4. Consequences of Mercy as New Testament
Divine mercy as the new covenant has consequences for all humans. Baptised in Christ into the Trinity, and constituted God’s children thereby, Christians share substantially in God’s life (as at creation all share in human life). They are cut into the new covenantin Jesus’ humanity as members of his body (1 Cor 12) or branches of his vine (John 15:1-17). They are endowed with the grace (free gift) and vocation to be a Eucharistic people, people who having received mercy are themselves merciful in memory of Jesus. By being “merciful like the Father”, Christians reveal they are God’s children who have received (not simply heard of) God’s mercy. Being merciful is therefore not an option, or a gift offering or homage done to God. It is not keeping God’s commandments to please God and receive reward in heaven. Rather it is first and foremost proof that they are truly God’s children, that they have God’s life, what we might call God’s “mercy gene” in them. In them and through them Jesus, God’s mercy to humanity, remains alive and active in every age. It follows that the life of any Christian which is not rooted or anchored in mercy is an inauthentic life. Such life gets drier and drier till like a dead branch it falls off from “The Life” (John 14:6).
Because everything is pure, undeserved, unmerited free gift, the Christian and indeed every human being has nothing to boast about before God (1 Cor 3:21; 2 Cor 10:17). God loves and gives his mercy to all equally without favouritism. Both Peter (Acts 10:34-35) and Paul (Gal 2:6; Rom 2:11), apostles to the Jews and Gentiles, experienced and proclaimed this truth. Awareness of mercy as God’s free gift calls for ceaseless gratitude to God and commits one to pray daily to be as merciful and forgiving as God (The Lord’s Prayer; Matt 6: 3-15).
Failure to cultivate a merciful mindset has disastrous consequences for oneself. Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt 18:23-35) illustrates this. When the servant pleaded for postponement of payment, the master out of pity cancelled his ten thousand talents debt (sixty million dollars), because “he had no means of paying back”. The master knew he would never be able to pay it back no matter how long he lived. A worker earned a denarius a day; a talent was about three hundred thousand denarii. Yet on the heels of his master’s pity that led to cancelling his debt, he refused to give a fellow servant who owed him only a hundred denarii (less than two hundred dollars) time to pay. The same impossibility of paying back whatever the amount owed occurs in the parable of the two debtors at the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:29-41). The only way out of the situation is cancellation of the debts. The only possible response is unbounded love and gratitude, shared with others in our merciful actions toward them.
Mercy is God’s gift to humanity in and through Christ, given unconditionally free of charge to all without exception. It arises from God’s faithful, compassionate and unconditional love for helpless humanity. The proof that we have received and appropriated God’s mercy is to be merciful ourselves. Being merciful is thus not an option or something done to inherit eternal life, but a demonstration that we have received God’s mercy; that God who is mercy is alive and active in us; that as God’s beloved children and siblings of Jesus (members of his body and branches of his vine), we have inherited God’s mercy gene in us. A basic pre-condition for being merciful like the Father, especially to those who wrong us and can never make amends, is to make excuses for them: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. God said the same to resentful Jonah about the Ninevites (Jonah 4:11). Jesus forbids us to judge and condemn so as not to be judged and condemned ourselves (Matt 7:1). Unforgiveness smacks of self-righteousness; it blocks our reception of God’s mercy (cf. Luke 18:10-14). Teresa of Avila said the better she knew God, the more difficult it becamefor her to attribute mortal sin to anybody. Mercy as the new testament calls us to be unconditionally “merciful like the Father”.