We had come to our Advent Day of Prayer to learn about the mercy of God, the theme for the upcoming Year of Mercy (which began on December 8), but none of us expected that we would be forced to wrestle with its challenges and/or implications quite so soon in our own lives and in the feelings we would have to share with one another as people of faith.
Our presenter, Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI, had been sharing with us three views of God’s mercy and salvation coming to us from the Hebrew Scriptures. These included:
Moses and the Law – Proper Practices (of faith and religion)
Prophets – Justice (including a focus on or ‘preferred option for’ the poor)
Wisdom literature – Compassion (a heart of mercy and forgiveness)
Each had adherents to support their view and many do so to this day.
So how are we supposed to approach salvation in light of such violence?
What does Jesus say we should do?
According to Fr. Rolheiser, Jesus didn’t make anyone happy. He ratified all three practices and then went one step further, he challenged his disciples to put them all into practice.
For any of us to get into heaven we must follow God’s law.
We must practice justice (restoring the poor and outcast).
And show mercy and forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
God’s love, Jesus reminds us, knows no bounds or limits. His sunlight warms the good and the not so good. His rain waters both the wheat and the weeds in the field. We have to wait, He implies in His parable, for his return. Then judgment, divine judgment will be meted out and mercy shown the merciful.
A tough message to have to sell while family members grieve and bury their loved ones. But a message and a challenge to each of us not to let our vigilance waiver.
Jesus has faith in us.
He left us the job to build the kingdom. We can only do that when we place our trust in God and humbly ask for mercy and forgiveness for others in the same manner that we hope to receive it from God.
Forgive us, Lord, as we forgive…
And welcome our departed loved ones into your glory.
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.