It is the Cup of Mercy

When I was a child, we prepared for all of the sacraments by studying the Baltimore Catechism.  When it came to the sacrament of penance, we were told that the right way to seek God’s mercy was contrition, confession, penance and absolution. First you had to be sorry. Then you had to say you were sorry. Then you had to do something to prove that you were sorry. And finally, you would be forgiven.

That is not, however, the way the mercy of God works, at least not according to the Word of God.

In the writings of the prophet Isaiah, God does not bestow mercy on the people because of what they have done. God bestows mercy, not for what they did, but for God’s own sake.

In Luke’s gospel, Zacchaeus does not beg for mercy. He does not go to Jesus asking for forgiveness. It is Jesus who reaches out to him. It is Jesus who calls Zacchaeus down from the sycamore tree, not to reprimand him for being a traitor to his people, a conspirator with the occupying army of Rome, or someone who had grown rich off the taxes he collected from his own people.

Jesus calls Zacchaeus down from that tree to offer mercy. Zacchaeus responds to God’s mercy with generosity and penance, but Jesus never asks him to do so.

The woman caught in adultery never admits her guilt. She never asks for forgiveness. It seems, at least in the way the story is told, that she is indeed guilty. But Jesus offers mercy. “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.” And then he doesn’t ask her about what she has done. He only asks her, “Has no one stayed to condemn you?” “No one, sir,” she responds. And he tells her to go, she is forgiven, and she shouldn’t do it again.

I believe that this woman became a disciple. How else would John know the story, unless she had told others about what happened when she and Jesus were alone?

Twenty years ago, I attended an international symposium on Precious Blood spirituality and reconciliation in Lima, Peru. Most of what I heard there, I have forgotten a long time ago, but I will never forget the story told by a woman named Vilma.

Vilma, like everyone else in Chile, lived through the violence of the Pinochet revolution in her home country. As often happened during that time, soldiers would come during the night at take away anyone even suspected of being against the Pinochet government. One day it happened in her home. Soldiers burst in in the middle of the night, dragger her son away, and he was never seen again. Years later, as the country was going through a process of trust and reconciliation, she met a soldier from those time who was seeking reconciliation with the people he had once persecuted. Vilma was a volunteer who would meet with such men and listen to their stories and seek to heal their pain.

After she had met with this particular young man several times, after she had told him of the mercy of God, he confessed one more war crime. He had been one of the soldiers who broke into her home. He had been one of those who dragged her son away. He had been one of those who threw him out of the open door of a helicopter as it flew out over the Pacific Ocean.

She had wanted to hate him, but somehow that grace of God that had enabled him to confess his crime had also come upon her. Somehow, both of them had encountered the cup of mercy and been transformed by it.

When we share the cup of mercy, not only are we forgiven by the grace of God, but we are also enabled to become those whom St. Paul calls “ambassadors of mercy.” Each time we pray the Lord’s prayer, we ask God to make us ambassadors of God’s mercy as we pray that God would forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us. Only the cup of mercy makes that possible.

Create Your Own Website With Webador