On the Mercy of God

“Through the tender mercies of our God.”

—Luke 1:78

So great is the desire which God has to give us His graces, that, as St. Augustine says, He has more desire to give them to us than we have to receive them from Him.

And the reason is that goodness, as the philosophers say, is of its own nature diffusive; it is compelled by itself to pour itself forth in benefits to others. God, therefore, being infinite goodness, possesses an infinite desire to communicate Himself to us, His creatures, and to make us share His gifts.

Hence flows the boundless pity which the Lord has for our miseries. David said that the earth is full of the Divine mercy. It is not full of the Divine justice, inasmuch as God does not exercise His justice in punishing evil-doers, except when it is necessary and when He is, as it were, compelled to call it into operation.

On the other hand, He is bounteous and liberal in showing forth His mercy to all, and at all times; whence Holy Scripture says, “Mercy is exalted over justice” (James 2:13). Mercy herself frequently stays the strokes which are prepared for sinners by the hand of justice and obtains their pardon.

Therefore the Prophet calls God by the very name of Mercy: “My God, my mercy!” (Psalm 58:18). And for the same reason, he says, “For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, be merciful to my sin.” Lord, pardon me for Thy name’s sake, for it is mercy itself. 

Isaias said that chastisement is a work which is not dear to the heart of God, but alien and foreign to it, as if he would say that it was far from His inclinations: “The Lord shall be angry, as in the valley which is in Gabaon; that he may do His work, His strange work” (Is. 28:21).

His mercy it was that brought Him to send His own Son on earth to be made man and to die upon a cross to deliver us from eternal death. Therefore Zacharias exclaimed, “Through the tender mercies of our God, when the Day Star visited us from on high” (Luke 1:78).

In order to see how great is the goodness of God towards us and the desire He has to give us His blessings, it is enough to read these few words of the Gospel, “Seek, and it shall be given to you.” Who could say more to a friend to show him his affection?

Yet this is what God says to every one of us. Seeing our misery, He invites us to come to Him and promises to relieve us: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you” (Matthew 11:28).

On one occasion, the Jews complained of God and said they would no longer go and seek His graces; wherefore He said to the prophet, “Why will not My people come to Me? Am I become a desert, or a land slow of produce, which yields no fruit, or yields it out of season?”

At the same time, the Lord was willing to explain the wrong which the Jews did to Him, while He is ever ready to comfort everyone who comes to Him, as He said, “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall hear” (Is. 58:9).

Art thou a sinner, and wilt thou have pardon? “Doubt not,” said St. John Chrysostom, “that God has more desire to pardon thee than thou has to be pardoned.” If then God sees anyone obstinate in his sin, He waits in order to show mercy upon him.

And therefore He points out the torment that awaits him, in order that he may learn wisdom. Now He stands and knocks at the door of our hearts, that we may open to Him: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock” (Apoc. 3:20). 

And again He urges His people, saying, “Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezech. 18:31). St. Dionysius writes: “As a lover, God even entreats those who turn from Him and entreats them not to perish.” 

And this very thing was written before by the Apostle, when he entreated sinners, on the part of Jesus Christ, to be reconciled with God; on which St. Chrysostom remarks, “Christ Himself, is beseeching you, and what is it that He prays of you, that ye would be reconciled to God?” (2 Cor. 5:20). 

If then anyone determine to continue to be obstinate, what more can God do? He makes all understand that whosoever He sees come to Him in penitence He will not cast away: “Him that cometh to Me, I will not cast out” (John 6:37).

He says that He is ready to embrace everyone who turns to Him: “Turn unto Me, and I will turn unto you.” 

He promises to every ungodly man that, if he repents, He will pardon him and forget his sins. He even says, “Come and accept Me, saith the Lord; if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow” (Is. 1:18). 

As though He would say, “Come, penitent, unto Me, and if I embrace you not, rebuke Me as one who had failed in his word.” 

This article is taken from a chapter in The Soul Sanctified: Catholic Wisdom on the Way of Salvation which is available from TAN Books.



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