Mercy as Perfection

The readings for today both focus our attention on mercy and compassion. The first reading from the Book of Daniel is a prayer or confession. Toward the end of the passage, he prays, “But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness!” The Gospel reading from St. Luke is taken from what Scripture scholars call the “Sermon on the Plain.” It is similar to St. Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount,” although somewhat shorter. Both St. Luke and St. Matthew include Jesus’ words about the love of our enemies.

St. Luke ends that section with the words, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Instead of telling us to be perfect, St. Luke’s Gospel asks us to be merciful. I am partial to St. Luke’s rendition. Perfection is nigh on to impossible. Being merciful isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible.

St. Luke and St. Matthew and Daniel the Prophet would all certainly agree that part of what makes God perfect is God’s mercy and compassion. Many years ago, I was talking a young Muslim student at St. Bonaventure University over breakfast. He told me that he didn’t think of Allah as merciful. In fact, he said that it would diminish Allah. I am not certain that all Muslims would agree with his assessment, but he went on to tell me that he didn’t think he would ever be forgiven for his sins. I hope that he was eventually able to change his assessment.

Many spiritual writers have written that God’s mercy and compassion is part of what makes God almighty. A weaker god would not be able to forgive, but God’s power is manifested in the fact that God is able to forgive. If we are made in God’s image and likeness, then we are also called to being merciful. As hard as it is to practice, mercy toward those who have hurt us is part and parcel of our faith. Each Eucharist we celebrate recalls God’s desire to reconcile with us. Living out our daily Eucharist includes our need to do the same.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator


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