Mercy is defined as compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subjected to the power of another. Webster adds a second definition by saying mercy is “a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.” It is clearly this latter idea Chrysostom had in mind.
Paul says in Ephesians 2:4-7:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
God is rich in mercy! This means that his mercy, as is his divine being, is infinite. God’s love for us assumes a very special character, one that is adapted to our nature as frail, weak creatures. Thus his love leads to his mercy. Mercy is love bending over misery to relieve it, to redeem it, to raise it up to itself. It seems as if God, in loving us, is attracted by our weakness not because it is lovable but because he is infinite goodness. (Read that again!) His compassion stoops to compensate for our weakness because of his mercy. He desires to heal all our impurities by his purity, all our weakness by his strength. The supreme and eternal good, God himself, wants to be the remedy for all our trials and ills. The Psalmist says, “For the knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 102:14).
What is our greatest evil? Sin, of course. In fact, sin is the only real evil. So what is the remedy for sin? Infinite mercy. God hates sin for sure but his mercy finds a way, through Jesus, to love us and forgive us. But what about those who presently refuse his son? Well he loves everyone as a creature and clearly longs for their good too. And he commands us to love as he loves.
There is no limit to God’s mercy for the believer. God never rejects us because of our sins. He never grows weary because of our infidelities. He is always ready to restore us and forgive all our offenses. He will repay ingratitude with graces and never reproaches us for our offenses no matter how many times we’ve failed. That is mercy, pure mercy.
And we who know the mercy of God in our experience are called to show his mercy to everyone. Listen to our Lord Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (6:32-36):
32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
We are clearly told: “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” How merciful is our Father? How far does his mercy go? Your answer to that question will actually determine whether or not you will show mercy to those who forget you, offend you or even harm you.
God does not require us to be sinless in order to show us the fullness of his mercy. He requires us to show mercy to our neighbor, and moreover, to be humble in all ways. We must humbly acknowledge our sins and come to our Father with complete confidence that he will always show us mercy. If you do not believe this then you will not come to God but linger outside the house and refuse to go into the celebration of mercy.
St. Therese of Lisieux said, “What pleases God is to see me love my littleness and poverty; it is the blind hope I have in his mercy. This is my sole treasure.”
Is blind hope in God’s mercy your sole treasure? This treasure will supply all that you need. And with this treasure nothing can unsettle us from the love of God.