BECAUSE GOD IS MERCIFUL
Be merciful, therefore, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36
THE most important prayer we can pray is the one we learn from today’s gospel lesson. The one which the church has wisely embedded into her liturgy lest we ever forget it, but also the one which every self-published liturgy fails to include, the prayer we call The Kyrie: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. There are many things we need to receive from God for both body and soul, for ourselves and for one another, and this prayer covers them all for we exist only by His mercy.
Are you critical of those on welfare? Or are you unhappy that, because of the high cost of living, you must suffer the indignities of government “compassion” in order to live? In either case remember that we are all on welfare, God’s welfare; and that we live and move and have our being only because He is merciful, because He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil, because He justifies the ungodly, and because while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
Because our Father is merciful we can patiently endure our present sufferings, and even “rejoice” in them according to St. Paul, because however distressing they might be, God guides us through them all, and He assures us that: they are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.
Consider all the things we must suffer in this world. First there is the fear of death and judgment. Even though we are cleansed from every wrong by the blood of Jesus our sinful nature still fears, and this contaminates the calm we have in Christ. That is why we cannot last very long without the spiritual dialysis we obtain in the Holy Clinic of the church every Lord’s Day.
Secondly, we must remember that the creation, which fell with Adam, is hostile to man. There are many voices today tempting us to worship the earth and to consider her our mother, but she is not our mother, the church is! And it’s a good thing because in her fallen condition this supposed mother delights in hurting her children. She cannot help but to quake and convulse, to flood us out, to blow us away, cover us with her mud, and starve us to death with her droughts. This is why the Spirit inspired St. Paul to write that the glory to be revealed will also include a renewed creation, one that no longer produces thorns or demands the sweat of our brow, and unending frustration, merely to survive; one where our glorified bodies will dwell in an environment fit for them, and they for it.
Not being the end of our troubles, there are our own personal sins as well which draw the displeasure of God and ignite the wrath of man. Chief among them are the sins of the tongue, which we recklessly use to criticize and condemn anyone who fails to live up to the standards which we in our vanity construct for them, but it always backfires, because in so doing Jesus tells us that we end up condemning ourselves, and thus we become the victim of our own sins.
If only our troubles ended there all might be well, but they don’t. There is also our Arch Enemy to contend with, the old evil Foe who prowls about like a roaring lion inspiring evil; starting wars both large and small; tempting us to do the irrational; to believe the illogical; and arousing us to enjoy the pleasures of sin without regard to the consequences.
What is the solution to this troubled existence? Only the mercy of God who is kind to all, to the evil and the ungrateful alike, but this is not the groundless compassion which Muslims ascribe to Allah, or that sectarians attribute to a hazy “father god,” but rather the very explicit mercy God demonstrated when He sent His Son, in the fullness of time, to redeem us and adopt us as His sons. Yes, it was our Lord’s great mercy that saved us as Jesus lived our life, died our death and by His resurrection assures our own. He did not exempt Himself from the present sufferings of this world but instead felt them in full, and by His loving sacrifice obtained mercy for us all; a mercy which He generously distributes to us in the gospel as it is preached, and the sacraments as they are administered to us.
Because we are the recipients of such loving-kindness our Lord rightly instructs us to extend the same to others. He doesn’t say these things to the world which neither knows nor cares about them, but to us who are children of the heavenly Father by faith in Jesus Christ, and praise God that He does because this Word both instructs us and transforms us. Absent the Lord’s command we hear in today’s gospel lesson we would be perpetually ignorant of His will for us; and would remain forever unmerciful, condemning ourselves in the process, but with it the Lord both instructs and empowers us to become what it says, merciful.
We know as Christians that this lesson does not make our salvation conditional because as stated above it is spoken to the baptized, but neither is it optiona, and we must not overlook it. As surely as a blind man cannot lead another blind man; as certainly as a student cannot know more than his teacher; as positively as a man who has a beam lodged in his eye is in no position to clear the speck from his brother’s…even so unquestionably those who have received mercy must express the same to others. It isn’t easy, we know that, so we pray today and everyday: Lord have mercy, Christ Have mercy, Lord have mercy, and God answers our prayer every time by forgiving our failures, by strengthening our resolve and by enabling us to be merciful to one another. Amen.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras