The Need for Mercy:
If we take a quick survey of our world over the past fifteen years, it’s easy to name the darkness, mess, and chaos in our world… 9/11, the Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Religious Wars, Terrorism such as the bombing at the Boston Marathon or in Paris, mass shootings at elementary schools, churches, movie theaters and colleges, the sex scandal within the Catholic Church. Bringing it down to an even more personal level, we see sickness, death, hurt, pain, abuse, suffering, loneliness and so much more. People are after revenge and “their due”. The bottom line is that the world is full of chaos and darkness; and we as humans, who are sinners, play a role in adding to the mess and chaos of life.
If we look only to what the world offers us, then we can despair. If we rely solely on humans or our best efforts alone, we set ourselves up for a life of chaos, hurt, and confusion. If we think the limits of hope ends with our own efforts or humans, we will walk a path of darkness, of an endless restlessness, of a longing that is never satiated, of a seeking that offers no fulfillment. As Cardinal Walter Kasper says in his book, Mercy: The Essence of the Christian Gospel, “Where faith in God evaporates, it leaves behind a void. Without God we are completely and hopelessly handed to worldly fate, chance, and the impulses of history”.
We Are Not Alone:
Thankfully, we are not alone, left to our own fates or worldly fate. God is here. God is present in our lives. God exists and is working through us and in us and on our behalf through the gift of the Holy Spirit. God is counteracting our actions, and God is working against human impulses and choices. God chooses to not leave things to chance, but instead chooses to be intimately involved in our lives. God does not and will not abandon us.
Understanding Mercy Through God’s Ongoing Creation:
A starting point to understanding God’s mercy is that God created us and created us as good. We need only look to Genesis to see God looking at everything he made and finding it good (Gn 1:31). What this means is each one of us has innate goodness within us. We do not earn this goodness and we can do nothing to lose it. God created us in His image, and we are created as worthwhile human beings. Every person in this world has sacredness within them. Each of us is a unique, beautiful creation of God.
This is completely counter-intuitive to our world that bombards us with message that make us feel we have to earn our worth, our place, or our goodness. So often, the world’s view of worth is tied to the amount of money you have or what you look like or what you own or what your accomplished. Not with God, though. God simply loves us as the person we are. It doesn’t matter what we look like, what we own or don’t own, what we accomplished or where we failed. We are loved as we are.
God was part of our conception and creation, and God is not done with us yet. God continues to work in us and through us, creating us evermore into beloved children of God. This means, that God is coming after our dark spots, the areas we try to hide from God, our areas of unfreedom, and our hardened hearts. God will continue to work until our eyes see our own belovedness and worth. God will continue to birth newness within us, despite the worn, torn, and broken areas of our lives. God does not stop creating us, forming us, and molding us.
God’s creation in the world:
God is also acting in the world. Years ago, we visited the Okefenokee Swamp in Southern Georgia. At the time of our visit, the land had been devastated by a forest fire that literally wiped out everything. The trees and ground were scorched black. To survey the horizon was depressing. However, when we looked closer to the ground, we noticed bright green seedlings sprouting in the torched soil. I remember thinking, “How is it possible for new life and re-birth to happen here in this burned land?” God’s creative act and ongoing creation is how this happens: not just in the physical world, but in each of us. God will not allow our hearts to remain a torched, scarred wasteland, for God is always acting and creating, even out of the darkness in our lives.
Why does Mercy Matter?
Because God does not abandon us and leave us to our own human impulses. God is intimately involved in our ongoing creation.
Next week, we look at God’s gift of mercy through God’s dwelling in us and in our world!
Want to go deeper?
Consider praying with these scriptures this week:
- Gn 1: 1-31
- Psalm 139
- Jer 18:1-6
- Is 43: 2-7
- Hosea 11: 1-4