Today, for a number of reasons, we struggle to be generous and prodigal with God’s mercy, writes Ron Rolheiser. But God wants us all to come to the unlimited waters of divine mercy.
As the number of people who attend church services continues to decline, the temptation among many of our Church leaders and ministers is to see this more as a pruning than as a tragedy and to respond by making God’s mercy less, rather than more, accessible. For example, a seminary professor whom I know shares that, after 40 years of teaching a course designed to prepare seminarians to administer the Sacrament of Penance, today sometimes the first question that the seminarians ask is: “When can I refuse absolution?” In effect, how scrupulous must I be in dispensing God’s mercy?
To their credit, their motivation is mostly sincere, however misguided. They sincerely fear playing fast and loose with God’s grace, fearing that they might end up dispensing cheap grace.
Partly that’s a valid motive. Fear of playing fast and loose with God’s grace, coupled with concerns for truth, orthodoxy, proper public form and fear of scandal have their own legitimacy. Mercy needs always to be tempered by truth. But sometimes the motives driving our hesitancy are less noble and our anxiety about handing out cheap grace arises more out of timidity, fear, legalism and our desire, however unconscious, for power.
But even when mercy is withheld for the nobler of those reasons, we’re still misguided, bad shepherds, out of tune with the God whom Jesus proclaimed. God’s mercy, as Jesus revealed it, embraces indiscriminately, the bad and the good, the undeserving and the deserving, the uninitiated and the initiated.
One of the truly startling insights that Jesus gave us is that the mercy of God, like the light and warmth of the sun, cannot not go out to everyone. Consequently it’s always free, undeserved, unconditional, universal in embrace and has a reach beyond all religion, custom, rubric, political correctness, mandatory program, ideology and even sin itself.
For our part then, especially those of us who are parents, ministers, teachers, catechists and elders, we must risk proclaiming the prodigal character of God’s mercy. We must not spend God’s mercy, as if it were ours to spend; dole out God’s forgiveness, as if it were a limited commodity; put conditions on God’s love, as if God were a petty tyrant or a political ideology; or cut off access to God, as if we were the keeper of the heavenly gates.
Read full article: On not being stingy with God’s mercy (The Catholic Register)