16 May 2010

Mercy

OK, I confess that I have been thinking again -- sorry, Fr. Jones. I have been thinking about proposing Jesus Christ to the world. What exactly am I proposing? I think that more than anything else the proposition that Jesus offers to the world is mercy.

Mercy is not indifference to evil or suffering. Jesus says to the woman caught in adultery: "go and sin no more." He knows that she is a sinner. But earlier and more importantly, He says: "neither do I accuse you." He is about mercy, not accusation. We need to remember that in how we treat others, personally and publicly; and we need to remember it in our own souls. God is not an accuser. Satan is the accuser -- it's what that name means. I think that my greatest failure in the spiritual life is my failure to accept God's mercy and rather to be in league with the accuser against myself and therefore against others too.

Mercy seems too good to be true. It is not the way of this world. Not only do we suffer for what we do wrong, but we also suffer for what we do right or for no reason at all. The mercy of God envelopes all of this. Mercy does not "make it go away" or make it good, but mercy gives us power and freedom to transform all of this for good. Mercy gives us freedom.

In accepting mercy, we become free of denial. We do not have to deny, justify, and rationalize what is really undeniable, unjustifiable, and irrational. The abuser can say: "I abuse." The one who covers up abuse can say: "I covered up." The alcoholic can say: "I am a drunk." The one who holds resentments can say: "I resent." We can escape denial because the Lord says: "I do not accuse you." Oh yes, there are consequences; but in mercy humiliation and even incarceration are liberating. We are free of the lie of denial.

Mercy also sets us free from despair. I can always begin again and sin no more. It is exactly when we give up because we think we are unforgivable that we become overwhelmed by sin. Mercy breaks us out of this trap and lie.

There is a strange logic to mercy. It almost, but not quite, seems to endorse evil: O felix culpa. This is because mercy flows from sacrifice, which almost seems to make love into hate. In mercy, love becomes both subject and verb. Love is all there is, and it swallows up sorrow and failure and pain. The circumstances of the lover and the beloved become irrelevant -- if the lover must die, it is still love. If the beloved is unworthy, it is still love. Isn't this the message of the Cross?

So it seems to me that Christianity is really offering something radically different from anyone else: mercy. Christians are not better or nicer than anyone else. Christians are bearers of mercy. I think that I need to be renewed in this reality. The Church is sending me Pentecost. I will pray that the love of God will be poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit once again so that Jesus Christ is once again proposed to me. Then I can carry out my mission to propose Him to you!

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