Tag Archives: mercy

Invincible Love

Christ Before Pilate, Duccio, 1308-1311

Good Friday

John 18-19

There is no greater proof that Jesus is the Son of God than his love for his enemies. In the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested, Peter’s swift reaction in cutting off the right ear of the high priest’s slave captured the all-too-human impulse toward retaliation. Jesus responded with the strength and power of God: “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” (John 18:11)

Strength and power are not ideas the world associates with suffering and torture at the hands of enemies. Mighty and fearful displays, such as when the earth swallowed up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram seem to demonstrate divine power more convincingly (Numbers 16:31-33).

The Son of God, in assuming flesh, accelerated human spiritual maturity to its zenith. Jesus answered Pilate’s questions with such calm assurance that the latter marveled. When Jesus’ accusers claimed that the Nazarene had to die “because he made himself the Son of God,” Pilate “became afraid” (John 19:7). He was a man immersed in political and earthly affairs. Talk of God or gods belonged to the mystifying realm of religion and the numinous. 

Pilate’s first question after that strange accusation was, “Where are you from?” (John 19:9) If Jesus was the Son of God, he would reveal an otherworldly origin. Roman mythology was pervasive enough to make Pilate afraid of spiritual forces beyond human control.

Jesus was silent, so Pilate attempted to assert and define his power over the mysterious defendant.

So Pilate said to him, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?”

John 19:10

If Jesus was a mere man, he would do everything possible to gain release. He would fear Pilate’s power like all the other criminals who have stood trial before him. Jesus’ answer took Pilate by surprise.

“You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”

John 19:11

Pilate was stripped of power before this bloodied man wearing a crown of thorns and a purple cloak. Divine tranquility and unshakable dominion emanated from his whole being. 

Without comprehending Jesus’ words, Pilate instinctively knew he was innocent and tried to release him. But he was caught between Truth and Politics.

The mob saw they were not getting their way, so they played their trump card: Caesar. 

“If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

John 19:12

All sense of justice and right drained away at this threat to Pilate’s own position and security. He would not save Jesus at his own expense, despite his wife’s warning (Matthew 27:19). 

The whole world sought to preserve its own dominion and power by crucifying “The King of the Jews,” as the Hebrew, Latin, and Greek inscriptions on the cross mocked. Jesus, who bent low to wash the feet of his disciples the night before, poured forth invincible power and might by his mercy and forgiveness. Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Jews and Gentiles—the world—came under his merciful wing.

Love is stronger than death, and cannot lay buried in the ground for long. On the third day, Love Incarnate rose from the grave to live and reign forever and ever.


Be Merciful, O Lord, For We Have Sinned

David penitent

Because Jesus is often called “Son of David” in the New Testament and so many of the psalms are attributed to David, we may tend to idealize the great king. David united the tribes of Israel and established a nation with its capitol in Jerusalem. Jesus himself appealed to David’s example when his enemies accused his hungry disciples of eating grain on the Sabbath.

Yet, the long narrative we read in the Book of Samuel today and tomorrow at Mass offers a darker picture of the famous king– he was a murderer and an adulterer. David had Urriah the Hittite, a faithful soldier in his army, killed so that he could have Bathsheba, his wife. (2 Samuel 11, 1-17)

Psalm 51 is the response we make at Mass after listening to the king’s sordid deed. Tradition says it’s David’s own response after he realized what he had done. The Book of Psalms calls Psalm 51: “A psalm of David when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”

“Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
And of my sin cleanse me.”

The psalm, the first of the Seven Penitential Psalms, asks God to take away both the personal and social effects of our sin, for our sins do indeed have emotional, physical and social consequences. Only God can “wash away” our guilt and cleanse our heart. Only God can “rebuild” the walls that our sins have torn down and the lives they have harmed. Only God can restore joy to our spirits and help us “teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you.” Only God can bring us back to his friendship.

In the scriptures, David is a complex figure– a saint and a sinner. He’s also a reflection of us all. That’s why our response in the psalm at Mass today takes the form that it does –

“Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.”

Saint Jerome


St. Jerome, whose feast is September 30, was a scripture scholar who made the Bible better understood by western Christians through his translations from the Greek and Hebrew. “Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ,” he said.

He was born in 340 in Stridon, a small town on the eastern Adriatic coast, and received an early education in Rome where he was baptized in 360 by Pope Liberius.

Brilliant and eager for knowledge,  Jerome traveled extensively. In Antioch in Syria he had a dream in which he saw himself rebuked by Christ for wasting his time on worldly knowledge. Moved by the dream, Jerome withdrew into the Syrian desert. There he said he was beset by temptations and “threw himself at the feet of Jesus, watering them with prayers and acts of penance.” The picture above portrays him praying to be delivered from temptation.

For penance Jerome threw himself into the study of scripture. He began studying Hebrew under a Jewish teacher, which later helped him translate and comment on the Bible. We usually think of penance as giving up things; Jerome reminds us it can also be taking on things.

Ordained a priest, Jerome arrived in Constantinople about 380 where he studied the scriptures under St. Gregory of Nazianzen. Two years later, he returned to Rome and was given the monumental task of translating the bible from Greek into Latin by Pope Damasus. His translation, called the Vulgate, along with his learned commentaries and sermons, sparked a flowering of spirituality in the western church. Jerome won a devoted following, especially among Rome’s prominent Christian women eager to understand the bible.

Jerome had a biting tongue and was quick to find enemies. Some in Rome resented his caustic criticism and abrasive style. Because of their opposition, he left Rome in 385 for the Holy Land where he established a community at Bethlehem near the cave where Christ was born to continue studying the scriptures. Besides Jewish scholars, he utilized the great Christian library nearby at Caesarea Maritima.  Friends from Rome joined him, among them the noblewoman Paula and her daughter Eustochia, who founded a monastic community of women in Bethlehem.

St. Catharine Church, Bethlehem

St. Catharine Church, Bethlehem. Remains of Jerome’s Monastery are under the church

Besides scripture studies, Jerome continued to engage in controversies going on in the church, sometimes harshly.

In 410 Alaric and his warriors sacked Rome.  Jerome, shocked by the invasion, provided shelter for Roman Christians fleeing to the safety of the Holy Land. “I have put aside my studies to help them,” he wrote. “Now we must translate the words of scripture into deeds, and instead of speaking holy words we must do them.”

He died in Bethlehem in 420. His remains were taken to the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. A doctor and teacher of the church, he recognized in himsel need for God’s mercy. Jerome is an example that saints are not perfect.

Here are excerpts from his writings:

“Lord, show me your mercy and gladden my heart.
I am like the man going to Jericho, wounded by robbers.
Good Samaritan, come help me.
I am like a sheep gone astray.
Good Shepherd, come seek me and bring me home safe.
May I dwell in your house all my days and praise you forever.”

“I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
Therefore, I will imitate the head of a household who brings out of his storehouse things both new and old, and says to his spouse in the Song of Songs: I have kept for you things new and old, my beloved. In this way permit me to explain Isaiah, showing that he was not only a prophet, but an evangelist and an apostle as well. For he says about himself and the other evangelists: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news, of those who announce peace.And God speaks to him as if he were an apostle: Whom shall I send, who will go to my people? And he answers: Here I am; send me.”

Let us glorify Christ In whatever sufferings are ours in this life.

O God, you yourself are both our crown and our shield: May we always follow only you and never depart from you!

Do not put your trust in your sword, or in your own strength; but rather, put your trust in the Lord!

Every day Christ stands at the door to our hearts, longing to enter. Let us open wide our hearts to him, then, that he might come in, and dwell with us always.

God can only speak peace to his people when they hope in him with all their hearts.

God protects us as a Father, and as a hen guarding her chicks, lest a hawk snatch them away.

The shield with which God protects us is spherical, for it keeps us safe on all sides.

All Creation serves God as God ordains: all in Heaven obeys, all on earth obeys, but it is only unhappy man who alone who disobeys.

Every day Christ is crucified in us, for we are crucified to the world. And so Christ is crucified in us.

Happy are those in whose hearts Christ rises from the dead daily. And he will rise in us every day, if we who are sinners will but repent.

Happy the soul in whom God is always enthroned!

Let us never trust in ourselves, but rather, let us always trust In the mercy of the Lord.

Greater by far are the wounds Inflicted by the tongue than those by the sword.

When we give to the poor, let us give thanks to Christ. More than the poor man gives thanks to us, for the poor unknowingly do us a great service. Almsgiving atones for sins.

Quotations selected by Brent Cruz, Confraternity of the Passion.

Seventy-Seven Times Forgive

“Seventy-seven times forgive”
Matthew 18:21-35 in a couplet
Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Related posts: Becoming One with Divine Mercy, The Heart at the Altar
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35

Untouched by Evil

Fra Angelico, Detail of the Crucifixion (ca.1437-46)

Saturday After Epiphany

1 John 5:14-21

…yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.

Galatians 2:20

We know that no one begotten by God sins; but the one begotten by God he protects, and the evil one cannot touch him.

1 John 5:18

Victory in Christ is real, St. Paul and St. John attest. Ongoing conversion and transformation into Christ buries the “old self” (Romans 6:6) and makes us a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

How was the sinless, only-begotten Son of God “protected” and “untouched” by “the evil one”? By insult? Scourging? Crowning of thorns? Betrayal? Abandonment by friends? Crucifixion? Hardly.

The heart, mind, and spirit of the man Jesus Christ was “protected” by the Spirit in the Father, and “untouched” by evil, in that love prevailed over hatred to the very end. No insult, whip, thorn, or betrayal dislodged Jesus from his stillness in the Trinity of Love to return insult for insult, tit for tat, or evil for evil. Caving in to loveless retaliation is the ultimate defeat of the human spirit. 

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.

Luke 23:34

Divine mercy is the ultimate triumph of Christ, the Light of the World.


His Kindness Has Appeared

These are days to reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation. A decisive revelation of God, the Letter to the Hebrews says:

“At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is.(Hebrews 1, 1-2)”

What does Jesus Christ reveal about God? He is the Word of God who reveals God to us, St. Bernard says, and in him “the kindness and love of God has been revealed and  we receive abundant consolation in this pilgrimage, this exile, this distress.”

Before he appeared as human, God’s kindness lay concealed, Bernard says. “Of course it was already in existence, because the mercy of the Lord is from eternity, but how could we know it was so great? It was promised but not yet experienced: hence many did not believe in it. At various times and in various different ways, God spoke through the prophets, saying I know the plans I have in mind for you: plans for peace, not disaster…”

“What greater proof could he have given of his mercy than by taking upon himself what needed mercy most? Where is there such perfect loving-kindness as in the fact that for our sake the Word of God became perishable like the grass? Lord, what is man, that you make much of him or pay him any heed?”

“See how much God cares for us. See what God thinks of us, what he feels about us. Don’t look at your own sufferings; look at God’s sufferings. Learn from what he was made for you, how much he makes of you; let his kindness be seen in his humanity.”

“ The lesser he has made himself in his humanity, the greater has he shown himself in kindness. The more he humbles himself on my account, the more powerfully he engages my love. The kindness and humanity of God our Saviour appeared says St Paul. The humanity of God shows the greatness of his kindness, and he who added humanity to the name of God gave great proof of this kindness.”

The Heart of the Sabbath

God reposing on the Sabbath day. Illustration from the first Russian engraved Bible (1696).

30th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday (Year II)

Ephesians 4:32—5:8; Luke 13:10-17 

“On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:2-3). 

But Jesus answered them [on the Sabbath], “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work” (John 5:17).

What does it mean for God to be at rest or at work? Unlike creatures who conserve and expend energy, God’s being and action are continuous and simultaneous. 

“For God never ceases from making something or other; but, as it is the property of fire to burn, and of snow to chill, so also it is the property of God to be creating,” wrote Philo of Alexandria, the first-century Jewish philosopher (Allegorical Interpretation I.III).

God continually sustains all things in existence. If at any moment he withdrew, all things would fall into nothingness. “Work” and “rest” are one and the same thing for divinity. 

Mercy is at the heart of God’s being and action. We are called to be imitators of the Father, even on the Sabbath: Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Merciful actions flow from a merciful heart.

The Son of the God of Genesis, who “rested on the seventh day,” stepped out of the pages of the Torah and demonstrated what the words really mean.

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God (Luke 13:10-13).

St. Augustine allegorized the woman to “the whole human race” (Sermon 162B). The kingly and majestic Adam formed from clay became crippled and deformed by separating from God. Jesus took pity on the woman (and on humanity) and healed her. 

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day” (Luke 13:14). 

The holy words of Scripture can be misused by the ill-intentioned. Even the tempter quoted it with great cunning in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?” When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him (Luke 13:15-17).

Religious and legal sophistries were unmasked by common sense: Why should mercy be shown to the animals and not to fellow human beings? Jesus lifted up the “daughter of Abraham,” and restored her dignity and stature. The common people “rejoiced” because they had compassion for their sister. The “humiliated” authorities, unable to sympathize, nursed wounded pride. 

Imitating God’s Sabbath rest means cultivating a merciful heart. 

Brothers and sisters: Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma… For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (Ephesians 4:32-5:2; 8).


Cups and Almsgiving

28th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday (Year II)

Psalm 119:41-48; Luke 11:37-41

After Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”

In an oft-quoted story, G.K. Chesterton once responded to a query by The Times, “What’s wrong with the world today?” with the short quip, “I am.”

Chesterton’s humor and honesty are a wonderful antidote to the tendency to live on the surface—the outside of the cup and dish. A world dominated by social media and public image makes it all the more difficult to subject the inside to the cleansing light of the Holy Spirit.

“Cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean,” reads Matthew’s Gospel (23:26). Luke’s further recommendation of almsgiving includes forgiveness and prayer for all who have injured us, a sure sign of a clean heart. A pure heart is merciful and kind, but also courageous enough to offer fraternal correction like a true friend. 

St. Augustine writes:

“What our Lord says, ‘Give alms, and behold, all things are clean to you,’ applies to all useful acts of mercy. It does not apply just to the one who gives food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, hospitality to the wayfarer or refuge to the fugitive. It also applies to one who visits the sick and the prisoner, redeems the captive, bears the burdens of the weak, leads the blind, comforts the sorrowful, heals the sick, shows the erring the right way, gives advice to the perplexed, and does whatever is needful for the needy. Not only does this person give alms, but the person who forgives the trespasser also gives alms as well… At the same time he forgives from the heart the sin by which he has been wronged or offended or prays that it be forgiven the offender. Such a person gives alms not only because he forgives and prays but also because he rebukes and administers corrective punishment, since in this he shows mercy…

There are many kinds of alms. When we do them, we are helped in receiving forgiveness of our own sins” (Enchiridion 19.72).

Let your mercy come to me, O LORD,
your salvation according to your promise (Psalm 119:41).


Praying to the Father

27th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday (Year II)

Luke 11:1-4

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come. 

Praying “Abba, Father!” to the Almighty God in the intimate manner of beloved children was unprecedented in the history of Israel (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). The distant God of Mount Sinai and the Jerusalem Temple sent his Son into the world to show us his face: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus wanted us to walk in familiarity, trust, and confidence with the Father just as he did throughout his earthy life.

Jesus, who is the Head of his Body, the Church, is completely ad Patrem (“toward the Father”). In his deepest mystery, the Father is the source of his only-begotten Son and our source.

In contemplating the Father as the “source,” “principle,” or “origin” of the Son, all concepts of time and space fall away. His being is not from another but from himself.The Son is eternally generated from the Father in an ineffable manner without passion or a co-principle.

Language bumps into a wall on every side as it gropes in the dark for words to describe the Father as an eternal “principle” (Latin Fathers) or “cause” (Greek Fathers) and the Son as eternally begotten or generated. All of our words derive from a world of change and becoming, yet the imperfection of mutability must be denied of God. The Father is the uncaused cause or principle without principle, and yet the Son and the Spirit are mutually eternal and immutable as God.

When we turn to God as Father, we address a divine person who is the source of all persons, being, and the cosmos. “Thy will be done” ultimately returns to the Father through Jesus Christ, a person to person union and communion.

The absolute principle of the universe is neither solitary nor impersonal. Christ’s revelation of the Father is truly unique in unveiling the personal dimension of ultimate reality. 

Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”

Like children, we open our empty hands to receive our daily sustenance from God the Father. Forgiveness is constantly pouring out from the Father of mercy. We align ourselves to his merciful heart when we pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Walking in the grace and synergy of the Holy Spirit, may we never swerve from the path of life. 


1 St. John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, Book I, chapter 8 and St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Prima Pars, question 33, article 1. 

One Body and One Spirit

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus could not please everyone. As he befriended “tax collectors and sinners,” the Pharisees and religious authorities distanced themselves from him. The Nazarene’s trespasses over the boundaries between “clean” and “unclean” raised eyebrows and provoked criticism and censure. The wonder-working son of a carpenter seemed to disregard ritual purity and the hallowed traditions of Judaism. 

Jesus was like a spiritual giant stepping into a little world of petty customs and prejudices. The arrows aimed at him, and the ropes used to tie him down, resembled the flimsy weapons used by the Lilliputians in Jonathan Swift’s novel to pin Gulliver to the ground. A futile endeavor! Divinized humanity will rise from the grave.

Jesus’ heart was vast as the heavens, emanating the healing rays of the Blessed Trinity in every direction. Mercy snapped the strings of the Lilliputians like dried out rubber bands. 

He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Jesus quoted the prophet Hosea from the revered canon of the Pharisees, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6) to show that he was a true son of Israel, not a rebel. Jesus revealed the Father’s heart by refusing to cocoon himself from the “contaminated” world of undesirables; no person fell outside of the Father’s love. 

Sharing a meal signified great intimacy in Hebrew culture. Jesus’ ultimate aim to transform and transfigure persons threw open the doors to the heavenly banquet hall. Is there a distinction between “the righteous” and “sinners,” “the well” and “the sick”? Didn’t the Divine Physician assume humanity as one, universal Adam beyond parsing and partitions? 

“Go and learn,” Jesus charged the pious and religious, to see yourself in your neighbor, and your neighbor in yourself. Segregation has no place in the Body of Christ and the communion of saints in the Trinity.

Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one Body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.