At a daily Mass recently, during the penitential rite, the presider invited us to thank God for God’s mercy, to ask for mercy, and to pray for mercy for all people. It struck me that he didn’t first mention sin or regret or forgiveness, but just invited us to stand and enjoy God’s mercy. Then he just simply intoned: Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy. It was so simple.
And that is the difference between sacrifice and mercy. Sacrifice begins with the negative: that we/I have sinned. And this then would require one to first make an atonement, some sort of sacrifice or denial or obligation in order to satisfy God. With this understanding, one’s sacrifice is necessary prior to being welcome by God.
But mercy already resides in God’s embrace. Mercy already is gift given, gift received, gift offered and gift to share with another. God is already satisfied with me. Mercy is God’s love given because God just cannot help it.
Sacrifice begins with an obligation to earn or restore God’s love; sacrifice embraces a separation between me and God. Mercy embraces God’s divine presence with intimacy and trust; mercy knows no moment of separation from God, but is an ongoing and constant relationship.
Do I sometimes feel unworthy to be in God’s mercy freely given? And thus judging others as unworthy to receive my mercy? How am I truly willing to receive, embrace, enjoy, celebrate and share God’s mercy?
—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. serves in campus ministry at Loyola University Chicago and is also minister of the Loyola Jesuit Community.