Mercy: the movement of God toward man, until man may look upon himself the way God does

God’s mercy is like a journey towards distant places, places dimmed by evil and by the suffering that follows evil.  This journey appears senseless because it seems obvious that those who consciously commit evil should be punished, not helped nor shown mercy.  This divine mercy therefore goes beyond justice: it is an absolutely gratuitous gesture, completely tending toward an encounter, a relationship.  We were reconciled to God, reflects Saint Paul, while we were enemies, meanwhile we were still sinners.  Reconciliation: precisely this is the profound desire that guides God toward man, the creature predisposed to doing evil.  God wants to find Himself anew among men.  He desires that a friendship might be reestablished where opposition and hatred had previously reigned.
How can this reconciliation come about?  First and foremost God desires that man renounces the attempt to justify the evil he commits.  The encounter God desires begins, in effect, with a sort of wake-up call united with a judgment.  For us men, to welcome Him who seeks us means to look upon ourselves the same way in which God looks at us.  The conversion of one’s judgment on oneself is the first significant step one can take, and which contains all those that follow.
Perhaps the most beautiful example of the depth with which God desires to encounter man is the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus, described in Luke’s gospel.  Zacchaeus knew that the way he performed his work was not in accord with God.  It was really only his great sense of wonder at finding the Teacher in his very own house, having come a long way to look for Zacchaeus, that gave him the freedom to recognize Him and make Him known publicly. Zacchaeus says, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”  Jesus encourages him to maintain faith in this new way of life, saying, “Today salvation has come to this house.”  Salvation is this very encounter.  It is a newly rediscovered communion, documented by one’s change of life.
The Church believe so deeply in this type of change of heart that it promises the redemption of one’s entire existence, including those who experience it even at the point of death.  But how is it possible for a life dominated by egoism, by violence, and deceit to be pardoned by the simple admission that each of these is evil?  It really  suffices to beg, “I have sinned, forgive me!”  How is it possible that all one’s evil can be erased?  Something inside of us rebels; it does not seem right.
Here a profound objection comes into play, one which casts a shadow on God’s merciful action, and leaves us with the suspicion that all the things we do at the end of the day are meaningless.  To us mercy seems like an arbitrary action.  It is a scandal that we feel this indifference in the face of God’s gratuitousness.
One fantastic citation from the prophet Ezekiel contains the response the Church has adopted as her own.  “Reflect well, you who accuse me,” Yahweh says in this excerpt.  “Could my ways be unjust, or are yours even more so?”  Why is it that he who distances himself from sin obtains forgiveness and life?  Because he “has reflected,” that is, he has changed his way of judging.  “He has strayed from all the sins committed,” that is, he has chosen to unite all of his actions to this new judgment.  “He shall surely live and not die.”  Even as one breathes his last breath, if one has the sincere desire to live according to what he has recognize to be true, this is enough.  The decisive reconciliation has already occurred.
The banquet feast in Zacchaeus’s house, a publican from Jericho, thus becomes for Jesus a symbol of heaven, where the greatest joy is welcoming a “converted sinner.”

Also read

All articles