The Mercy of the Father,
The Mercy of His Children,
The Mercy of Our Community
Let me tell you this story of a father and his son. The father wanted the best for his son and gave him everything he could. The son, however, was stubborn and uncooperative. This situation was a constant cause of disagreement and argument between pushing their relationship to go downhill.
One day the usual heated discussion took place. After this spat, the son decided to leave home. As he was going out of their house, his father approached him and begged him to stay. The son was unmoved and went out the door, determined to be parted from his father.
Nevertheless, his father gave his son these parting words: “This is your home. It is and will be always open to you. My son, when you come back there is no need to knock. You know where I keep the key. You are always welcome to return home.”
Mercy is not merely a noble idea; a positive vision. Mercy is action. Mercy is not for an individual or a select group. Mercy is for all. Mercy is in us. Mercy is from us. Let us reflect on the mercy of the Father. Let us reflect on our mercy, his children, and of the community.
The mercy of the Father is shown by these two attributes of the Father: He waits for us. He welcomes us back.
The title ‘father’ connotes authority and discipline. A father is typically viewed as strict; given to only few words that must be observed and followed. A father is someone to look up to, who is sometimes feared, and imitated.
How is one a father to us? A father works hard, even going off to faraway places for labor so he can provide for the needs of his loved ones. He cares for the safety and security of his family, thus he is for them their protector and guardian.
Our God is “our Father” (Matthew 6:9). He is indeed our provider. Jesus tells us “You will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over” (Luke 6:38). God who is “our Father” (Luke 11:2) is our protector, as Jesus said, “When the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. For it is not you who will speak; but it will be the Spirit of your Father in you” (Matthew 10:20).
Our God is a merciful Father, a compassionate God. How do we experience His mercy and compassion? Like the father in the Gospel of Saint Luke 15:12ff on the Prodigal Son; He is very patient, always ready to wait for us. Saint Luke writes “He was till a long way off when his father caught sight of him. His father was so deeply moved with compassion that he ran out to meet him…” (v20).
Likewise, God will not confront us nor speak harsh words. He waits, not as an act of resignation but to show His affection and His longing to have us back. He waits for us, not with insensitivity but with hope that we may come to our senses and realize the grievousness of our faults.
God waits patiently for our contrition. In His mercy He waits, that is, believing in our capacity for conversion and change of heart. God’s patient and loving waiting shows His mercy to us, as truly, God is “slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).
In His mercy, God manifests His hope in us, confident that there is still trusting goodness in us to recognize Him as our caring Father. To be merciful is to wait, and not to impose ourselves on others. It is not to lord over them, but to wait with firm belief that something better and beneficial will come. Waiting in mercy is not inaction but a prayerful attitude and keeping watchful attention to the return and coming home of an errant yet contrite member to our loving embrace. It is an act of mercy to wait, never to give up praying and doing good for we know that God’s mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136).
And when we return to God, we can be sure that He is there always to welcome us. He is always ready to accept us, to accommodate us. With God there is no resentment, no contempt, no rejection. God is not there not to pass judgment on us. God is there, happy to have us back and to hold us again.
Our God, who is our Father, will restore us to our proper dignity and favorable standing as His children. God has confidence in us and will always trust us. God treats us with compassion. God looks at us with mercy. There are no harsh and offensive words; no cold treatment; no suspecting stares. The Holy Father Pope Francis describes it best, “when faced with quality of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy” (Misercordiae Vultus, 3).
Our acts of mercy should then be: to speak to those to whom we have not spoken; to greet and meet those whom we have avoided; and to welcome back those whom we have left behind or have lost in our life. Who are they and what have we done so far for them? Remember what our Lord Jesus urges us, “be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
The mercy of the children can be seen in the manner they reciprocate. Children return to their parents. They always reconcile with them.
Children do not want to be left alone. They always cling to their parents, always insisting to tag along and go with them wherever they go. Left alone they become scared, insecure, and unwanted. This leads them to cry. Left alone they become restless, and helpless and they call out, “Mommy!”, “Daddy!”
Children accept their need for their parents to do things for them and to guide and care for them. They look up to their parents to lead them and as the special persons they could imitate. Children put great trust on their parents because they sense their vulnerability and helplessness if they go against them.
Our mercy as God’s children is to return to Him. Before God, like children, we must acknowledge our littleness, our fragility, our nothingness. As His children we are dependent on Him, that is, there is nothing we can do without Him, and there is nothings we can boast of before Him. All that is in us are from God. Everything in us is because of God. To be God’s merciful children we must always return to God, and return to Him all the praises and all the credits because they are totally His.
