Since the Jubilee Year of Mercy has just begun, I think it is worth pondering on a piece of scripture from the New Testament that expresses the Mercy of Christ. In Luke 23:39-43, we witness the interaction between the dying Jesus and the two criminals on crosses next to him. Like the soldiers and the religious leaders, one of the criminals mocks Jesus, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well.’
In contrast, the other thief shows respect for him and acknowledges his innocence: ‘But this man has done nothing wrong.’ At the last hour, with just a hint of repentance, this criminal calls out for Jesus to simply remember him. Jesus goes so much further, ‘In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ The repentant criminal wins the ultimate prize, a prize that all righteous and devout followers of Christ want. What a beautiful gift of mercy. It is never too late to receive God’s unlimited forgiveness, no matter how wayward we have been. All it takes is an acknowledgement of our humanity for our cracks to be filled with God’s light. I am reminded of a poem from an unknown American confederate soldier who wrote:
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.
It strikes me that this soldier was intimately aware of God’s mercy. For example, he asked for all things that he might enjoy life but he was given life that he might enjoy all things. Through a process of asking, he learned to put God first and his heart grew rich and grateful in the knowledge that God knew what was best for him. I can imagine this confederate soldier praying on his knees at the battlefield with his hands open and calling out for God’s mercy. I can imagine that he knew well his brokenness and his need for God.
I wonder if it’s possible for us to also let go and receive the unlimited forgiveness of God? Can we in turn share his mercy with all other beings, all other things? Can we stay committed to love, evermore, each and every day?
To finish, it is fitting to include the Polish Saint Faustina Kowalska who was particularly devoted to God’s mercy. In her diary, God spoke to her: ‘In the Old Covenant, I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to my people. Today I am sending you with my Mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my Merciful heart’ (Diary 1588).
Lord, in your Mercy, hear our prayer.