Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Scandalous Mercy of God

The Magdalene who loved much because she was forgiven much
Jesus, I trust in you!

Simon the Pharisee underestimated Jesus for seemingly not knowing the kind of woman who was touching him: “If this man were a prophet, he would know what sort of woman this is touching him, that she is a sinner.” Apparently, many people today are like Simon who thinks that God does not want to be touched by sinners. While it is true that God finds sin repulsive, Jesus today shows us how he allows himself to be touched by the repentance of sinners.

In the first reading, the prophet Nathan reproved David for very grievous sins: adultery with Uriah’s wife and then plotting the same man’s murder. “Why have you spurned the Lord and done evil in his sight ...You have despised me!” The evil nature of David’s sins was enough to separate him from the Lord and yet, when David realized the gravity of his sins, he confessed: “I have sinned against the Lord.” That was all Nathan had to hear in order to assure David of Divine absolution: “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die.”

We often do not understand how God could easily forgive David when in fact his sins were so grave. How could the Lord Jesus allow the woman to touch him in spite of her many sins: “… her many sins have been forgiven.” We do not realize that the mercy of the Lord is really very scandalous. It offends our sense of justice, or rather, our desire for retribution. Shouldn’t David be punished? Shouldn’t the sinful woman be publicly humiliated? Shouldn’t that criminal be hanged? What about the victims? Do we not care that they get justice? Pope John Paul cautioned us about how justice is easily distorted by spite, hate, and cruelty. “In such cases, the desire to annihilate the enemy, limit his freedom, or even force him into total dependence, becomes the fundamental motive for action…It is obvious, in fact, that in the name of (an alleged) justice, the neighbor is sometimes destroyed, killed, deprived of liberty or stripped of fundamental human rights.” (Dives in Misericordia, 7.) Pope John Paul concludes: “The experience of the past and of our own time demonstrates that justice alone is not enough, that it can even lead to the negation and destruction of itself, if that deeper power, which is love, is not allowed to shape human life in its various dimensions.” (Ibid.)

Mercy defines the love of God. “All the subtleties of love become manifest in the Lord’s mercy for those who are his own.” (DM, 4.) God’s mercy is more powerful and more profound than his justice. “Love is ‘greater’ than justice: greater in the sense that it is primary and fundamental. Love conditions justice and justice serves love. The primacy and superiority of love vis-a-vis justice are revealed through mercy.” (Ibid.) Jesus himself said to St. Faustina: “Let the sinner not be afraid to approach me. The flames of mercy are burning me – clamoring to be spent; I want to pour them out upon souls.” (Diary, 50.) Thus, those who were at table with Jesus rightfully asked themselves about Jesus: “Who is this who even forgives sins?” This, indeed, is Jesus: he is the One who forgives sins. He was sent by the Father as expiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

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