We return to God remembering in gratitude His goodness and His forgiving love for us. We return to God recognizing our faults and failures. It is an act of mercy to turn to God with a contrite heart, like children admitting our foolishness and sins. Amidst pain and problems, in suffering and sickness, we direct ourselves to God, recognizing that everything is accordance to God’s plan for us. With our achievements and accomplishments, our successes and triumphs, we return to God with humble hearts, affirming that everything is because “It is the Lord” (John 21,7).
Our going back to God must lead us to be reconciled with Him. When a child returns to his parents he immediately takes hold of their hands. Seeing his parents a child runs to them with open arms to embrace or to be embraced. A child cries when his parents are not in his sight. And he stops crying only when his parents come and console him.
When we return to our Father, there is joy; there is security. We don’t have to cry because there are no more sadness and worries. When we go back to God, there is peace. We are safe. We are secure. There is no fear; there are no more anxieties.
When we return to God, our Father, we become united with Him and one with Him. We are reconciled with Him because we are back in His loving fold. And what the Father wants from us we will do. We submit ourselves to whatever He wishes for us.
A child who is with his parents behaves in the manner his parents want. That is the way we should behave before God. Returning to the Father means we are sorry and that we desire to be accepted and forgiven. It is our reconciliation with God that should lead us to pattern our ways to His way and our will to His divine will; no more rebelling but simply remaining with Him. No more disobedience but dutifully observing His Commandments. No more questioning God’s way but fulfilling what He wants of us.
It is our mercy as God’s children not rationalize, not to retaliate but to be sorry and make reparations. Mercy is in us when we listen to God and are not deaf to His call; to stay with Him and not to withdraw; and to stand up for God and not to contradict Him.
Now these are our acts of mercy: to return to our family and friends and in our relationship to be always respectful and kind, saying these words when need be: “thank you”, “please” and “I am sorry.” Our acts of mercy when we go back to our Church and to our community are: To see their positive and inspiring words and deeds and affirm them instead of finger pointing and focusing on their mistakes or missteps. The Holy Father Pope Francis reminds us, “How much harm words do when they are motivated by feeling of jealousy and envy” (MV, 14).
When we say and do what is good, true and beneficial to our Church and community we fulfill what Jesus wants of us: to “be merciful as your father is merciful” (Luke 6,36).
The mercy of the community is shown by two necessary actions. The community is aware and the community acts on it.
The community knows what is happening. It has an open mind and its eyes are not closed. Her doors are wide open. Her borders have no barriers. Thus the community is not only awake. We are not just alert. We know and see what is around us. We are not far away. We don’t detach nor separate ourselves from one another. On the contrary, we feel what is going on in another person or in any particular situation. We have empathy.
The community is watchful. We are all aware.
Awareness is our sensitivity to a person or to a place and situation. Awareness is acceptance of the reality and acknowledging we are part of it and we can do or must do something about that person or place.
Being aware in mercy is to open not only our eyes, but much more, our hearts. We are not silent. We are not indifferent. We don’t avoid or evade what is laid out before us. We are aware and we get ourselves immersed in the situation and make a difference.
By knowing the situation and condition, out of mercy we speak up. We stand up. We get involved and get something done. It is in our acts of mercy that we become present and make our presence felt. This is what our Holy Father wants from us, that “whenever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident” (MV,12).
When we are aware of another’s dire situation, mercy would move us to act. It is not enough that we know them. It is not enough to see and sympathize with their condition. To be with them is good. To hear their cry is also good. But we must do something. We have to act and do something to uplift them from their situation. To act is to make them live humanely and with dignity, secure and stable in their community as beloved and forgiven children of God.
It is the mercy of a community not to separate itself from its least and lost members. Mercy is fostered when everybody is accepted and not ignored; taken care of and not neglected; given importance, and not taken for granted.
Pope Francis impels us, “Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity” MV,19).
A merciful community is the one who follows God’s command to be faithful and responsible “stewards of creation” (Genesis 1:28). Our acts of mercy are to find “the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick and imprisoned” (Matthew 25:35-36) and to fulfill what Jesus asked us to do for them.
Now, as our acts of mercy: Let us sacrifice one snack in a week and the money we would otherwise spend we donate to charity. Or instead of taking a snack we buy a snack for someone who is in need. Instead of buying new toys, gadgets or clothes for ourselves, we purchase school supplies for needy children or bags of groceries for a poor family. And when we do these significant deeds we truly become “merciful like the father” (Luke 6:36).
Mercy is not an ideal. Mercy is not a vision. Mercy is action. Mercy is our mission. Mercy is God, our Father’s gift to us because we are His children. Let us live mercy, share mercy and be grateful for mercy, every day of our lives.