The Mercy of God1. God is the Being Who is infinitely true, beautiful, and good. His goodness is manifested in His infinite love for all the creatures which He has made, but it is in His relations with sinners in particular that we call Him merciful. He loves all things which He has created and directs them towards Himself, their beginning and their end. When He is dealing, however, with beings endowed with free will, who can separate themselves from Him and even offend Him, He tries while respecting the liberty which He has given them to recall them to Himself by the influence of His love and of His grace. It is this supernatural outpouring of love towards sinners which we call mercy.
The mercy of God shines forth in all the pages of Sacred Scripture. In the Old Testament there is promised and foreshadowed in many ways the coming of the Saviour of the sinful human race. In the New Testament Jesus appears, made man for our salvation, meek and humble of heart, and merciful towards the unfortunate, especially towards sinners. For them He offers His life and His Precious Blood, dying on the Cross with His arms outstretched, as if in an embrace of forgiveness. He tells us that He has not come to call the just, but sinners, (Luke 5:32) and that He has not come to those who are in health, but to those who are sick; (Mark 2:17)He assures us that if we ask the Father for anything in His name, it will be given to us. (John 16:23) So much goodness should move and soften our hearts. Even if we are unfaithful servants and are covered with the leprosy of sin, let us go to Him and He will heal us. Even if we have deserved Hell a thousand times, let us shed tears of repentance at His feet as Magdalen did, and He will give us His forgiveness and His peace.
2. Let us meditate in particular on certain passages in the Gospel in which God's mercy for sinners stands out most vividly and appealingly. There is the incident of the adulteress who is brought before Our Lord by the hypocritical Pharisees. According to the law she should have been stoned to death. Jesus looks at her accusers, who harbour in the secrecy of their own hearts God knows how many abominations but strut about in public with the mien of stern and impeccable judges. Then He rivets His gaze upon the shamefaced woman who is looking like a soiled rag thrown away on a dust-heap. When Jesus addresses her relentless judges His voice is steady: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” When they all drift away with lowered heads, Jesus says pityingly to the woman: “Has no one condemned thee?... Neither will I condemn thee. Go thy way, and from now on sin no more.” (Cf. John 8:3-11)
Elsewhere Jesus is called "the good shepherd" who knows His sheep and calls them to Himself one by one. If a poor sheep is lost, He leaves the other ninety-nine of His flock and searches for it, nor does He rest until it has been found. When He sees that it has been injured, He carries it back to the fold upon His shoulders. Who could forget the touching parable of the prodigal son? He had left the house of his aging father and had gone to a distant country where he had squandered his inheritance in the course of a low and worldly life of pleasure. When all his money had been spent he was very much alone, and was reduced to such circumstances that he took a job looking after unclean animals. One day when he was weeping over his fate, he made a sudden resolution. “I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee. I am no longer worthy to be called thy son.” His father had been waiting for him for many years. He met and embraced him and gave him the kiss of pardon. Then he held a great feast because his son had repented and come home. He "was dead and has come to life, he was lost and is found." (Cf. Luke 15:11-32) No matter how great our faults may be, let us trust in the infinite mercy of God, and when we go to Him He will grant us forgiveness and peace.
3. Remember, however, that if God's mercy is infinite so is His justice. When we realise that we have fallen into serious sin, we should not give way to despair as Judas did, but should turn to Jesus trustingly and contritely, saying with the Psalmist: “My refuge and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, my shield, in whom I trust.” (Ps. 143:2) We shall certainly be forgiven. It would be the highest form of ingratitude to abuse God's goodness and mercy. Let our repentance be sincere and effective. In return for the infinite goodness of God let us give Him our love, limited indeed but willing and constant.