“Become merciful (compassionate) even as your Father in heaven is merciful.” What does this phrase tell us? Why it tells us what it means to be a Christian, and what the root of salvation is!. Christ did not come into the world so that God would consider us righteous by looking at us through His Son as some sort of filter! He came into the world so that we might be healed! There are so many forms of spiritual sickness that keep us from fully living our lives to the fullest promise of the Gospel. There are so many times that we simply wish to cling to our own possessions of dust and stains rather than give them up to the promise of What God has to offer.
What happens when we do not experience God’s truth and love in a tactile way, or what happens when we feel that God is not merciful, or even more commonly, what happens when we feel that God is just not there?
I’ll tell you that we begin to substitute our own self will to replace that which is God’s will and we become ever more distant from the source of Love and Mercy.
So the question remains... Why do we suffer at times and do not experience being filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit? Why do we, at times, do not feel “on fire” for Christ?
This Gospel tells us something about ourselves in that it points out our own propensity to want to live our own lives without the consequences of our bad behavior. Even worse, some of us may wish to live for Christ, but not have to carry the Cross. Do do such is impossible! For we are called to be Christians; to be Christ Followers. If we follow Christ, we must also follow the way of the Cross. To not do so would be to become as the hypocrites who put on a good show for the benefit of others, but are inwardly hollow and dead in the Faith.
St. Cyriacus of Palestine, when he was just 18 years old, heard the words of the Gospel in Matthew, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me”. He was so moved by these simple words of our Lord that he decided to dedicate his whole life to serving Christ simply and in all earnestness. In fact, he went straight from the Church to the harbor, without stopping by his home, from there, to set sail to the monastery near Sion. He lived a miraculous life totally dedicated to Christ in all aspects of what he said and did. He reposed in the Lord at 109 years of age.
But what of us when we do not feel God’s closeness in the dry times of the desert of our life? It is in these times most particularly that Faith is tested and the mettle of our spirit is determined. It is in these dry times that we will either strive further into the embrace of God’s mercy or we will turn away into the depths of our own self centered-ness. If we take refuge in God’s mercy, He will make us bear fruit even in the midst of the drought! Often the fruit is not what we were expecting. But it is the fruit that is most needed and of a particularly most excellent nature. Christ being the vine-dresser connects us to the Father’s love and mercy through communion with Him and thus, we become fully alive and a fully living vine bearing fruit for sustaining life.
In such a way we learn to be chastened against evil and kindled towards true Faith. We become the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells and indeed works. We are to feed daily upon the Gospel and to allow it’s truth to transform us entirely. This is the hard part of the walk that we must take as Christians! We have to sacrifice our own will to accept that of God’s. There is no other way to cultivate simple humility than to follow Christ’s own example. The saints and martyrs stand along the way, pointing towards Christ with their own examples of their lives and their deaths. You see... In the end... We all have to die to ourselves in order to live fully in Christ.
So be merciful to all! Manifest God’s own mercy in your own words and actions. Pretty soon you will find that your words will no longer be your own. Your actions will no longer be that of your own doing. They will become God’s own words and His own will working through you. But don’t be afraid that you are losing yourself! No one who gives himself fully to God, goes away disappointed that he did. After all... You are exchanging dust and stains for unblemished gold.