The invitation is clear. It is not enough for Jesus that I be a little bit merciful in my life. Jesus is asking me to become merciful like my God, who is Father.
The first thought that comes to mind is, if I am to be merciful like my Father, how is my Father merciful, so that I can imitate Him? I believe that if each one of us were to sincerely take a good like at our own lives, it would not be hard to begin to understand God’s mercy towards us. Personally speaking, I know that God’s mercy towards me has known no limits. Irrespective of what I have done in my life, God has always been there to accept me with unconditional love and forgiveness.
St Luke must have known, however, that not everybody is capable of making a good reflection on one’s own experience. Later on in his Gospel, he therefore gives us a beautiful story to help us understand how this Father of ours is merciful. This is the well-known story of the Father of the prodigal son, upon which we will reflect more deeply later on in the year. In this story we have a father who is deeply hurt by the actions of both his sons – albeit in different ways. The younger son had completely cut himself off from his family. He spent all his inheritance, and now he has the guts to come back to his Father and beg for some kind of forgiveness and reconciliation. Yet, the Father accepts him and embraces him without any questions asked or conditions imposed. The elder son, on the other hand, vehemently refuses to join in the celebrations organized by the Father on his brother’s return. His mind is totally out of sync with that of his Father. Yet the Father reaches out to him, begs him, and tries to help him to start thinking the way He thinks.
Initially we might be scandalized by the actions of these sons. But then, we soon realize that, sometimes, we are not too far from them in our actions. In today’s gospel Jesus tells us that, to be truly merciful, we are to love our enemies and bless and pray for those who do us harm. We are to lend without expecting anything back, and be super-generous in our giving. In a few words we, as Christians, are being asked to make a qualitative leap in our way of living from that of non-believers. It is not enough to love those who love me, help those who can eventually help me, etc. Those are things which “even sinners” do, Jesus reminds us.
This might seem a tall order. Jesus’ expectations might seem difficult; and, indeed, they sometimes are. But we know that he never asks the impossible from us. With his help, progress is possible for us.
Let us pray that we become truly a community of merciful people. A light that brings some hope in situations of darkness. Salt that can make a difference in someone’s life.