I think there are three questions at the very center of faith: Who is God? Who are we? And what does God want from us? Everything else seems to follow from there.
In the Bible, it’s interesting that at least as early as the book of Exodus the mercy of God was the starting point. When God chose to show himself to Moses in Exodus 34, God also declared who he was: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” The proclamation goes on to also declare the justice of God against the guilty “unto the fourth generation” but the leading point about God, according to God himself, is mercy. Merciful is how God wants to be known. Just and fair, yes of course, but merciful from the very beginning.
And of course, that is what we also believe as disciples of Jesus, that God’s mercy is deep and rich and we have all benefited from the gracious mercy of God. This is what Jesus came to show us and his life was filled with acts of compassion and mercy for the sick and the suffering, the poor and the lost. Think of the celebrations that followed after finding the lost sheep and the lost coin and especially the lost son in Luke chapter 15. God finds the lost and then everyone has a party! How wonderful is that? That is the mercy of God which is extended to you and to me.
How did St. Paul put it in Romans 5:8? “But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Even in our sinfulness God showered us with mercy. Our Lord died to pay the price for our sins so that we might live as the children of mercy. Mercy. Justice, yes of course, but mercy first.
So, who is God? Mercy. Who are we? The ones who have received God’s gracious mercy. And that leaves the final question: What does God want from us? It’s actually pretty simple and also extremely challenging. God wants us to do the same. God wants us to be a source of mercy for others. To share the great gift that we have received with all those that share the world with us. What did Jesus say in Matthew 25? “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Mercy, that flows from us to touch the lives of those who desperately need that mercy, need that love. That is what God wants from us. That is what Jesus asks from his disciples. That is the best way for us to show our God how grateful we are to have received his mercy ourselves.
Shakespeare said it well, “The quality of mercy is not strain’d, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” God’s mercy drops down upon us from above as do the generous rains of heaven (especially nowadays) and we are blessed to receive it and doubly blessed to share it.
Mathew Weisbeck is the pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org