Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Lesson in Mercy

“…he will get up to give him whatever he needs, because of his persistence.”

In next Sunday’s first reading (Gen 18:20-32, found here), we hear about Abraham asking God to spare the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if there are but only a few righteous men in them. God, of course, says he will spare the entire city even for the sake of only ten good men. This reading is obviously showing God’s great mercy and justice towards the righteous, but I believe there is something else that is often missed. This reading shows the value of Abraham’s persistence. God, in His infinite mercy, wishes to spare us sinners—we have only to ask for it.

Jesus tells us in our Gospel Reading (Lk 11: 1-13) that “if [a man] does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever his needs, because of his persistence” “ ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” “…how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” The key is to never lose faith and continue to ask God for whatever we need. And what do we need most from God? Mercy.

When Abraham speaks to God, he speaks with great humility: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes!” “Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak…” But Abraham has great faith in asking God for His mercy. Again and again he asks, each time wanting even more than he asked before. He asks on behalf of entire cities and those righteous within. His prayers worked—as we see later on in Chapter 19, verse 29: “He was mindful of Abraham by sending Lot away from the upheaval by which God overthrew the cities where Lot had been living.” It was because of the persistent prayers of Abraham that Lot was saved.

Do we continue to ask God to pour out His mercy on us? Each and every day we must ask for forgiveness. (In the very same Gospel, Christ gives us the Lord’s Prayer that we pray every day, remember the “forgive us our sins” part?). There are some Protestants who believe that we can simply ask God once in a single salvific event for forgiveness and then we are “saved” perpetually, having been forgiven for all past and future sins. The reality is, we must continually ask God for forgiveness. How? In the Sacrament of Confession. In Confession we come to God humbly, as Abraham did, and each time we ask him to pour out His mercy.

Confession is not just for “every once in a while”. It’s not just for Advent and Lent. It is a Sacrament we have the privilege to attend often. To be saved, to become holy, to share in eternal life, we must be persistent in asking for God’s help. We must admit that we need God’s mercy. Through constantly turning to Him for help, we understand that we are sinners and show our desire to be born anew. God’s mercy is not just about forgiveness; it is also about God’s gift of grace to transform us to be holier. We receive God’s mercy in Confession—both His forgiveness and sanctifying grace, and that is essential.

The truth is, the closer we get to Christ, the more we are aware of our sins, and our desire for grace becomes stronger. Abraham begins to understand God’s mercy the more he asks for it, and each time, he digs even deeper. The more we go to Confession, the more we desire that essential Sacrament of God’s grace.

Persistence demonstrates our Faith in God. It is an understanding that even though we don’t have what we need right away, even though we continue to fail and struggle with sin, we know that there is nothing God can’t forgive, and there is no one He can’t transform. Saint Monica was persistent for years in asking God to show mercy toward her son, Augustine, and grant his conversion. Look at the fruits of her perseverance—St. Augustine is one of the great Doctor’s of the Church!

It is important to understand that we must ask for God’s mercy, and then trust in Christ that He will grant it. We must desire His mercy in our hearts, and show that mercy to others. Jesus spoke to St. Faustina about this in His message of Divine Mercy. Check it out here:

We must also ask for mercy on others’ behalf, just as Abraham did for Lot. Ask for God’s mercy on behalf of our nation, on behalf of all those who have had or performed abortions, on behalf of those who live in sin. God can save our nation if we are only persistent in our prayers.

I say it again—be persistent. Perpetually pray for mercy. Too often our culture tells us that we are not sinners and we are justified in the things we do. Too often do we forget that we need mercy. But if we do not constantly ask for mercy, then it shows we feel we are doing nothing wrong—we are choosing our lives of sin over lives of holiness.

Let’s choose holiness. Persistence in asking God for His mercy demonstrates a deep desire to be holy, to be purified, to be transformed. We are like precious silver: we tarnish with sin, and God must polish us anew. The more often we go to Confession, the more polished we become, until we shine so perfectly, God can see His reflection in us.

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