Scripture this week features mercy and forgiveness. In the first reading Moses prays for mercy for the people. And in the Gospel a kindly father, an image of God, readily forgives the prodigal son. Lets confess ways we may fail to forgive those who hurt us..
One of the most inspiring films of recent times was Schindler’s List. He saved thousands from the gas chambers. Similarly inspiring was the work of the Irish priest, Fr.O’Flaherty. Posted in the Vatican during the war, he helped 1000s of POWS and Jews escape death. He smuggled them out of Rome, using a network of helpers, under the noses of the occupiers. Though some helpers were captured, killed or tortured and he faced at least one assassination attempt, he continued the work. Why? When the Pope asks him this he said: “I know nothing of politics, I just know as a simple priest that when I see people in need I must help them. Indeed, Christ’s call to mercy, for “blessed are the merciful”, made O’Flaherty extend mercy even to the enemy.
In the true film of O’Flaherty’s work, The Scarlet and the Black, at the war’s end, as Rome was about to fall, O’Flaherty is asked by the Nazi commander of the city to smuggle out his wife and child. O’Flaherty says: “You’ve tortured and killed my friends and ruled Rome without mercy, and now you want mercy for yourself”. “Ah, You preach mercy but its just words”, the Nazi replies; “I represent a new Europe of power ethics without God or his moral code which panders to the weak; we rule without mercy as secular supermen”. But later when captured by the resistance this commander is asked how he managed to smuggle his wife and children out of Rome. He realizes that O’Flaherty had been non-discriminatory in his mercy. He had got the commander’s family out. Moroever, during the Nazi’s stay in prison for war crimes the only one to visit him was O’Flaherty. And he was so impressed by the priest’s kindliness, he converted to Catholicism.
Christ asks us to be like that priest, loving even our enemy. Like the father who receives the prodigal with open arms, our hearts have compassion for all. Sadly, we’re more often like the older son; we judge others from hard self-righteous hearts and shape God in that image, like the revenge cult in modern films. But not just secularists, but also religious err in this regard. Jesus said to the Pharisees who would stone the woman caught in adultery: “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Since we need mercy ourselves, we should extend mercy to others.
Yet our society relentlessly hounds errant politicians or clerics. There justice is seldom tempered with mercy. Yet even Shakespeare says the quality of mercy is not strained, it honors both the giver and the receiver. We gain from mercy more than we give. By it, we free our heart from the bitterness and resentment eating it away, so we can get on with our lives. The alternative is to carry unforgiving hatred with us to the grave and beyond. God sends his sun to shine on good and sinful people alike, and Christ died for all. let’s widen our hearts to be like His.
Though the younger son wastes his father’s property on orgies and loose women, the father has none of the elder son’s narrow jealousy, envy and self-righteous anger. Rather than celebrate his brother’s safe return, he, like many strict religious, would condemns him in a harsh unyielding way. But that is not God’s way; his mercy is boundless. Lets have similar open hearts towards those we’re tempted to cast out. Let’s have Christ’s forgiving heart on the cross. For this world’s merciless spirit of which Satan is lord destroys all that’s soft and humane in us. leaving us with hard hearts before eternity. But Christ’s boundless love, goodness, and mercy leads to inner freedom and happiness both for here below and forever and ever, amen.
So God’s own, living with generous, loving, forgiving and open hearts like the Father in the gospel, lets profess our faith
Prayers of the Faithful
And as the people of God lets pray for the things we need.
For our Holy Father, that with the bishops of the church he may be an example of humble loving forgiveness to the world..
For civil leaders that they may ensure that our justice system always tempers justice with mercy and rehabilitation..
For our youth that those who may have strayed from arms of the Lord’s church may return to its joyful embrace..
For our homes, parents and relatives that divisions in our families may be quickly healed..
For the sick and those who need our special care, that through our love they may know God’s love and healing in their lives..
For the dead that they may receive mercy and forgiveness for their sins in this world, and come to happiness in the arms of the Father in heaven, with the help of our prayers.
And we ask all these things through Christ, the only lord of all forgiving love and mercy forever and ever, amen.
The late John Paul 11 was shot by a Turkish man who was later jailed for the crime. The Pope suffered much from this injury and some say it was the cause of the Parkinson’s disease that finally killed him. Yet he bore no animosity towards his attacker. Indeed, when the latter was in prison John Paul went specially to see and embrace him and say that he forgave him. He could have harbored resentment for this life-long injury but the didn’t. Its good example of Christian mercy and forgiveness in action. Lets pray that we’ll have similar forgiving hearts…Hail Mary