The Unfathomable Depths of God's Mercy
Homily for Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Whenever I read this particular passage from the prophet Micah, I am reminded of a powerful scene from the novel “Quo Vadis” by Henryk Sienkiewicz. This novel weaves a story around the Roman Emperor Nero and his persecution of the Christians who lived in Rome. At one point in the novel, a shopkeeper betrays his neighbor to the Roman authorities, reporting that he knows that his neighbor is a Christian. He does this because his neighbor is also a shopkeeper and seems to draw more customers than he does. As expected, his neighbor is arrested and eventually is thrown into the Coliseum where he with his fellow Christians dies a horrible death. The shopkeeper realizes what he has done and finds himself on the banks of the Mediterranean where he intends to throw himself into the water where he expects to die.
As he stands on the banks of the sea contemplating what his greed has brought him to, he is met by the Apostle St. Paul. When St. Paul questions him, he confesses what he has done and tells him that he intends to take his own life because he deserves to die. The novelist puts these words into the mouth of St. Paul: “Our God is a God of mercy, repeated the Apostle (Paul). Were you to stand at the sea and cast in pebbles, could you fill its depth with them? I tell you that the mercy of Christ is as the sea, and that the sins and faults of (men) sink in it as pebbles in the abyss; I tell you that it is like the sky which covers mountains, lands, and seas, for it is everywhere and has neither end nor limit... Follow me and listen to what I say. I am he who hated Christ and persecuted His chosen ones. I did not want Him; I did not believe in Him till He manifested Himself and called me. Since then, He is, for me, mercy.” I was so struck by these words that I immediately typed them into my computer and have visited them many times. I don’t know whether the author of this novel used this passage from the prophet as the basis for his writing; but the next time I read the words: “You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins,” I immediately thought of my experience with this literary masterwork.
Our God is a God of mercy. What a powerful statement that is! Our Holy Father Pope Francis has, from the beginning of his pontificate, emphasized this characteristic. He is fond of reminding us that God is anxious to forgive us, is simply waiting for us to confess our sins so that he can extend his mercy to us.
Each time that we celebrate the Eucharist, each time we receive the body and blood of Jesus in communion, we are reconciled with God as the Eucharistic prayer always reminds us that this is the preeminent sacrament of reconciliation.