Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Mercy of God

So great is the desire which God has to give us his graces that, as St. Augustine says, he has more desire to give them to us than we have to receive them from him.1 And the reason is, that goodness, as the philosophers say, is of its own nature diffusive; it is compelled by itself to pour itself forth in benefits to others. God, therefore, being infinite goodness, possesses an infinite desire to communicate himself to us, his creatures, and to make us share his gifts.

Hence flows the boundless pity which the Lord has for our miseries. David said that the earth is full of the divine mercy.2 It is not full of the divine justice, inasmuch as God does not exercise his justice in punishing evil-doers, except when it is necessary; and he is, as it were, compelled to call it into operation. On the other hand, he is bounteous and liberal in showing forth his mercy to all, and at all times; whence St. James says, Mercy is exalted over justice.3 Mercy herself frequently stays the strokes which are prepared for sinners by the hand of justice, and obtains their pardon. Therefore the prophet calls God by the very name of mercy: My God, my mercy!4 And for the same reason he says, For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, be merciful to my sin.5 Lord, pardon me for Thy name s sake, for it is mercy itself.

Isaias said that chastisement is a work which is not dear to the heart of God, but alien and foreign to it, as if he would say that it was far from his inclinations: The Lord shall be angry, as in the valley which is in Gabaon; that he may do His work, His strange work; that He may perform His work, His work is strange to Him.6 His mercy it was that brought him to send his own Son on earth to be made man, and to die upon a cross to deliver us from eternal death. Therefore, Zacharias exclaimed, Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, when the day star visited us from on high.7 The expression the “bowels of the mercy of God” implies a mercy which proceeds from the depth of the heart of God, through which he preferred that his own Son should die, rather than we should perish.

In order to see how great is the goodness of God towards us, and the desire he has to give us his blessings, it is enough to read these few words of the Gospel: Seek, and it shall be given you.8 Who could say more to a friend to show him his affection? Yet this is what God says to every one of us. Seeing our misery, he invites us to come to him, and promises to relieve us: Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.9 The Jews, on one occasion, complained of God, and said they would no longer go and seek his graces; wherefore he said to Jeremias, Why will not My people come to Me? am I become a desert, or a land slow of produce, which yields no fruit, or yields it out of season?10 At the same time the Lord was willing to explain the wrong which the Jews did to him, while he is ever ready to comfort every one who comes to him, as he said by Isaias, As soon as He shall hear, He will answer thee.11

Art thou a sinner, and wilt thou have pardon? “Doubt not,” said St. John Chrysostom, “that God has more desire to pardon thee than thou hast to be pardoned.”12 If, then, God sees any one obstinate in his sin, he waits in order to shower mercy upon him.13 And therefore he points out the torment that awaits him, in order that he may learn wisdom. Thou hast given a warning to them that fear Thee, that they may flee from be fore the bow.14 Now he stands and knocks at the door of our hearts, that we may open to him: Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.15 And again he urges his people, saying, Why will ye die, O house of Israel?16 As if he were saying, in compassion, “O my son, why wilt thou perish?” St. Dionysius the Areopagite writes: “God even entreats those who turn from him as a lover, and entreats them not to perish.”17 And this very thing was written before by the Apostle, when he entreated sinners, on the part of Jesus Christ, to be reconciled with God;18 on which Chrysostom remarks, “Christ himself is beseeching you, and what is it that he prays you?--that ye would be reconciled to God.”19

If, then, some determine to continue obstinate, what more can God do? He makes all understand that whosoever he sees come to him in penitence he will not cast away: Him that cometh to Me, I will not cast out.20 He says that he is ready to embrace every one who turns to him: Turn unto Me, and I will turn unto you.21 He promises to every ungodly man that if he repents he will pardon him, and forget his sins: If the wicked do penance, he shall live; I will forget all his iniquity that he hath committed.22 He even says, Come, and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.23 As though he would say, “Come, penitent, unto me, and if I embrace you not, rebuke me as one who has failed in his word.”

