In declaring the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis made it clear that the Mercy of God is boundless, it is without end and inexhaustible. Hence, he calls on everyone to take full advantage of the Year of Mercy to break away from sin and begin again with Jesus Christ, the face of the Father’s Mercy. He chose as the theme of the extraordinary Jubilee Year the words of Luke 6:36, which is the topic I was asked to speak on: “Be Merciful like the Father.” What does it really mean to “Be merciful like the Father?” Before one can be merciful like the Father, one must first understand who the Father is and how merciful He is. Pope Francis boldly declares that the name of God is Mercy, because it is in and through mercy that His love becomes visible and tangible, it is in His mercy that we perceive His power most vividly. So, mercy is the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever, despite our sins. Mercy is the wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. God’s mercy knows no bounds and extends to everyone without exception. It is not a sign of weakness but a mark of His omnipotence; for His power is made perfect in forgiveness.
From the heart of the Trinity, from the depths of the mystery of God, the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly. God is “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4). He revealed Himself to Moses as: “A merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (EX 34:6). The greater the gravity of sin even greater is the fullness of His mercy so much so that we can say that His mercy is greater than the greatest sin that the worst human person can commit. He is able and indeed, always ready to forgive and never tires of forgiving in ways that are continually new and surprising. As St. Augustine remarks, “It is easier for God to hold back anger than mercy.” Little wonder the Psalmist exclaims, “God’s anger lasts for a moment but his mercy forever” (Ps.30:5)). How Merciful is God? God is very merciful. His mercy endures forever (Ps. 136) and never ends (MY, 25). The mercy of God is seen demonstrated in the life and history of Isreal. Despite their failures and sins, He led them through the desert as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Of the many instances of God’s mercy in the old testament, the stand out in my mind - The story of David & Bathsheba (2 Samuel: 11 & 12); and the story of Jonah and the people of Nineveh (Jonah: 3).
In the first story, we see the interplay between the love of God, His justice and mercy. In love, God chose David (1 Samuel 16). In Justice, He condemned him when he sinned (2 Samuel 12, even the fruit of his sin perished), and in mercy He redeemed him (2 Samuel 12:13-14; Psalm 51). In the second story, we see how sincere contrition and firm purpose of amendment can influence God’s justice & reveal His gracious mercy. When God, who had decided to destroy Nineveh and its people, ‘’saw their efforts that they turned from their wicked ways… God relented and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened’’ (Jonah 3:10). Other Psalms like 32, 103, 130, 136, 146 and 147 have more to say about the mercy of the Father. In all, 55 out of the total of 150 Psalms are Psalms in praise of the mercy of God.
To be continued next week
• Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos
See Other Messages from the Bishop »