2Chr 36:14-17, 19-23; Eph 2:4-10; John 3:14-21
Sometimes in the past I read this Jewish legend that when God was about to create man, He consulted the angels about His throne: “Create him not,” said the Angel of Justice, “For he will commit all kinds of wickedness against his fellowmen; he will be bad and cruel and dishonest and unrighteous.
The Angel of Truth said, “Create him not, for he will be false and deceitful for his brothers and sisters and even to you.” “Create him not,” said the Angel of Holiness, “He will follow that which is impure in your sight and dishonor you to your face.”
Then stepped forward the Angel of Mercy said, “Our Heavenly Father, create him, for when he sins and turns from the path of right and truth and holiness, I’ll take him tenderly by the hand and speak loving words to him and then lead him back to you,” and God indeed created man following the counsel of the Angel of Mercy.
This story shows to us the message of Christ in today’s gospel of Fourth Sunday of Lent. And verse John 3:16 have been called a summary of the Bible and summarized the entire Gospel as well. Maybe because we can find the acronym, GOSPEL Let us listen very carefully: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not Perish but might have Eternal Life;” (3:16). In other words, the entire message of the gospel is about the love of God. God loves the world but we destroy it. God loves us but we kill each other. He gives us His only Son to bring His message of love; to tell us that we are loved and lovable and that we should love one another but we kill Him even up to today and continue to live as if nothing happened. We continue destroying the world and killing each other.
But you know what? In spite of everything we have done, God continues to love us more. The kind of love He has for us is unconditional and total. Unconditional in the sense that He says to us: Even if you don’t like me, I still love you; Even if you refuse to forgive me, I still love you; Even if I don’t need you anymore, I still love you; Even if I don’t feel loving you because you are no longer cute and desirable, I still love you; Even if you are no longer in power or rich or have no use of you I still love you; Even if I do not get anything out of loving you, even if I look ridiculous for loving you, I still love you.
Unlike the kind of love that we have, in a sense, is conditional because we say: I love you because you love me; I love you because I need you; I love you because you are good to me; I love you because I feel good loving you; I love because you are cute, rich, popular and powerful; I love you because I can use you, manipulate you and exploit you for my own interest.
God’s love encompasses all virtues. And mercy is a constitutive part of this love. He does not love us from a distance because He is with us, not only in our difficulties and problems, troubles and doubts, frustrations and disappointments but also in our journeys of faith and in our struggles to become holy. His love for us is not a long distance love affair.
And there are many times that we commit mistakes and we fail, we offend God and hurt others and these break the heart of God. But God is good all the times. He helps and guides to realize our mistakes and failures and calls to repentance. Why God is so merciful to us? Why does God continue to show mercy rather than vengeance to us? The reason is simple: God is dives in misericordia or God is rich in mercy. He is rich in mercy, Saint Paul says in our second reading, because of His great love for us. And because of His great love for us, He brings us to life with Christ when we were dead in sin. 365 Days with the Lord 2009 invites us to reflect on three things we should know about the mercy of God:
First, the mercy of God is compassionate. Somebody said: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy practice compassion.” Compassion is from the two Latin words cum meaning ‘with’ and passio meaning ‘to suffer.’ Therefore the mercy of God is compassionate because it is more than emotion. He does not just say: “I pity you.” He reaches out, crosses boundaries and reassures us: “I’m here with you, I will help you.” He suffers with us and He feels our miseries and difficulties.
Second, the mercy of God is forgiving. One of the German proverbs says: “If God were not willing to forgive sin, heaven would be empty.” Actually this is true because when Jesus dies on the cross, he showers us His forgiveness. He does not just understand our sinfulness, strictly speaking, He bears our being sinners. We remain in the sight of Jesus despite our failures and limitations.
I read this story about a group of Christian missionaries met in Delhi, India, with representatives of other religions to discuss their beliefs. In the course of their talks a member of a major non-Christian religion said to a missionary: “Tell me one thing your religion can offer the Indians that mine cannot.” The missionary thought for a moment and replied: “Forgiveness, Forgiveness.”
And third, the mercy of God is just. Even if God is compassionate, loving, rich in mercy but He never compromise His standard. For Him, what is wrong is wrong and what is sin is sin. He loves us without tolerating sin and allowing us to do it again. He gets angry because His holiness is blurred by our sins. But His anger is coupled with love and compassion for us.
And so during this season of Lent, let us grab the opportunity to experience God’s mercy. 365 Days with the Lord 2009 also says: “It is also a perfect time for us to share His mercy with others by being compassionate, forgiving and just. And learn the lesson that I received from a text message sent to me: LIFE forms us; Sin DEFORMS us; School INFORMS us; Love REFORMS us. But only Christ TRANSFORMS us.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B