March 13, 2016 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
March 13, 2016
Fr. George Smiga
Pope Francis has asked us to consider this year a year of mercy. The mercy in question is primarily the mercy of God. God extends mercy to us, even though we fall short, even though we are sinners. Our very relationship with God would be impossible without a free graciousness on God’s part. Jesus, of course, reflects the mercy of God, and we would be hard pressed to find a clearer example of this than today’s gospel. The woman who is brought before Jesus was guilty. She was caught in the very act of adultery. She stood as a sinner according to Mosaic Law and equally so according to Christian moral teaching. Jesus rejects the sin, but shows mercy to the sinner. Jesus seems to be more concerned about the future goodness of this woman than about condemning the evil of her past. Jesus clearly reflects the mercy of God.
But mercy is not meant to end with God. It extends to us. If God is a God of mercy, we too must be merciful. Pope Francis said it this way when inaugurating the Year of Mercy, “Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.” Now the image of the oasis is an apt one, because when we look at the values and at the rhetoric of our society, it often appears as a desert in which mercy is hard to find. What is popular in our society is not mercy, but stricter laws, power moves, the desire to strike back and get even. We do not look for leaders who show compassion. We seek strongmen who can throw their weight around. Fewer and fewer people see any value to a graciousness that goes beyond legalism and vindictive justice.
Being merciful is clearly counter-cultural. And to make it even more of a challenge, mercy is meant to extend to everyone: to Christians and to Muslims, to citizens and to immigrants, to those who are repentant and to those who have not yet found the way to repentance. “Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.” That’s a big order. It takes courage to exercise mercy in a society that sees mercy as weakness. It takes conviction to believe that mercy is a sign of the goodness and the power of God.
So how do we find the strength to be people of mercy? We remember God’s mercy to us. If God were to judge us on strict justice, all of us would fall. But day after day, God extends mercy to us, so that we might continue to live. Having received that mercy, how can we choose to judge and condemn others who look to us for mercy?
God’s mercy and our mercy are connected. Every day we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we do not forgive others, how can we expect to be forgiven? If we show mercy, mercy will be shown to us. That is why it is crucial not only for others but also for us to be an oasis of mercy and to extend that mercy to everyone.