Mercy-FullOur scriptures for this Sunday are reflective of the mercy of God. Paul describes his experience of God’s mercy in his letter to Timothy. He reflects that he, who was once “blasphemous,” “arrogant,” “ignorant,” and a persecutor has “been mercifully treated” by God. In the midst of his sin Paul reflects that God brought him back through his encounter with Christ. Because of the mercy he experienced in his conversion encounter, Paul proclaims “indeed the grace of our Lord has been abundant.”
This abundance of God’s mercy is lived out in Jesus’ ministry. Luke begins this section of his Gospel by telling us that, “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus” (15: 1). The three parables Jesus tells of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son reveal this abundance of God’s mercy. Most poignant in the parable of the prodigal son, the son, well aware of his sin, has shame about what he has done. He decides to return to his father and ask for forgiveness saying, “I have sinned against heaven and against you, I no longer deserve to be called your son” (15: 21). But the father does not listen to his son’s confession of sin, because he has already forgiven him. Luke tells us earlier, “when he
was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion” (15: 20).
Jesus is using these parable stories to give us a window of insight into who God is. God is a God of abundant mercy. God stands ready to receive us back and is even reckless in that love as he leaves the other ninety nine sheep to go looking for that one stray. What do we do in the face of such love? Are we aware of how merciful God is? In the face of such love we need to remove any obstacle that would get in the way of receiving the power of the mercy that comes from that love. Sometimes we harbor shame that can separate us from the love of God and we can get stuck in self-pity and a feeling of unworthiness, which can damage our sense of self or our dignity. Father Gregory Boyle, in his book Tattoos on the Heart, has this to say about God’s effect on our shame.
“Out of the wreck of our disfigured, misshapen selves, so darkened by shame and disgrace, indeed the Lord comes to us . . . The “no matter whatness” of God dissolves the toxicity of shame and fills us with tender mercy.”* We need to let go of whatever holds us back from God’s love, our shame, our guilt, whatever it is, so that God’s love and abundant mercy can penetrate our hearts, so that we may be healed and made whole.
So as we move through this week let us be aware of our all mercy-full God, Are we aware of God’s abundant mercy all around us? In what ways do we seek out the mercy-filled nature of God? Are there any places within us that block God’s mercy and cause us to hide from God because of our guilt and shame?