No; the Lord knoweth not how to despise a contrite heart. A contrite and humble heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.24 We read in St. Luke25 with what joy he embraced the lost sheep, and with what love he welcomed the prodigal son when he returned to his feet. And God himself says that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over ninety and nine just persons.26 St. Gregory explains the reason of this by saying that very often sinners, when pardoned, are most fervent in loving God, while those who have not thus fallen grow lukewarm in their security.27

O my Jesus! as Thou hast had so great patience with me in waiting for me, and so great love in pardoning me, as I trust I would love Thee with all my heart; but this love Thou must give me. Give it me! O my Lord! and little honour is it to Thee that I, a sinner so favoured by Thee, should love Thee in some little degree. O my Jesus! when shall I begin to be grateful to Thee, as Thou hast been gracious to me? For the past, instead of being grateful to Thee, I have offended Thee, and despised Thee. Shall I, then, hereafter ever live thus turned away from Thee, who hast spared nothing to gain my love? No, my Saviour! I would love Thee with all my heart I would never displease Thee. Thou commandest me to love Thee, and I desire nothing but to love Thee. Thou seekest me, and I seek nothing but Thee. Give me Thy help, without which I can do nothing. O Mary, O Mother of Mercy! draw me altogether to God.

1“Plus vult ille dare, quam nos accipere.” -- Serm. 105 E. B.

2“Misericordia Domini plena est terra.” -- Ps. xxxii. 5.

3“Superexaltat autem misericordia judicium.” -- James, ii. 13.

4“Deus meus, misericordia mea.” -- Ps. lviii. 18.

5“Propter nomen tuum, Domine, propitiaberis peccato meo.” -- Ps. xxiv. ii.

6“Dominus . . . irascetur; ut faciat opus suum, alienum opus ejus . . . peregrinum est opus ejus ab eo.” -- Is. xxviii. 21.

7“Per viscera misericordiæ Dei nostri, in quibus visitavit nos oriens ex alto.” – Luke, i. 78.

8“Petite, et dabitur vobis.” -- Matt. vii. 7.

9“Venite ad me omnes, qui laboratis et onerati estis, et ego reficiam vos.” -- Matt. xi. 28.

10“Numquid solitudo factus sum Israeli, aut terra serotina? quare ergo dixit populus meus: Recessimus, non veniemus ultra ad te.” -- Jer. ii. 31.

11“Statim ut audierit, respondebit tibi.” -- Isa. xxx. 19.

12“Non adeo cupis dimitti peccata tua, sicut ille dimittere.” -- In Act. hom. 36.

13“Expectat Dominus, ut misereatur vestri.” -- Isa. xxx. 18.

14“Dedisti metuentibus te significationem, ut fugiant a facie arcus, ut liberentur dilecti tui.” -- Ps. lix. 6.

15“Ecce, sto ad ostium, et pulso.” -- Apoc. iii. 20.

16“Et quare moriemini, domus Israel?” -- Ezek. xviii. 31.

17“Deus etiam a se a versos amatorie sequitur, et deprecatur ne pereant.” -- Ep. ad Dem.

18“Obsecramus pro Christo, reconciliamini Deo.” -- 2 Cor. v. 20.

19“Ipse Christus vos obsecrat: quid obsecrat? reconciliamini Deo.” -- In 2 Cor. hom. 11.

20“Eum qui venit ad me, non ejiciam foras.” -- John, vi. 37.

21“Convertimini ad me . . . et convertar ad vos.” -- Zach. i. 3.

22“Si autem impius egerit poenitentiam . . . vita vivet; omnium iniquitatum ejus . . . non recordabor.” -- Ezek. xviii. 21.

23“Venite, et arguite me . . . si fuerint peccata vestra ut coccinum, quasi nix dealbabuntur.” -- Isa. i. 18.

24“Cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.” -- Ps. l. 19.

25Luke, xv. 5-20.

26Dico vobis, quod ita gaudium erit in cœlo super uno peccatore pœnitentiam agente, quam super nonaginta novem justis.

27“Fit plerumque Deo gratior amore ardens vita post culpam, quam securitate torpens innocentia.” -- Past. l. 3, adm. 29.

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