(Photo from here)
So I’ve come back to my erstwhile blog with a few stitchings of thoughts. It’s Advent, and the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and the Jubilee Year of Mercy has begun. I wish I could write something brilliant and relevant about all of the above, but I’m afraid I only have what I only ever have when I come to write; a mess of thoughts and only a handful of adequate ways to express them.
But on mercy. I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s mercy, and how it is so much a part of His love. Mercy is what happens when unconditional love is active and creative, as God’s love is. Humanity screws up, time and time again. Simple, straightforward justice would be content to leave us writhing in the miseries of our own making. God is a just God; He will have justice. But His love is such that He will not simply let things be. And so He reaches through, and creates miracles, wondrous things, to save us when we cannot save ourselves.
Mercy is not earned or deserved, if it was it wouldn’t be mercy. Mercy is a gift freely given.
Mercy gives us the chance to begin again, but it is important to recognise its creativity. God’s mercy is not Him pretending our sin is not there, or blotting it out as if it never happened. God is a God of surprises and transformations – of resurrection. Jesus’s first miracle of His public ministry was to turn water into wine; ordinary into extraordinary richness. His ultimate purpose on earth was to be the Sacrifice to atone for our sins. The horrors of death, of unbearable suffering, caused by the Fall became tools in God’s plan for salvation, and were then defeated by the Resurrection. Death has lost its sting. Nothing, nothing is so terrible that God cannot use it, cannot turn it around and cause something new to be grown from it.
This is the outrageous hope, the unspeakable joy of God’s mercy. And yet we spend so much time fighting it. Mercy is, as I said before, a gift freely given. We all need it desperately, but we cannot earn or deserve it; we can only accept it, to cry out for it and find it ready to flow over us.
It is a beautiful, awesome gift, but a terrible one too. God’s love is unconditional, all-powerful, unbelievably tender, but it is not easy. God never promised to make things easy, and sometimes that is all that we want. It is not easy to buckle your pride, to accept that you need your life to be transformed and that you need help to do it.
And even once you’ve said yes to God’s mercy, asked for His help, it is not over – that first step is often the trickiest one, but it is just the beginning of a far longer project, which may not be comfortable in the least. C. S. Lewis puts it rather well, as he so often does:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” (Mere Christianity)
God is nothing if not persistent. He has poured His love into His creations, and He will not let any of us go without a fight. He will not force us to love Him; His gift of mercy must be accepted for it to work in our lives. Accepting His mercy is an action of humility – accepting that we need Him; that we cannot do anything alone – and of trust – accepting that He knows best. Once you have let God’s mercy into your life, nothing will ever be the same again, and in the difficult times it is a struggle to keep believing that He knows what He is doing and that He has in mind is the most wonderful, heart-piercingly beautiful destiny for you.
But though God’s main concern is not making things easy, His love means that He is always with us, always. Even and especially when things seem most desperately desolate. When things seem too much to cope with, this is a time to remember that we cannot cope by ourselves, but that is not what we are being asked to do. We are being asked to walk with God, to empty ourselves of everything and instead cling to His mercy. And He will give us the grace, the strength, to do this. And the time will come when the work of His mercy will be complete, and we will see with perfect sight the glories of His love and the wonders He has wrought from the poor, weak and wounded lives that we so tentatively gave to Him.