God’s mercy to us is seen in this: he stoops down to our misery and offers us compassion, understanding, healing and forgiveness.
Come to the Party
The prodigal son, the son who left home, spent all his money—everything he had—betrayed his father and his family, betrayed everything. At a certain moment, out of necessity, but full of shame, he decided to return. He thought about how he would ask for his father’s forgiveness. He thought he would say: “Father, I have sinned, I have done all these wrong things, so I want to be your servant, not your son,” and lots of other fine things.
But the Gospel tells us that the father saw his son coming from afar. Why did he see him? Because every day he used to go out onto the terrace to see if his son would return. The father embraced him: he did not let his son speak; he did not let him say all that he had rehearsed, and he did not allow him to even ask for forgiveness. Then he went off to organize a party.
This is the party that God enjoys: whenever we return home, whenever we return to him. “But Father, I am a sinful man, a sinful woman . . . ” All the better, he is waiting for you! All the better, and he will throw a party! Jesus himself tells us that there will be more celebration in heaven over one sinner who turns back than for a hundred of the righteous who remain at home.
None of us knows what life will bring us. And you, dear young friends, are asking: “What is in store for me?” We are capable of doing bad things, very bad things, but please, do not despair: the Father is always there waiting for us! Come back! Come back! This is the word: Come back! Come back home because the Father is waiting for me. And if I am a great sinner, he will celebrate the more.
The Mercy of the Confessional
God’s mercy is very real and we are all called to experience it firsthand. When we open our hearts with humility and transparency, we can contemplate God’s mercy in a very concrete way. It is so wonderful to feel the merciful embrace of the Father in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to discover that the confessional is a place of mercy, and to allow ourselves to be touched by the merciful love of the Lord who always forgives us!
Have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations, and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope? Do you realize how precious you are to God, who has given you everything out of love? St. Paul tells us that
“God proves his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Do we really understand the power of these words?…
It is in the Lord, who gave his life for us on the cross, that we will always find that unconditional love which sees our lives as something good and always gives us the chance to start again.
Bands of Love
The biblical concept of mercy…includes the tangible presence of love that is faithful, freely given, and able to forgive. In the following passage from Hosea, we have a beautiful example of God’s love, which the prophet compares to that of a father for his child:
When Israel was a child I loved him; out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me. . . . Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks. . . . I stooped to feed my child. (Hosea 11:1-4)
Despite the child’s wrong attitude that deserves punishment, a father’s love is faithful. He always forgives his repentant children. We see here how forgiveness is always included in mercy.
Our Lord’s mercy can be seen especially when he bends down to human misery and shows his compassion for those in need of understanding, healing, and forgiveness. Everything in Jesus speaks of mercy. Indeed, he himself is mercy.
The Other Person’s Shoes
As the saying goes: “When you get angry, you lose.” Don’t let your heart give in to anger and resentment. Happy are the merciful. Happy are those who know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, those who are able to embrace, to forgive. We have all experienced this at one time or another. And how beautiful it is! It is like getting our lives back, getting a new chance.
Nothing is more beautiful than to have a new chance. It is as if life can start all over again.
This is a selection from Don’t Be Afraid to Say Yes to God! Pope Francis Speaks to Young People, ed. Fr. Mike Schmitz/Jeanne Kun, (The Word Among Us Press, 2018). Available at wau.org/books