Reading (Daniel 9:4b-10) Gospel (St. Luke 6:36-38)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading today that we are to be merciful, just as our heavenly Father is merciful. Now if you stop to really think about the mercy of our heavenly Father, it is something that for the rest of eternity (assuming we go the right direction) we will be glorifying God and praising Him and thanking Him forever because on the day of the General Judgment we will get to see all of the sins of the entire world. And we will have an opportunity to see how fully God’s mercy has been granted to us.
But even without being able to see that, we do not need to look any further than our own lives. We know what our lives are like. We know what our sins are about. And so, with the prophet Daniel, we can say, “We have sinned; we have been wicked; we have done evil; we have rebelled and departed from Your commandments and laws. We have not obeyed Your servants the prophets.” He goes on and on and on. Justice is certainly on God’s side, as Daniel points out. But – thanks be to God! – He is also merciful, and it is that mercy, that compassion, that we depend upon.
But it is something, at the same time, that we must not ever take for granted. We have to keep the proper balance within our own minds and hearts. We need to rely upon God’s mercy – it is our only hope – but we also must balance that with the justice. We need to keep in mind our sinfulness and recognize just how merciful God is. What we, in our humanness, tend to do is very easily forget the bad stuff – that is a great gift from God – but we need at least to keep it generally in mind because otherwise we will fool ourselves into thinking how wonderful we are, that we are doing a great job, that God must really be impressed with us. We know better than that, yet that is the way we like to try to fool ourselves.
So if we keep that balance before us and keep reminding ourselves of what we really deserve and where, without God’s mercy, we would be for all eternity and just how badly we have offended Him, that itself will make us very grateful for what God has done. His mercy and His compassion are the only hope we have. And so merciful and compassionate is He that He sent His Son to die for our sins. All we really need to do is look at the Cross and see the price of our sins. If we ever forget or if we ever think that this is no big deal, if we ever become presumptuous and think, “It’s just God’s nature to be merciful and forgiving, so it’s no problem that I sin. Of course He’s going to forgive me!” all we need to do is look at the Cross and look at the cost of that mercy, the cost of that forgiveness. We also, there, see the compassion of Jesus. Compassion, remember, means “to suffer with.” He came into this world and He suffered with us and He suffered for us so that our sins could be taken away. That is what we always must keep in mind: just how sinful we are and what our sins truly deserve. When we recognize that then we need to balance that (otherwise we will despair) with God’s mercy and to be grateful for that mercy. Not to take it for granted, but always to be grateful to God and to praise and glorify Him for His mercy endures forever.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.