The only way for us to be “excessive” in responding to God’s excessive mercy is to be completely open to receiving it and to sharing it with others. The Gospel gives us many touching examples of people who went to excess in order to receive his mercy. There is the paralytic whose friends let him down from the roof into the place where the Lord was preaching. Or the leper who left his nine companions to come back, glorifying and thanking God in a loud voice, to kneel at the Lord’s feet. Or the blind Bartimaeus whose outcry made Jesus halt before him. Or the woman suffering from a haemorrhage who timidly approached the Lord and touched his robe; as the Gospel tells us, Jesus felt power – dynamis – “go forth” from him… All these are examples of that contact that lights a fire and unleashes the positive force of mercy. Then too, we can think of the sinful woman, who washed the Lord’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair; Jesus saw her excessive display of love as a sign of her having received great mercy. Ordinary people – sinners, the infirm and those possessed by demons – are immediately raised up by the Lord. He makes them pass from exclusion to full inclusion, from estrangement to embrace. That is the expression: mercy makes us pass “from estrangement to celebration”. And it can only be understood in the key of hope, in an apostolic key, in the key of knowing mercy and then showing mercy.
Let us conclude by praying the Magnificat of mercy, Psalm 50 by King David, which we pray each Friday at Morning Prayer. It is the Magnificat of “a humble and contrite heart” capable of confessing its sin before the God who, in his fidelity, is greater than any of our sins. If we put ourselves in the place of the prodigal son, at the moment when, expecting his Father’s reproof, he discovers instead that his Father has thrown a party, we can imagine him praying Psalm 50. We can pray it antiphonally with him. We can hear him saying: “Have mercy on me, O God, in your kindness; in your compassion blot out my offence” … And ourselves continuing: “My offences, truly I (too) know them; my sin is always before me”. And together: “Against you, Father, against you, you alone, have I sinned”.
May our prayer rise up from that interior tension which kindles mercy, that tension between the shame that says: “From my sins turn away your face, and blot out all my guilt”, and the confidence that says, “O purify me, then I shall be clean; O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow”. A confidence that becomes apostolic: “Give me again the joy of your help; with the spirit of fervour sustain me, that I may teach transgressors your ways, and sinners may return to you”.
Full text of Pope Francis’ first meditation for the Retreat for Priests:
Full text of Pope Francis’ second meditation for the Retreat for Priests:
Full text of Pope Francis’ third meditation for the Retreat for Priests:
Courtesy: Vatican Radio, Image: Jeremiah, by Rembrandt