TRUE MERCY – 3

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

OUR THEME FOR 2016

(Part 19)

TRUE MERCY – 3

January 30, 2016

Today’s readings:

2 Samuel 12:1-17

Psalm 51:12-17

We continue trying to understand the mercy of God, which is so different even from mercy as understood and practiced by some in our Church.

David had sinned grievously. Nathan the prophet confronted him with his sin, using a parable about a rich and powerful man taking advantage of and abusing a poor man (2 Sm 12:1-4). On hearing it, “David grew very angry with that man and said to Nathan: ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves death!’” (2 Sm 12:5). He recognized the great evil done. Now was he shocked when Nathan said, “You are the man!” (2 Sm 12:7)!

Now this is the situation with many sinners in the world, particularly in the area of human sexuality. There are those who have sex outside of marriage, couples who live in without sacramental marriage, people in homosexual relationships, and those in same-sex “marriage.” Do they recognize their grave sin? Most do not. Because they are told by society that what they are doing is all right, and the Church does not actively correct them, preferring to be politically correct. How can sodomy or any kind of sexual perversion be all right?

David of course thought what he did, in being adulterous with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah, was all right. But in hearing what the rich man did to the poor man, he was livid with rage. This is the first lesson: people will remain in their serious sin (some of them because they truly do not realize that they are in sin) unless there are those who will speak prophetically to them about their sin, so they can be led to repentance. To not speak of sin and be politically correct is false mercy. To love the sinner and truly care for them by speaking of their sin is true mercy.

Second lesson: we might be prayerful, serving in our Church, and feeling close to God, but if we sin grievously and do not mend our ways, then we in effect have turned against God. “Why have you despised the Lord and done what is evil in his sight?” (2 Sm 12:9a). Consider just a few examples among many:

  • The Eucharistic minister, holding and dispensing the very body of Christ, who remains a gambler, alcoholic or wife-beater.
  • The leader in a Christian community who gossips and maligns other leaders, thereby causing dissension and disunity, thereby adversely affecting God’s work.
  • The head of a parish ministry who is an adulterer.
  • The cleric who is into active homosexuality.
  • The social worker that is addicted to Internet pornography.

Now if pastors, cleric or lay, do not speak out, lovingly but forcefully, how can sinners ever be truly led to repentance? Not to speak out in such cases, if one has the responsibility or the opportunity, is false mercy; to speak out is true mercy.

Third lesson: there will be hell to pay (pun intended) if we die in our grievous sin. David, though he was forgiven, was subject not just to the love and mercy of God but also to the justice of God. He would be afflicted by the sword and by family scandal (2 Sm 12:10-12). “Thus says the Lord: I will bring evil upon you out of your own house.” (2 Sm 12:11a). Grievous sin has grievous consequences – shattered lives, broken homes, juvenile delinquents, lifelong resentment, STDs, HIV/AIDS, disunity, despair, suicide, and so on. And if there is no repentance, the ultimate disastrous consequence is eternity in the fires of hell.

If there is repentance, there will still be consequences. For example, if one gets HIV/AIDS due to a profligate sexual lifestyle, even when one is converted, that remains. If a marriage has irreparably broken down, or a child is deeply resentful of a father who deserts the family, that remains for a long time, perhaps even a whole lifetime. If the abandoned son turns to drugs and crime and is gunned down in the street and killed, there is no more restoration that can happen. Nathan told David even as David repented, “but since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you will surely die.” (2 Sm 12:14).

But for worse not to happen, one needs to repent. What could be worse than the examples above? Well, eternity in hell. So here is the good news: no matter how grievous our sin is, we can look to the mercy of God. David repented, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Sm 12:13a). Nathan said, “For his part, the Lord has removed your sin. You shall not die” (2 Sm 12:13b). The Lord had removed your sin! You are now pure, restored to the Father! You shall not die! You shall, in fact, look to eternity in heaven! Hell is the result of false mercy; heaven is the result of true mercy.

God is indeed merciful. But some have turned the mercy of God into false mercy. True mercy is an incentive to repentance, but some do not want to speak of sin and thus do not lead sinners to repentance. What are the effects, and manifestations, of true repentance?

One, there is an ardent desire not just to turn away from sin, but to enter into a life of purity and holiness. “A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit.” (Ps 51:12).

Two, there is a deliberate move to avoid one’s former worldly ways, with their attendant temptations, and enter into a vibrant life in the Spirit. “Do not drive me from before your face, nor take from me your holy spirit.” (Ps 51:13).

Three, there is great appreciation for being restored and being assured of ultimate salvation. “Restore to me the gladness of your salvation; uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Ps 51:14).

Four, and very importantly, there is a desire to help others out of their sin, and to tell them about Jesus, so that they would be led to life-giving repentance. “I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you.” (Ps 51:15).

Five, there is growing assurance that one is entering into God’s life and thus God’s embrace and thus God’s protection. “Rescue me from violent bloodshed, God, my saving God” (Ps 51:16a).

Six, one begins to truly live Christ, manifesting the joy of the Spirit and working for God’s justice in the world. “And my tongue will sing joyfully of your justice.” (Ps 51:16b).

Seven, one will live only for the glory of God, in both word and deed. “Lord, you will open my lips; and my mouth will proclaim your praise.” (Ps 51:17).

The mercy of God is given, and is a given. What makes a great deal of difference, the very difference between heaven and hell, is whether such mercy is true or false.

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