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Our God is a God of Mercy

Homily for Tuesday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time

The reading from the Prophet Micah this morning always reminds me of a passage from the novel “Quo Vadis,” written by the Polish novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz.

The novel is about the Christian community in Rome. Perhaps you recognize the title as the words that Peter supposedly directed to Jesus as he was trying to escape the Roman persecutions. He saw Jesus walking toward Rome and asked: “Rabbi, quo vadis?” “Where are you going?” Jesus responded that he was going to Rome to be crucified again since Peter had decided to leave. Of course, Peter reconsiders and returns to Rome where he is crucified himself.

However, in another scene, St. Paul meets a Roman citizen on the banks of the Mediterranean. He had been a merchant. His stiffest competition had been from his neighbor who had a stall right next to his. So he reported his neighbor as a Christian and saw him arrested by the Roman soldiers. Then he learned that his neighbor had been executed in the Circus Maximus. He was beside himself. He never thought that his neighbor would be killed. He just wanted him to be missing from his stall for a while so that his neighbor’s customers would come to his stall instead. When he realized what he had done, he decided to throw himself into the sea. There he tells his story to a stranger who happens to be St. Paul. St. Paul’s response made reading this long novel completely worth it. He said to the man: ““Our God is a God of mercy. Were you to stand at the sea and cast in pebbles, could you fill its depth with them?  I tell you that the mercy of Christ is as the sea, and that the sins and faults of (men) sink in it as pebbles in the abyss; I tell you that it is like the sky which covers mountains, lands, and seas, for it is everywhere and has neither end nor limit...  Follow me and listen to what I say.  I am he who hated Christ and persecuted His chosen ones.  I did not want Him, I did not believe in Him till He manifested Himself and called me.  Since then He is, for me, mercy.”

Micah did not know Jesus Christ. Yet even he knew that our God is mercy. Jesus is the personification of God’s mercy.

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

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