ON THE MERCY OF GOD
“Mercy exalteth itself above judgment.”
Good is naturally diffusive; that is, inclined to communicate its goods even to others. But God, who is by nature infinite goodness (“Deus cujus natura bonitas” St. Leo), has an infinite desire to impart his own felicity to us; and therefore his inclination is, not to chastise, but to show mercy to all. To punish is, according to Isaiah, a work opposed to the inclination of God. “He shall be angry…that he may do his work, his strange work; his work is strange to him.” (cf Isaiah 28:21). And when the Lord chastises in this life, he does it in order to show mercy in the next. “O God…thou hast been angry, and hast had mercy on us” (cf Psalm 60:3). He appears angry, that we may enter into ourselves, and detest our sins. “Thou hast shown thy people hard things; thou hast made us drink the wine of sorrow” (Psalm 60:5). And when he sends us any chastisement, he does it because he loves us, and wishes to deliver us from eternal punishment. “Thou hast given a warning to them that fear thee, that they may flee from before the bow, that thy beloved may be delivered” (cf Psalm 60:6). And who can sufficiently admire and praise the mercy of God towards sinners in waiting for them, in calling them, and in receiving them when they return? O, how great is the mercy of God in waiting for our repentance! My brother, when you offended God, he could have struck you dead; but he waited for you, and, instead of chastising you, he conferred favors upon you, he preserved your life, and provided for you. He pretended not to see your sins, that you might repent. “Thou overlookest the sins of men for the sake of penance” (cf Wisdom 24:11). But, O Lord, how does it happen that you cannot bear to behold a single sin, and that you witness so many of them in silence? “Thou canst not look on iniquity; why lookest thou upon them that do unjust things, and holdest thy peace?” (Habakkuk 1:13). You behold the blasphemer, the unchaste, the vindictive man, multiplying iniquities from day to day; and you do not chastise him and why so much patience? ”Therefore the Lord waiteth, that he may have mercy on you” (Isaiah 30:18), God waits for sinners, that they may amend, and that thus he may pardon and save them. St. Thomas says, that all creatures, fire, the earth, air, water, by a natural instinct, would wish to punish and to take vengeance on the injuries done to their Creator. “Omnis creatura tibi deserviens excandescit adversus injustos.” But God, in his mercy, restrains them. But, O Lord, you wait for these impious wretches, that they may see their wickedness; but do you not see that they ungratefully take advantage of your mercy to offend you still more? “Thou hast been favorable to the nation; thou hast been favorable to the nation; art thou glorified?” (cf Isaiah 26:15). And why so much patience? Because “God wills not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live” (Ezekiel 33:11). O patience of God! St. Augustine goes so far as to say that God, were he not God, should be unjust on account of his excessive patience towards sinners. “Deus, Deus meus, pace tua dicam, nisi quia Deus esses, injustus esses.” To wait for those who abuse patience to become more insolent, appears to be an injustice to the divine honor. “We sin,” continues the holy doctor, “we adhere to sin.” Some make peace with sin, and sleep in sin for months and years. We rejoice at sin: others go so far as to boast of their wickedness; and you are appeased. We provoke you to anger – you invite us to mercy. We appear to be engaged with God in a contest, in which we labor to provoke him to chastise our guilt; and he invites us to pardon.
Affections and Prayers
Ah, my Lord, I know that I deserve to be at this moment in hell. “Hell is my house.” But through thy mercy, I am not now in that place of woe, but I am here at thy feet, and feel that thou wishest and commandest me to love thee. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” I hear thee tell me that thou wilt pardon me if I repent of the injuries I have done thee. Yes, my God; since thou wishest me, a miserable rebel against thy majesty, to love thee, I love thee with my whole heart, and I feel more regret for the outrages I have offered to thee, than for any evil that could have befallen me. Ah! Enlighten me, O infinite Goodness; make me sensible of the wrongs I have done thee. I will no longer resist thy calls. I will give no more displeasure to a God who has loved me so tenderly, who has pardoned me so often and with so much love. Ah! that I had never offended thee, my Jesus; pardon me, and grant that, from this day forward, I may love nothing but thee; that I may live only for thee, who hast died for me; that I may suffer for thy love, since thou hast suffered so much for the love of me. Thou hast loved me from eternity; grant that for eternity I may burn with thy love. I hope for all things, O my Savior, through thy merits. I trust also in thee, O Mary save me by thy intercession.
Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).
Art: Divine Mercy, Eugeniusz Kazimirowski, 1934 [Painting in Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Vilnius], PD-US copyright expired; Wikimedia Commons.