God's Infinite Mercy
Should a man nourish anger against his fellow man and expect healing from the Lord? Should a man refuse mercy to his fellow man, yet seek pardon for his own sins?

These verses are taken from the bible, book of Sirach, or as it is sometimes called, the book of Ecclesiasticus. The message of these verses is demonstrated by Jesus in the Gospel reading in the parable of the Unmerciful Servant.

I fear that at times, I distance myself from this parable. After all, I wouldn't go around throttling someone. I wouldn't react like the unmerciful servant and refuse to forgive a small amount after I've been forgiven a tremendous amount. I wouldn't be like that.

Or would I?

Or would you?

Something within me seems to feel that I have a right to continue in my anger towards someone who has hurt me badly. After all, I didn't create the situation. The other person did. I didn't attack the other person, the other person attacked me. I was the victim, not the aggressor. my life would have been significantly different if that other person had not said or done this or that. And so, I and we attempt to justify our anger, our grudge.

All of us have our own personal battle stories. Everyone has been wronged by someone, hurt by someone. But no one has the right to harbor a grudge, at least, not if we consider the staggering amount of mercy God has showered upon us.
I have made many mistakes in life. Many were thoughtless acts. But I have also chosen to make mistakes. I have sinned. Yet, God has not given up with me. I consider the blessings of my life and I can not fathom why God is so good to me. I am a priest. I cannot express to you how wonderful it is to be a priest. People need me. I can provide what only another priest could provide; Mass, Eucharist, penance. God is good to his priests. And I know that God is good to you. You cannot describe to me what it was like to hold that baby for the first time. One brand new Mom called me up from the hospital and told me that she has the best baby in the world. I told her "The baby is only two hours old. Give him time."
Sacred Scripture is an account of God's continual mercy on his people. The basic pattern from Genesis to Revelations is that people offend God, suffer the consequences of their actions, plead for mercy and God forgives. The Lord has his own battle stories. He has a complaint that is greater than all our complaints.  He created us to enjoy his goodness, and we chose to push him aside. He created us to enjoy his goodness, and we chose to push him aside. He created us for love, and we relish our hatred. He died to restore his goodness to the world, and we continue to choose evil. He came as the Prince of Peace and now, two thousand years later, we have perfected war to the extent that with a neutron bomb, we can destroy whole populations without destroying structures and buildings. That is the triumph of godless materialism: destroy people but leave their stuff.
The Lord has his battle stories, but he continues to forgive us. Why? He knows what humans are like. Because he knows that we all make mistakes. Sometimes, we mean well but do wrong. Sometimes, we choose wrong because we are too weak to withstand the pressures around us. We often offend against God's love, but the Lord does not hold a grudge. My wise old grandmother Lola, once reminded me that in the history of the world, there were only two perfect people that walked the face of the earth and people rejected both of them. One was accused of getting pregnant outside of marriage. She could have been stoned to death. The other was crucified for upsetting the status quo. God knows that the rest of us are far from perfect, but he still loves us.
All of us have received abundant mercy from God because he loves us too much to hold a grudge. One of my favorite books which both I and Fr Henry have mentioned from time to time is Sheldon Vanauken's Severe Mercy. This is a love story about two people who found God in each other. Sheldon, or Van, and his wife Davey, tried to construct the perfect marriage. But God was not part of their lives. They contructed what they called a shining barrier, to protect their love. But their love was self centered. God eventually penetrated the barrier. They became believers and learned a new love. They found him in each other. Davey eventually became sick and passed away, but she died saying an expression that had become her and Van's way of expressing God's love in their lives. She said "In his mercy."
This is how we all live. We live in the mercy of God. He has been so good to all of us. Even in times of trauma, God cares for us. When we consider what we have received, any call that we have to be merciful to others is a mere pittance of God's great gift to us. Living in his mercy, we are called to bring his mercy and compassion to others.

This reading, encourages us to recongnize what we have received, the mercy we live in and to extend this mercy to others. We seek forgiveness of our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.

by Fr Joseph Pellegrino
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