Pope Francis once said that, “God forgives not with a decree but with a caress. … Jesus too goes beyond the law and forgives by caressing the wounds of our sins.”(1) That creates quite an image, doesn’t it? The perfect, holy God of the universe, creator of galaxies and gluons, sees the wounds you have inflicted on yourself, the pain you have caused, the ways you have soiled your life. He leans towards you, His hand raised. You cower, expecting a slap across the face or a punch to the gut or perhaps salt rubbed in your wounds. You deserve the punishment. You know that. You have this coming, and much more. But, instead, His hand reaches out and slowly, softly, caresses your cheek.
You deserved the slap. You deserved judgment. But instead He shows you mercy.
That’s who God is.
I think it’s possible that my generation born in the western world is one of the bleakest, most hopeless generations at least of recent history – eclipsed perhaps only by the generation that is following us. That is not to say we have it much harder than those who’ve gone before us. In fact, quite the opposite. Even those who struggle do not do so in the ways of previous generations, fighting cold and hunger and sickness and death — even mass oppression or genocide. We’ve even jokingly coined the term “first-world problems” in acknowledgment of this fact. But our ease has come at a cost. We have lost something: a vitality. A soul-deep knowledge of the way the world works. The wonder has been stolen from us by relativism and materialism. We are listless, and we are drifting. Our marketing-saturated, soundbite-obsessed culture has cut us off from the most primal force in the universe — the God who created us all. But He is there. And He is waiting.
We try to stanch our wounds with dirty rags and clawing hands. But He wants to heal us with the light of His spirit. We know it’s all gone sideways, and we struggle to right a crumbling structure under our own failing strength while He stands within arm’s reach, waiting for us just to ask. We think He has it out for us, or that He is ambivalent to our plights. Or perhaps He’s not there at all. But He is there. And all He wants to do is wrap us in His mighty arms while He whispers that it’s all going to be okay.
We turn to Jesus and rail on Him, accusing Him, saying if He really cared He’d do something. And His reply is very simple. “I did do something. I died for you.”
In the TV show “Daredevil,” Matt Murdock is a Catholic Christian who goes out at night and protects his city as the devil of Hell’s Kitchen (in New York City.) One thing that really got me recently on that show was when Matt finds a private moment with his priest and asks him in a tortured voice, “Why do I still feel so guilty?” The answer is simple: he hasn’t yet fully experienced the mercy Jesus offers, His hands outstretched in welcome.
Last night we came home from church to a surprise: a car was straddled diagonally across our driveway, blocking us from getting in. It ended up to be a young mom whose right front tire had popped off, and in a moment of desperation she had swerved into our driveway. Time stretched on, and it turned out to be a full 24 hours before our driveway was cleared. We were presented with a choice. We could get angry and demand action. Or we could be like Jesus to her and show her mercy. Which would you have chosen?
It’s so easy for the message of Jesus to be lost in the static. For us to get wrapped up in the trappings and trimmings and what he said or they did or she didn’t do. To take the sugar and leave the meat. But the crux of it is and always has been this: Jesus died so we could live. He was bound so we could be free. And He rose again to reveal in His every action the boundless mercy of God.
With the good news of the gospel so easily buried, the signal needs an amplifier. That amplifier is us. But we will not convince a deaf generation by speaking. We will only do it by being. We must show the world the mercy of God, one person at a time. And we must do that by being the mercy of God in human skin.
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for showing us Your boundless, infinite mercy through Your Son, Your sacrifice, and Your Sprit. May we live every day and every moment in such a way that we reveal that wondrous, beautiful mercy to others.
God bless you, and happy Easter. If you need prayer for something or just to talk, feel free to contact me either in comments, via my contact page, or on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you. Also, if this helped you, would you mind sharing it with someone else you think could use it? I’d really appreciate it. =) And last of all, you can get my book “The Complete Cancer Diaries” right now on Amazon and Facebook. It will help you pull out of the darkness, and it will help you find hope for your future. If you want to see God in a new way, check it out. Have a great week, my friend!
- Pope Francis & Tornielli, Andrea. “The Name of God is Mercy.” (Random House, 2016.)