of the sins of all humanity.

Because he loved, He suffered. 

Even while being crucified He cried out for the forgiveness of His enemies, and by virtue of that prayer, we are shown that mercy and justice are not mere human sentiments, but divine attributes which we seek to emulate so poorly. There are numerous references to the mercy of God throughout Sacred Scripture. The parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Shepherd show how Christ emphasized this quality, while His treatment of the Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalene, Zaccheus, and the so-called "good thief" are living examples of the mercy of God in action. 

Make no mistake, rather than mercy being anthropomorphic weakness, it is in reality a divine attribute analogous only to the human sentiment. God's mercy is a virtue of His beneficent will. What the skeptic missed is that, if it is characteristic of the weak to be sad, it is a characteristic of the good and powerful to be merciful. When human weakness is conscious of its desperate need in all its frailty, and appeals to God's mercy, then weakness is reversed and becomes a strength.

In fact, when weakness asks for mercy in order to glorify God, weakness becomes a blessing. 

God shows His mercy in justification of a depraved humanity. To justify the sinner is a greater display of God's power than the creation of the cosmos, since, while the creative act produced the cosmos from nothing, the greater miracle of divine mercy brings good out of evil, blessing out of cursing, peace out of chaos, and eternal life out of death. And the center of all of this is love.

Love strengthened Him to carry the cross, and that same love is extended to you and I, right now, right where we are. He is merciful because He is all powerful and loving.

Have a blessed Paschal holiday.

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