April 27, 2012

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

The parent-child relationship teaches us about God’s mercy

Sean GallagherSince I was a child, I have been taught that God is rich in mercy.

But it seems that it has only been in the past decade that my appreciation of the mercy that God shows toward us has become concrete and real for me.

Living as a father of four rambunctious boys under 10 can do that for you.

Day in and day out, my wife, Cindy, and I try to show our boys the right way to speak and act so that they will truly be happy. And, day in and day out, they not only speak and act as if we have been speaking to a wall, but their misdeeds and disrespect are sometimes directed toward us.

Now multiply my nearly 10 years as a father by several thousand, and my four boys by several billion, and you get an inkling of the extent of God’s mercy.

It is only an inkling because the more pure one’s heart is, the more pain and suffering it endures when it is hurt by others. That is why through the centuries some spiritual writers have thought that Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before he died was a more intense form of suffering than what he experienced in his body in his crucifixion.

Although I love Cindy and my boys more than I could have ever imagined loving anyone before I married her and we were blessed with children, we both can feel a good deal of frustration at their misbehavior. But there are never any shadows in God’s infinite love for us.

His undying mercy in the face of continual unfaithfulness is the thread that weaves together the long history of the people of Israel and the Church.

Like the loving Father that he is, God has, for thousands of years, showed us the way to live that will lead to true happiness. And yet, like my own boys—and myself when I was their age—humanity has been slow to follow his lead. In fact, we have often quite consciously chosen to follow our own will instead of God’s will for us.

Despite this long litany of sins directed against God by the human race throughout history, the mercy he has shown toward us has never failed. It has always been infinitely greater than the darkest of our sins.

Christ’s dying reveals this fact perfectly. In his suffering and death, he endured the worst evil that humanity could inflict on a person.

Yet, Christ not only rose from the dead, victorious over evil. He did so in a state far glorious than he had been in his earthly life up to that point. Christ’s resurrection is the complete victory of mercy over sin.

Believe it or not, God actually wants us to be channels of his mercy in our everyday lives—this despite the fact that we have done nothing to deserve his mercy in the first place.

If we step back and consider the immensity of God’s mercy and our smallness in comparison, we might shrink from thinking ourselves capable of being agents of his mercy.

But he has empowered us to do this great work precisely by showering his loving forgiveness upon us in our own lives.

Our heavenly Father’s divine mercy is a gift that we must give away once we receive it—and we receive it every day.

Our world would be a much more pleasant and beautiful place if we just took up God on his invitation to share his mercy in countless little ways each day with our friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and even complete strangers. †

Local site Links: