We are in the extra ordinary jubilee year of God’s mercy; a year set apart for us to contemplate upon the ineffable mercy of God the Father and then to make ourselves worthy recipients of that mercy. The call to celebrate this year of mercy gives us a great opportunity to explore the mercy of God that flows into our sinful and unworthy lives every day and every moment of our lives. This mercy of God today flows concretely into our hearts from the heart of Jesus that was pierced while on the cross. The water and the blood that gushed forth from the side of Jesus was nothing but the mercy of God in its entirety. The pierced side of Jesus, the Sacred Heart that beats for the human beings poured itself out so that the mercy of God may be experiential for us all. When one contemplates on the mercy of God, s/he has to explore the heart of Jesus or else s/he would stumble on the way because it is in the pierced side of Jesus that we have the concrete and tangible mercy of God visible to us. Therefore, an effort is made here to reflect upon the mercy of God in and through the Sacred Heart of Jesus or rather it is a dive into the pierced side of Jesus to reach the source of the mercy of God.
God, the Merciful Father
Mercy of God is not something that which became visible in these last few years but rather something that existed even prior to creation. When God was, his mercy was! God created the human beings in his own image and likeness (Gen 1:27-28). If God, the creator wished to bestow his own image and likeness on human beings, then, it is nothing but an expression of God’s mercy upon his creatures. He did this with utmost perfection; creatures created in the image and likeness of the creator himself. In other words, human beings come in contact with the mercy of God, they come to experience his mercy and more than that they are the embodiments of the mercy of God. The whole of Old Testament is but a detailed narration of the mercy of God or how God shows mercy on his chosen ones. He showed his mercy upon the Israelites time and again when they preferred other gods and goddesses to him and to his benevolence. He brought them out of Egypt to the Promised Land, from slavery to freedom. Even when they were reluctant to follow the statutes given to them by God through Moses, he was patient with them. When the Israelites found murmuring against the Lord a routine during their sojourn in the wilderness, God showed mercy upon them. Even when they turned on his wrath, he was calm and provided them with all that they needed; manna for food and water for drink. His mercy was most vibrantly seen when in his wrath he sent poisonous serpents and they bit the Israelites and many of them died (Numbers 21:6-9) ; his wrath gave way to his mercy, he restored to life those who were bitten by the poisonous snake and were about to die. God showed his mercy on the Israelites abundantly during the long years that they wandered on their way to the Promised Land.
Mercy of God, in the New Testament
It would be foolishness to think that the mercy of God ceased to exist in the New Testament as it was evident in many instances of the Old Testament. It was not something that got drained out when the chosen people entered the land of promise. It carried on to be present in the New Testament but altogether in a different and greater level. The mercy of God took a different turn altogether in the New Testament when Jesus, the Son of God became the embodiment of the mercy of God. When John the evangelist says, ‘The word became flesh’ it in other words means that the love and mercy of God took human flesh from Mary (Jn 1:14). It was no more some signs or symbols, it was not merely some miracles that proved the mercy of God to his people in the New Testament, but the person of Jesus, the Son of God himself. The mercy of God which was visible to the people in the Old Testament in and through signs, symbols and miracles, began to be tangibly visible to them and experiential in the person of Jesus. God whom their forefathers saw in the form of cloud, they saw him in person. Whose voice they had only heard from behind the wind, they touched him and experienced him. The unseen God became visible to the human eyes in the person of Jesus. People saw the mercy of God, heard the mercy of God, touched the mercy of God, drank heartful from the mercy of God and were satisfied. The gospel says, he felt compassion for them (cf. Mathew 14:14). Jesus, in and through his words and deeds showed compassion on the people. Jesus was feeling for the people as Yahweh felt for his people when they cried to him from Egypt, from the wilderness. The difference was that the Israelites did not see the source of mercy and compassion while the people of New Testament saw the source, Jesus Christ.
The pierced heart of Jesus, the origin of the Mercy of God
‘One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear and at once blood and water came out’ (Jn 19:34). Probably what was left in the passion of Jesus and which made his passion complete was this episode of the soldier piercing the side of dead Jesus. When the soldier pierced the side of crucified Jesus, the blood and the water that were left there after flowing during the trial broke off, gushed forth. The soldier caused the flow of God’s mercy upon the humankind from the crucified Lord. The mercy of God which flooded within the body of Jesus gushed forth in an urgency for the love of the human beings. It cannot be proved that the blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus was the mercy of God but what else can it be other than the mercy of God? Mercy of God became real and living and flowed from the side of Jesus. This month is dedicated to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; therefore, it becomes apt here to contemplate upon the heart of Jesus, the sacred one that beats for every human being here on earth. God loved the world and so he sent his only son to save it (cf. Jn 3:16). This was just the beginning or rather the origin of the flow of the love of God. If flowed from the Father to the Son and then from the Son to the entire human race. When the Father manifested his mercy through safeguarding his people, the Son exhibited the mercy though the passion that he endured and through the death that he embraced. The mercy of God that used to spring forth from his heart to the hearts of his people, now started to flow from the pierced side of His Son into the broken and cracked lives of human beings. When in the Old Testament, the mercy of God caused people to march forward in the direction of the Promised Land, the mercy that flowed from the heart of Jesus in the New Testament caused and even causes to this day, the whole humanity to march forward to the eternal abode of heaven.
We venerate the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the source of mercy of God in our lives as a source of grace as well. Jesus promises us that he will protect and safeguard them from all dangers who reverently venerate the image of his Sacred Heart. The social, familial and political set up in which this year of mercy has been announced is fitting all the way in the lives of individuals, families, societies and the world at large; because values and traditions are leaked out completely from the lives of human beings. Relationships are no more intimate but peripheral contracts. Smiles have lost the innocence that they carried earlier; they have turned to be plastic in nature. Lending gestures are no more sincere. All these have today, entirely a different colour and odour. The mercy of God brings back the faded colour to human lives today. The merciful God brings back the taste that lacked in human relationships. Let us seek our refuge in the heart of Jesus, for mercy, love and protection.
Fr. Rajesh P