The qual­ity of mercy!

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

michael.as­ciak@par­la­ment.mt

One knows what the moral law is, what rev­e­la­tion and rea­son dic­tates, but one nonethe­less falls down again as if our DNA forces us to err re­peat­edly; as if we were pro­grammed or wired to fail eth­i­cally again and again; as if some mys­te­ri­ous pre-moral force causes us to lose con­trol again and again. Well, if your an­swer to this ques­tion above is yes, I must wel­come you to the hu­man con­di­tion. The nature of man is such that even with the best of in­ten­tions he in­evitably errs! This re­peated fail­ure can be quite de­press­ing to many, as well as the added temp­ta­tion to con­clude that the moral norm is too hard and there­fore un­re­al­is­tic and unattain­able. The in­evitable con­clu­sion for many is that the moral law must there­fore be wrong or needs wa­ter­ing down! Many souls, be­cause of the in­er­tia caused by this de­press­ing con­di­tion, feel trapped and boxed in and even­tu­ally give up try­ing and go with the flow!

We have just fin­ished a year ded­i­cated to the con­sid­er­a­tion of the qual­ity of mercy. Some who are al­ways per­fect think all this to be hype but many of us who strug­gle with our im­per­fec­tions daily re­alise that in con­sid­er­a­tion of mercy to and from our neigh­bours, there is a strong el­e­ment of per­sonal lib­er­a­tion! You only for­give once and you move on or you live with the hate for­ever. You are for­given by oth­ers and peace is resti­tuted. Pope Fran­cis has re­alised, un­der­lined and shared with the world this won­der­ful gift of mercy and, now that Ad­vent is upon us, we all ought to stop and con­sider how the ap­pli­ca­tion of this virtue to oth­ers and by oth­ers to us, can help change our lives and lead us to feel free from the shack­les of our fallen nature. Of course for those of us who be­lieve in a God, the qual­ity of mercy takes on a par­tic­u­lar mean­ing.

One of the fun­da­men­tal gifts that the Church has given to the world is the re­vealed knowl­edge that there is a God who is not a mono­lithic struc­ture as we are of­ten wont to con­sider our gods who we con­struct in our own im­age, but a God ex­ist­ing be­yond the con­fines of our imag­i­na­tion. This God com­posed not of one per­son, but of three com­pletely dif­fer­ent per­sons. How is it pos­si­ble that three dif­fer­ent per­sons are able to form one God? We see a vague im­age of the an­swer in daily life. There is a union of a hus­band and a wife in car­ing for their fam­ily. Two peo­ple with di­verse per­son­al­i­ties who con­firm their will to each other so that there is only one out­come in the fam­ily. It seems that like­wise, God is a com­mu­nity of per­sons in love whose wills are aligned so per­fectly that it is in ef­fect the same will, one God. An out­come of this union is that one of these per­sons in one God, who al­ways ex­isted to­gether, takes on hu­man form at a par­tic­u­lar point in time, so that this ex­is­tence, this be­ing that has the same sub­stance as God, also takes on the same sub­stance as man. In ef­fect, in or­der to help us un­der­stand bet­ter the qual­ity of God’s mercy and love, one sub­sis­tent be­ing called Je­sus Christ, is in ex­is­tence with two essences, two sub­stances, two na­tures, each re­main­ing dis­tinct from the other like oil in wa­ter, in ef­fect cre­at­ing two wills in the same be­ing, with the di­vine will pre­ced­ing the hu­man one. It is through this man that God shows his mer­ci­ful nature com­pletely. His mercy to women and men who re­peat­edly broke the moral law as we do to­day, who were vic­tims of sex­ual pre­da­tion or habit as we are to­day, who lied and cheated and cursed as we do to­day, was fully mag­nan­i­mous. His mercy to wid­ows and the poor and the ev­ery­day man knew no bounds. He showed us what mercy re­ally does to a per­son by be­ing per­ma­nently dis­posed to the con­trite heart. He showed us that mercy set a per­son free from his own dark side! I have no­ticed when driv­ing to work and back in our in­ter­minably clogged-up roads that, in ef­fect, one of the best ways to ease the back­log of cars is to give way to other cars rather than try to nose your­self in. In so do­ing the clut­ter dis­solves and dis­ap­pears and one can move for­ward. It is the same with mercy!

Pope Fran­cis be­lieves that there is no sin in a con­trite heart that is above this mercy of God. In fact to un­der­line this, he has ex­tended to ev­ery priest the right to im­part for­give­ness in con­fes­sion even for the great evil of deny­ing per­sons the right to life by procur­ing an abor­tion. There are of course other evils which are just as bad and that a man may com­mit! There are evils com­mit­ted against the fam­ily and spouse, evils against fel­low work­ers and neigh­bours, po­lit­i­cal evils, en­vi­ron­men­tal evils and eco­nomic evils. The list is end­less. It is good to keep in mind that as Christ­mas ap­proaches we stop to con­sider these truths and learn the true qual­ity of mercy which gen­tly drops from heaven on the place be­neath! It is only in mercy that real jus­tice and rea­son find their ul­ti­mate ful­fil­ment.

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