Mercy the ultimate truth in charity

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

“WHAT man of you that hath an hundred sheep: and if he shall lose one of them, doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which was lost, until he find it?… I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance.” (Lk 15,4.7)

With these words, Christ is telling us to be like him: ever patient, understanding and merciful with everyone, especially those that clearly are in error or have offended us. In other words, to look after the lost sheep.

These words of Christ also encourage us to take the initiative to look after them, and not to wait for them to come to us, asking for forgiveness. We have to offer it to them and hope that they do penance.

We need to understand that patience, understanding and mercy, and taking the initiative to do all this, are what would comprise as the ultimate expression of truth and charity and vice-versa, charity in truth.

We should never forget to channels God’s mercy for all of us. It’s the ultimate expression of his love for us. Imagine, we may not even ask for it yet, but he will offer it to us, as he expressed it before he died on the cross.

“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they are doing,” he said. (Lk 23,34) St. Paul reiterates the same point when he said, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5,8)

But we need to learn how to blend God’s mercy and the all-out effort we need to exert to achieve our ultimate goal and win our definitive status as God’s image and likeness, children of his and sharers of his divine nature. Let’s remember that while Christ was merciful to the woman caught in adultery, he told her to sin no more

What we have to avoid is to rely simply on God’s mercy without exerting any effort, or the other way around—to think that we can achieve our goal with our effort alone without God’s mercy.

With God’s grace always, we have to learn how to be merciful and compassionate with everyone, willing to bear their burden. We have to learn to go beyond what is right and wrong, what is fair and unfair. We have to offer mercy and compassion, and patience and understanding along the way.

The mercy and compassion that we have to learn is that aspect of the redemptive life and work of Christ who fraternized with sinners, who taught us to love our enemies, who spoke of the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, and who bore all the sins of men by offering his life on the cross.

They all tell us that it is not enough to have good intentions only towards others, nor to do some acts of charity which is more of philanthropy than anything else, a kind of “noblesse-oblige” mindset.

The mercy and compassion asked of us is that very attitude of the poor widow who out of what she had to live on gave her two mites in contrast to the rich man who gave quite a bit but out of his abundance.