It is important to open this conversation by declaring, without any equivocation, that the reality of sin is not something we must be soft spoken about, nor is its danger a fact to be trivialised. The stack evil of sin is often masked by the devil with a smoke screen that usually makes it appear to be not dangerous so that it looks so attractive and appealing and worthy of our participating in it.
Thus we need to be extremely careful not to be deluded by this tactics of Satan. To understand how wary we should be of this disease called sin, it would be best to have a better appreciation of the relationship that God has privileged us human beings to enjoy with him. When we have a deeper understanding of this gracious friendship that God wants us to be a part of, with all the promised benefits, and when we realise that by our sins and iniquities, we are rejecting and abusing such a great offer, perhaps we can begin to seek God and pursue a life characterised by purity and righteousness, a life that is pleasing to God, a life that is aimed at attaining the eternal reward of an heavenly inheritance. Then we can stop rebelling against a God so good and infinitely merciful, who is most deserving of our unqualified love.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1440) helps us with a simple definition by stating that “sin is, before all else, an offense against God, a rupture of our communion with him.” With the culmination of our Lenten journey, there is the evident lure and likelihood to be so immersed in the euphoria of the joyful festivities of Easter, and be so carried away and lose sight of the integral message of the Paschal season, namely that, as evidenced in the accomplished mission of God’s only begotten Son, Mercy is the medicine that heals the misery of our sin-damaged human condition. Since sin is a wound on our communion with God; a rejection of his gracious love, a walking away from his sheepfold, a squandering of his life of grace in us; an abuse of our freedom, a refusal to humbly surrender to the fatherhood of God, a betrayal of so great a love lavished upon us, then we should expect a commensurate consequence to such a choice of rebellion.
Newton’s third law of motion hints that, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Therefore, in relation to our communion with God, if the action is rebellion, the equal and opposite reaction is misery. A very graphical illustration of the dynamics between human misery and divine mercy can be seen in the parable of the ‘Lost Son’ (the ‘Prodigal Father’) in Luke 15:11-24. It is very striking, the way this narrative tells about how, like the young son, sin makes us greedy, impatient, stupid and ungrateful. The parable also demonstrates to us how quickly we degenerate to slavery and misery as soon as we turn our backs on God to seek a life where freedom is without control, responsibility and accountability. More importantly, Jesus employs this classic story to expose the omni-benevolence of the Father who remains steadfast and faithful in his love for his lost children. In the image of the prodigal father, Jesus exposes the true character of His Father whose most sacred attribute is his Mercy.
Pope Francis in fact once remarked that the name of God is Mercy. As the most defining attribute of our infinitely loving Father, Mercy informs and influences all of God’s actions throughout human history even before creation. His Love and Kindness crop from his mercy; his Providence and Protection over us result from his mercy; his chastising Justice and gift of Redemption are consequences of his Mercy. “God’s only weakness is that he is Merciful,” and scandalously so. Despite the heart aching betrayal that God suffers from us his restive sons and daughters, his love for us remains undying and undiminished. Yes, truly he loved us even more.
His mercy fuels an unsparing expression of this love to the point that he gives is Son in expiation for our faults. He waits patiently and untiringly everyday for our return. He remains hopeful with an enduring open embrace that someday, the medicine of mercy would untie us from the knot of rebellion. God’s response to man is incomprehensible. His justice is mercifying. He sets the precedence for an uncommon culture of mercy as an antidote to the poison of the sins that fractures our friendships and relationships. Since sin so deeply affects the nature of the sinner, only the author of human nature can create him/ her anew, and only God’s mercy makes this recreation possible and actual. Inasmuch as the sickness of sin distances us from God, only the medicine of mercy can heal us and reconcile us back to God who is love (1 John 4:8, 16).
Be merciful as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:36)
Indeed, Divine mercy must be construed as God’s love in its effect, and an impetus for Human mercy. In the same manner that children share certain genetic and non-genetic attributes of their parents, we too must resemble our Father in heaven most especially in the character of his mercy. The very core of our being needs to be sedated by the medicine of mercy.
Our flawed nature needs the vaccine of God-like mercy. We must emulate this attribute of God in relation to our neighbours and ourselves. Our world increasingly stands in great need of this therapy of mercy to heal broken relationships, to revive suffering marriages, to combat the malice of intolerance and resentment amongst nations, communities, families and friendships.
Mercy is such a powerful cure to the disease of hatred and unforgiveness that constantly separates us and injures our interconnectedness. Whatever vice that weakens our bond as members of God’s family, it is by the effective balm of mercy that health and wholeness can be restored.
Mercy: The soul of true Religion
The potency of the medicine of mercy is just indescribable. St. Peter Chrysologus thinks of mercy as the essential ingredient required for our lives to be meaningful and profitable. The absence of mercy in our spiritualities or in the exercise of our religions voids it of every ounce of credibility. How can we claim to be true worshippers of God, or be identified as his children if there’s nothing of his mercifying character in us.
For us Christians, schooled by our Lenten grace, we must realize that “prayer, fasting and mercy are a unit and must be stringed together in faith. What prayer knocks for upon a door, fasting successfully begs and mercy receives. Fasting is the soul of prayer and mercy is the life of fasting. He who prays should also fast; and he who fasts should also be merciful.
He who wants to be heard when he petitions should also hear another who petitions him. He who wants to be pardoned of his errors must not close his own ear to another who has erred against him. If we must hope for mercy, we should show mercy ourselves.
If we desire kindness, he should display it first. We can heal our communities, making the world a better place if we show mercy to others in the same manner, amount, and readiness with which we desire it to be shown to ourselves. Celebrating Divine Mercy should awaken within us the urgency of the need to learn the habit of replicating God’s attribute of mercy and its resultant attitude of love and forgiveness. The measure and manner in which we administer the vaccine of mercy wherever it is lacking and needed makes the presence of God concretely felt. In effect, we are called to be apostles of Mercy, dispensers of kindness, diffusing far and wide the fragrance and splendor of the medicine of Mercy.
• Rev. Fr. Michael Chike Osamor is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Issele-Uku currently on secondment