Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

Sea of Galilee at Sunrise

Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

God’s Forgiveness & Our Mercy

This week on Wednesday evening all churches in the Cleveland Diocese will be open for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a Lenten tradition. No matter how sinful, a person can experience the mercy of God. During Holy Week we will ponder the climax of God’s mercy: washing everyone clean by the blood of his Son.

Years ago, wearing my black habit, I sat on a window ledge in Chicago, waiting for a bus when an elderly gentleman sat beside me. He introduced himself as Herbert and told me he was a former gangster who had been at the Valentine’s Day massacre. “But as a kid, I went to Catholic school,” he said. When the bus arrived, and I was about to deposit my fare, Herbert pushed my hand away and said, “I’m paying for you.” He sat beside me on the bus and asked if I had eaten. I said I had, even though my meal was a faint memory. At Herbert’s stop, as he walked down the aisle, he turned back and said, “Kyrie eleison. Kyrie eleison”!  (Greek for “Lord, have mercy.”)

Herbert was proving that he did go to Catholic school. I’d like to think that this was his heartfelt prayer, considering his past life. If so, he was like the crooked tax collector in the parable, who could only pray in all humility, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” This man trusted in God’s mercy. And Jesus assures us that he would be made right in God’s eyes and exalted, not the self-righteous Pharisee.

Looking back over our lives, we see things we are ashamed of: bad choices, mistakes, and yes, sins. We wish we could delete them from our life story. But there they are—permanent. God knows our weakness. He knows our sins and loves us anyway. God’s mercy is greater than our sins, it is infinite. Theologians say that mercy is God’s most stupendous quality—not his omnipotence, omniscience, or other perfections.

Jesus is the incarnation of mercy. You might say his middle name is mercy. Consider people Jesus forgave: The man by the pool who was sick for 38 years, the paralytic brought on a stretcher, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus, the good thief, the apostles who deserted him. Jesus told parables about God’s mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son.

The Hebrew word for mercy, is rahamim. It comes from rehem, which means a mother’s womb. God’s mercy then has a maternal warmth about it. It is unconditional, intimate, and flows from a nurturing love, symbolized by a mother’s womb.  We are safe with God. He regards us the way a mother regards her infant. With tenderness. A mother can always make excuses for her child.

Our Call to Forgive

We are to let mercy flow onto others. We are to be the face of God’s compassionate love. Jesus repeated this lesson relentlessly.

• “Be merciful as your heavenly Father.”

• “Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

• “Pray… forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

• Forgive 7 x 70 (unlimited times).   

• He gave the radical instruction: “Love your enemies. Do good to those who persecute you.”

• Jesus said, “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

When we are harmed, our first instinct, our gut reaction, is to retaliate.  Eye for an eye.  Watching movies, we want the bad guys punished. Christians however look at things differently. They forgive from the heart. They let it go and do not punish.

The world was amazed when Pope John Paul forgave his would-be assassin. In an Amish community in PA a man shot 10 girls, killing 5. Then himself. The Amish visited his widow, went to his funeral, and raised money for his family. Someone commented “Because they hold no grudges, they can concentrate on their own healing.”

“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it.”      We need super grace to forgive. Especially to forgive those who don’t ask for forgiveness.

The Works of Mercy

Last week there was an uproar in Geauga Country. A man had successfully opened a rescue home for men. He and my community hoped to open one for women on our property. At an open meeting, some people opposed the home so loudly and rudely that sadly the proposal was withdrawn. I can imagine Jesus shaking his head in disappointment.  

Jesus spelled out how to be merciful to the needy in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The corporal ones come from the parable about the judgment at the end of the world. The king will say to the sheep on his right:  “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then to the goats who did not do these things he says, “Depart from me into the eternal fire.”

Here are people who showed mercy:

•  McDonald’s employee helps elderly disabled man with his food.

•  Heart surgeon calms weeping 2-year-old girl before heart operation.

•  Entire neighborhood secretly learns sign language to surprise deaf neighbor.

•  Turkish bride and groom spend their wedding day feeding 4,000 refugees.

•  Mom adopts all four of her best friend’s daughters after she died of brain cancer.

•  The young guy was struggling with his tie when the older gentleman without hesitation gave him a step-by-step tutorial.

•  Man has heart attack while moving lawn; firefighters finish mowing lawn after saving him.

A Brief Prayer for Mercy

An old prayer you might adopt as a Lenten practice is the “Jesus Prayer”:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”  

This prayer is a mantra, which means we pray it over and over. A mantra is a simple way to pray. Some people like to pray the first half of the Jesus Prayer as they inhale and then the second half as they exhale.

An unusual song about God’s mercy:

•  When has someone forgiven you?  How did it feel?

•  What act(s) of mercy can you perform during Lent?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest posts

Awarded Top 100 Catholic Blog

Meet Sr. Kathleen

Jesus depends on us to spread the Good News of God’s love, offering the world hope and joy. Mary Kathleen, a Sister of Notre Dame from Chardon, Ohio, responds through writing, speaking, giving retreats, and teaching. Her motto, adopted from Eddie Doherty’s gravesite, is “All my words for the Word.”

About Catholic Faith Corner

A warm welcome to Catholic Faith Corner! May my reflections help you know and live the Catholic faith, inspire you, and touch your heart. I hope you subscribe here and occasionally comment on my posts.

Subscribe to Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


A Child’s Book
of Psalms

Here is a simple version of verses from favorite psalms, followed by a one-line prayer. Colored photos enhance the 24-page booklet.

Featured Book

Totally Catholic! A Catechism for Kids and Their Parents and Teachers

This award-winning book is being used in classrooms and by RCIA groups.

Visit My Book Store

Sister Kathleen has more than ninety books published and has worked on six textbook series. Several of her books have garnered awards from the Catholic Press Association and Multimedia International. You can buy from Amazon, but purchasing books directly from her earns more for her community.