10 August 2022

Falling, dying, showing mercy

St. Lawrence

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving

How do we fall to the ground and die and produce good fruit and lose our lives in order to save them and serve the Lord while following him? One way (of many) is to sow mercy so that we may reap mercy in abundance. But we must be careful that we aren't sowing dead seeds! Mercy has nothing to do with excusing sin or dispensing ourselves from the obligations of the moral law. Mercy isn't a shortcut to “you do your thing and I'll do mine and we'll just agree not to bother each other.” Mercy comes after one is convicted of sin. That is, mercy necessarily entails acknowledging one's sin. NB. Before the Confiteor, the priest invites us to “acknowledge our sins.” Not “call to mind” but “acknowledge” – to admit the existence of or truth of our sins. I can “call to mind” hobbits, orcs, unicorns, and even Dominicans who don't like books. But I'm not confessing that any of these mythical creatures actually exist. Mercy doesn't excuse sin. Mercy acknowledges sin and at the same time fuels our growth in holiness. How? Mercy is the time and space we need to see our sin clearly, turn away from it, and get ourselves – with God's help – back on the Narrow Way. None of us is always sinless. Thus everyone needs mercy. One way we can die to self, follow Christ, and produce good fruit is to sow mercy wherever we are planted. If we sow abundant mercy, then abundant mercy will sprout. The harvest will be an occasion of great joy. But if we sparingly sow, the harvest too will be spare, and the weeds of Self will take over. The greatest mercy we can show one another is to bear witness to the Lord's mercy in our own lives. When and where and how did the Lord gift you with the space and time to get things right? When and where and how did he call you out of your sin so that you could grow and flourish in holiness? What you have been freely given, you must freely give.

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